Wisconsin will face Oregon in the 106th Rose Bowl Wednesday in a game featuring college football’s best running back and one of its best quarterbacks.
Wisconsin junior Jonathan Taylor is a two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award as college football’s best running back. His 6,080 career yards are the most by a player through his junior season in Football Bowl Subdivision history.
The 5-foot, 11-inch, 219-pound Taylor also holds the FBS records for rushing yards by a freshman (1,977), rushing yards by a sophomore (2,194) and rushing yards by a player through his sophomore season (4,171).
Taylor enters the Rose Bowl with 1,909 yards for the season, the only player in FBS history to rush for at least 1,900 yards in three consecutive seasons. He needs 91 more to become the third player to record multiple 2,000-yard seasons.
Taylor leads the FBS in scoring, averaging 12.0 points per game on 26 touchdowns, 21 rushing and five receiving. He is second in the FBS in yards from scrimmage, averaging 162.9 yards per game and 6.6 yards per play.
“Some backs can run by you,” Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said. “Some backs can run through you. He runs by you. He runs through you. He goes over the top of you in short-yard situations. He’s extremely dangerous in the passing game as well. He’s a great blocker.”
Badgers coach Paul Chryst credits Taylor’s success to “the consistency of his approach and the work that he puts in every day.”
“Certainly he’s talented but he’s an unbelievable worker,” Chryst said.
Oregon senior Justin Herbert has thrown 32 touchdown passes with five interceptions this season, one of four FBS quarterbacks since 2015 with 30 touchdown passes and five or less interceptions in a season.
Herbert holds the school career record for completions with 813 while his 10,403 passing yards and 95 touchdown passes are second on the school’s list behind Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner.
Herbert is also a star in the classroom. He is a general science major with a focus in biology with a 4.01 grade-point average as an undergraduate.
Herbert was the 2019 recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is considered the “academic Heisman,” honoring academic and athletic success along with leadership and community achievement. It is college football’s most prestigious award honoring both athletic and academic achievement.
Herbert was the CoSIDA Academic All-America Team Member of the Year for Division I Football for the 2018 and 2019 seasons and the 2019 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for football for the Pac-12 Conference.
“My parents did a good job of instilling good habits in my brothers and I,” said Herbert, whose brother Patrick is a freshman tight end with the Ducks. “Ever since we’ve been little, we’ve handled our academics. And that’s a huge emphasis that my parents wanted on us. It’s something we’ve done throughout our careers, and I’m glad I’ve been able to do that this year.”
Herbert is protected by an offensive line that is among the four finalists for the Joe Moore Award, presented to the most outstanding offensive line unit in college football. It includes sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell, the winner of the Outland Trophy as college football’s best interior lineman.
Oregon (11-2) earned its spot in the Rose Bowl by upsetting Utah, 37-15, in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game Dec. 6.
Wisconsin (10-3) is in the Rose Bowl as the replacement for Big Ten champion Ohio State which qualified for the College Football Playoff, which consists of the top four teams in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
When the Big Ten or Pac-12 conference champion qualifies for the College Football Playoff the Tournament of Roses selects a replacement team from that conference based upon the CFP rankings.
The Badgers were eighth in the final rankings, two spots ahead of the next Big Ten team, Penn State.
Wisconsin opened the season 6-0, lost back-to-back games against Illinois and Ohio State, won their next four games, before losing to Ohio State, 34-21, in the Big Ten Football Championship Game.
The Ducks lost to Auburn in its opener, 27-21, won their next nine games, before being upset by Arizona State, 31-28, Nov. 23.
The Badgers will be playing in the Rose Bowl for the 10th time and the first since the 2013 game, which they lost to Stanford, 20-14. Wisconsin is 3-6 in the Rose Bowl, losing its first three appearances before defeating UCLA, 21-16, on New Year’s Day, 1994. It has also lost each of its three most recent appearances.
Oregon will be making its eighth Rose Bowl appearance and first since 2015, when it defeated Florida State, 59-20, in a College Football Playoff semifinal, improving its Rose Bowl record to 3-4.
The Ducks defeated the Badgers, 45-38, in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
The Big Ten has lost five of its last seven Rose Bowl appearances.