Rose Bowl breakdown: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford
DEC 30, 2013 11:23a ET
Rose Bowl: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN
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.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
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.
Of course, it helps that Montgomery had Cal on the schedule, amassing five catches, 160 yards and five total touchdowns (four receiving) against the Bears, while snapping a five-game scoreless streak.
1. Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (2,423 yards passing, 20 TDs) didn't record a 300-yard passing day until Michigan State's upset of No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
2. Along those lines, Stanford's Kevin Hogan (2,487 yards passing, 22 total TDs) only crossed the 300 threshold once this season, passing for 329 yards and five TDs against Cal.
3. Michigan State's defense allowed only 25 points or more twice this season -- both victories over Indiana and Nebraska.
4. Both of Stanford's losses came to unranked-at-the-time foes (Utah and USC).
5. Tailback Tyler Gaffney (1,718 total yards, 21 TDs -- above) scored a touchdown in 12 of Stanford's 13 contests, only coming up empty against Washington State. He also had nine different outings of 100-plus rushing yards.
6. Michigan State hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since January 1988. The Spartans also don't have a single victory against a Pac-12 foe this century.
If Stanford (12-1) and Michigan State played 10 times on a netural field, the Cardinal would probably claim six victories.
But in this one-shot-deal Rose Bowl, MSU seems to have destiny on its side -- along with a defense that has a better-than-50/50 chance of finding the end zone.
Within that scope, Spartans kicker Michael Geiger has nailed his last eight field-goal attempts.