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Rose Bowl matchups: How Stanford and Michigan State compare

Times staff writers Gary Klein and Chris Dufresne assess the strengths and weaknesses of both teams in the 100th Rose Bowl.

December 31, 2013|by Gary Klein and Chris Dufresne
  • Although both teams feature power running games, quarterbacks Connor Cook of Michigan State and Kevin Hogan of Stanford will be instrumental in determining which team wins the Rose Bowl.
Although both teams feature power running games, quarterbacks Connor… (Associated Press and Getty…)

Staff writers Gary Klein and Chris Dufresne analyze the matchups as Stanford and Michigan State meet Wednesday in the 100th Rose Bowl game:

Stanford run game vs. Michigan State run defense

Tyler Gaffney played minor league baseball last year and watched the Cardinal from the stands at the Rose Bowl. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound senior came back stronger and has averaged 124.5 yards rushing per game and 5.3 yards per carry behind an offensive line that includes All-American guard David Yankey. Senior running back Anthony Wilkerson has rushed for two touchdowns.

Michigan State has the top-ranked defense in major college football and gives up only 80.8 yards rushing a game. Linebackers Denicos Allen and Taiwan Jones are among the top tacklers, but the Spartans will have to make up for the absence of suspended middle linebacker Max Bullough. Fifth-year senior Kyler Elsworth and sophomore Darien Harris will play in his place.

Edge — Klein: Stanford. Dufresne: Michigan State.

Stanford passing vs. Michigan State secondary

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan passed for 123 yards and rushed for 54 in last year's 20-14 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. The junior from Virginia has completed 61.4% of his passes, including 20 for touchdowns, with nine interceptions.

Hogan relies heavily on receiver Ty Montgomery, who has a team-best 58 receptions, 10 for touchdowns. Devon Cajuste has 27 receptions, five for touchdowns.

Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard won the Thorpe Award as college football's top defensive back. Dennard and safety Kurtis Drummond each have four interceptions. Big Ten Conference coaches voted safety Isaiah Lewis all-conference.

Edge — Klein: Michigan State. Dufresne: Michigan State.

Michigan State run game vs. Stanford run defense

Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford patiently waited for his turn and has made the most of it. The junior has averaged 102.9 yards rushing a game and has scored 18 touchdowns.

Tackle Fou Fonoti and guard Dan France are key senior linemen for a team that averages 182.2 yards rushing per game.

Linebackers Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov and A.J. Tarpley lead a Stanford defense that ranks third nationally against the run, giving up 91.2 yards per game.

Edge — Klein: Michigan State. Dufresne: Stanford.

Michigan State passing vs. Stanford secondary

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook is a first-year starter who has completed 58.4% of his passes, 20 for touchdowns, with five interceptions.

Receivers Tony Lippett and Macgarrett Kings each have 39 receptions. Bennie Fowler has 34, including six for touchdowns.

Stanford has intercepted 12 passes. Safeties Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards anchor a secondary that includes nickel back Usua Amanam, who intercepted a pass in last year's Rose Bowl.

Edge — Klein: Stanford. Dufresne: Stanford.

Special teams

Michigan State punter Mike Sadler is an All-American who averages 42.3 yards per kick. Kicker Michael Geiger has made 14 of 15 field-goal attempts, including all eight from 40 yards or farther.

R.J. Shelton averages 22.1 yards per kickoff return; Kings averages 10.9 per punt return.

Stanford's Jordan Williamson has made 16 of 20 field-goal attempts and Ben Ryhne has averaged 42.1 yards per punt.

Montgomery has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

Edge — Klein: Stanford. Dufresne: Michigan State.


Stanford is making its fourth consecutive appearance in a Bowl Championship Series bowl game, its third under Coach David Shaw.

The Cardinal staff has experience in the Rose Bowl setting, having defeated Wisconsin last year. But Stanford also has lost close games that have kept it from playing in the BCS title game the last two years.

Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio is coaching in a BCS game for the first time in his seven seasons with the Spartans.

Edge — Klein: Stanford. Dufresne: Michigan State.

Final score

Klein: Stanford 27, Michigan State 26

Dufresne: Stanford 24, Michigan State 20

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