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Defensive juggernauts clash in 100th Rose Bowl

Linebacker Trent Murphy and defensive end Henry Anderson

Linebacker Trent Murphy and defensive end Henry Anderson of the Stanford Cardinal celebrate after Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks is sacked in the first quarter at Stanford Stadium. (Nov. 7, 2013) Credit: Getty

PASADENA, Calif. - The oldest of the bowl games, the one known as the "Granddaddy of Them All," promises smash-mouth power football, a throwback to the old days, good or not.

For its 100th game, the Rose Bowl on Wednesday matches Michigan State, ranked No. 4 in the BCS standings, against No. 5 Stanford, two teams more concerned with substance than style, particularly in stopping an opponent.

Michigan State (12-1) has the No. 1 total-yardage defense in the nation.

Stanford (11-2) has been led by three fifth-year defenders who could have spent this season in the NFL: linebackers Trent Murphy (who is second in the nation with 13 sacks) and Shayne Skov, and defensive end Ben Gardner, who will sit out the Rose Bowl with a pectoral injury suffered Oct. 26.

Two of the better-known defensive coordinators in college football, Pat Narduzzi of the Spartans and Derek Mason of Stanford, have had more than three weeks to scheme and design, who knows the result of those plans?

That Michigan State will be without key middle linebacker Max Bullough, suspended a few days ago for an announced rules violation, might make a difference. And might not. Kyler Elsworth will start in place of Bullough, and Narduzzi said he can't wait to see how Elsworth performs.

Stanford played in the first New Year's Day game, 1902, blasted by Michigan, 49-0. Midwinter football in southern California then was replaced by ostrich racing, not to return until 1916. No jokes that the sport was for the birds.

Football came back in 1916. And in 1919, one of the stars was George Halas, recently named to the Rose Bowl's all-century class, along with players such as Archie Griffin, Don Hutson and Ernie Nevers and coaches John McKay, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.

The stadium itself was finished in 1922, and the name Rose Bowl first was used in 1923. Columbia played in 1934, and on a field soggy from three days of rain, beat Stanford, 7-0.

The weather the first day of 2014 will be beautiful. The football should be interesting.

"We're going to stick to our game plan, our style; run first and take our shots when they're there," said Kevin Hogan, quarterbacking a Stanford team playing in the Rose Bowl a second straight year and a BCS bowl for a fourth straight.

The Spartans offer nothing exotic, but in the 34-24 win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game, the Buckeyes' first loss in 25 games, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook completed 24 of 40 pass attempts for 304 yards.

A year ago, when Stanford beat Wisconsin, 30-24, Tyler Gaffney, who was playing baseball in the Pirates farm system, watched the bowl from the stands. He re-enrolled last fall and rushed for 1,618 yards and 20 touchdowns.

"He gets more than the play is diagramed for," Stanford coach David Shaw said of Gaffney.

Granddaddy can hardly wait.

New York Sports