Rose Bowl breakdown: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford

Michigan State's Jeremy Langford (eight straight games of 100-plus rushing yards) and Stanford's Tyler Gaffney (1,718 total yards, 21 TDs) have enjoyed dominant second halves to this season.

Of the 35 bowls this holiday season, Michigan State-Stanford stands as the only clash of top-10 scoring defenses, with the Spartans (4th overall) allowing just 12.7 points per game … and the Cardinal (10th) surrendering 18.6, on average.

For good measure, Michigan State (12-1) is only one of four FBS defenses (along with Florida State, Alabama and Louisville) to allow less than 20 seasonal touchdowns to the opposition — an amazing feat in this scoring-friendly age of up-tempo spread offenses.

Plus, Michigan State has already played 13 games.

Which brings us to this: With Stanford’s offense averaging 33.2 points per game and MSU’s defense yielding just 12.7 … obviously, something has to give here. It’s interesting to note, though: Of their 13 outings, the Cardinal crossed the 33 threshold just six times, while averaging 20.5 points for road losses to Utah and USC.

Michigan State tailback Jeremy Langford. Looking for a common offensive thread to the Spartans’ dominance for October, November and December?

Since Oct. 12, spanning eight games, Langford (1,478 total yards, 18 total TDs) has rushed for 100 yards every outing. And during that period, the junior collected 14 touchdowns and logged at least 22 touches in all eight games.

What’s more, Langford (above) has stepped up his versatility in the passing attack, catching 12 balls over the last four games (including five in the Big Ten championship).

Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery. For a guy who logged only one game of six-plus receptions all season, Montgomery (58 catches, 937 yards, 12 total TDs) inflicted a lot of damage in Pac-12 play.