The 2012 Running Backs, Er, Rose Bowl

While Stanford-Oklahoma State could be coined the Quarterbacks Bowl and LSU-Alabama the Defense Bowl, the 2012 Rose Bowl matchup between Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Oregon's LaMichael James might turn out to be the 2012 Running Backs Bowl.

PASADENA, Calif. -- You can't look at the Fiesta Bowl matchup, between Stanford under Andrew Luck and Oklahoma State under Brandon Weeden, without coining it the Quarterbacks Bowl.

The excitement will largely be generated from these two men's stories. And how the bowl fares will undoubtedly depend on how well they play.

The expectations surrounding the BCS Championship this year, a rematch of LSU and Alabama, are considerably low given the context of the game. Because after the two SEC foes' first meeting in the regular season netted a combined 15 points and hundreds of dozing fans, the Defense Bowl only needs scoring this time around to keep America's interest.

That's why this year's Rose Bowl is so hyped, why the buzz is so great. Wisconsin versus Oregon isn't just two prolific offenses going head-to-head. It is the Doak Walker award showcase, a smorgasbord of Sportscenter highlights from the best tailbacks in the country.

Montee Ball versus LaMichael James. It doesn't get faster, grittier or more impressive than this. And it deserves no name better than the 2012 Running Backs' Bowl.

The matchup encapsulates what any football fan loves about the sport: No-holds-bar-pounding. Multi-purpose, Heisman-candidate backs that have often carried wins on their backs for their respective teams this season.

Sure we enjoy a good defensive stand by our own team. But as a fan of the sport of college football, we also enjoy the cracks, gaps and holes and the players that find them.

Now imagine those plays happen on every drive.

Both eat touchdowns for breakfast. Ball has scarfed up a whopping 54 scores in three years at Wisconsin, while James has a combined 52 in the same length of time.

Both have been Heisman Trophy finalists, Ball this past season and James in 2010.

Both can carry the ball at nearly every down and distance, averaging more than 20 attempts per game this season.

Both have their names on endless awards. Ball is one score away from breaking college football's record for most touchdowns in a season, set by Barry Sanders in 1988. He has scored at least two touchdowns in 13 consecutive games, another NCAA record.

James is Oregon's career leading rusher, an All-American, a 2010 Doak Walker Award winner and, most recently, the Pac-12 Championship Game's Most Valuable Player.

Both are draft eligible, yet neither have declared. On paper, two inches, one year and about twenty pounds separate the two players. With the human eye, the difference in styles is much more perceptible.

Ball is a craftsman. Whether he's catching a pass in the flat or taking a handoff and crushing through a defensive line, he can score in a variety of ways. Despite being a bigger back, Ball uses his body so well it takes a great defender --or a few great ones-- to take him down.

James, on the other hand, is Mr. Suave. He could be whispering sweet nothings to Duck cheerleaders as he runs toward the endzone and would probably score. He possesses incredible speed, vision and awareness. He must completely frustrate defenses, because his runs look effortless.

So if you're hungry for some good ol' football that features the nation's two best running backs, it doesn't get any better than James and Ball in the grandaddy of them all.


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