No. 4 Michigan State (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) vs. No. 5 Stanford (11-2, 7-2 Pac-12)
George Chen: Stanford 24, Michigan State 13
Stanford is better than Michigan State. The media this past month has raved about how good the Michigan State defense is — and make no mistake, the Spartans defense is scary — but it’s hard to believe that quarterback Connor Cook will be able to consistently move the ball against Shayne Skov and company. Look at the explosive offenses that the Cardinal defense has shut down this year: Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State. If Stanford’s defense can shut Oregon down for over three quarters, I’m confident in the unit’s ability to impose its will on the Spartans offense. You can criticize Kevin Hogan for his shaky performance in the loss to USC, but he has played lights out in the past three games and I think he’ll be able to hit enough of the deep shots to Devon Cajuste and Ty Montgomery to give the Cardinal an early lead that it will never relinquish.
Sam Fisher: Stanford 27, Michigan State 16
Michigan State is a good football team, but I don’t think the Spartans are as good as the Cardinal. If Kevin Hogan and the Stanford offense struggle, Sparty can take advantage and grab a victory. But if the Pac-12 Championship Game was any indication, the Cardinal offense might turn some heads against a stout defense. Stanford jumps ahead early with some creative play calls, the defense holds Michigan State to field goals in the red zone and Ed Reynolds comes up with a game-sealing interception thanks to a ferocious pass rush.
David Cohn: Stanford 34, Michigan State 17
To me, Wednesday’s Rose Bowl matchup comes down to the preparation provided by each team’s regular season schedule. Quite simply, while Michigan State is certainly a very talented team, the Spartans have played nowhere near as difficult of a schedule as Stanford has. For the Spartans (with apologies to a one-dimensional Ohio State offense and a defense that gave up 34 points to Cal), this Rose Bowl Game is their toughest to date. In contrast, Stanford has arguably played at least three more difficult games this season: at home against Oregon, at Arizona State and at USC. Although MSU may be a better opponent than USC or even ASU, Stanford will not have to contend with the hostility of a road environment. As such, I expect Stanford’s regular season preparation to help lift it to postseason glory.
Do-Hyoung Park: Stanford 23, Michigan State 6
Not only am I confident that the Cardinal will win tomorrow, but I’m going to go one step further and say that the Farm Boys will win big and keep a mediocre and inconsistent Spartans offense out of the end zone altogether. Simply put, there are no defensive fronts in the Big Ten that can match the size, physicality, athleticism and discipline of Stanford’s seven, and I think the Spartans will be surprised and overwhelmed on the line of scrimmage, particularly on offense. I just don’t believe that Connor Cook can win a ballgame with his arm without an effective running game in the picture. As for the Cardinal, I would be surprised if Shaw and Bloomgren don’t have some twists planned to give Stanford an early lead against a Michigan State defense that I don’t believe can consistently beat the Cardinal’s monster offensive line. Look for Skov, Murphy and Gaffney to have huge days in their Cardinal swan song.