ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham has worked as a host for the Rose Bowl here this week with the two teams at the "Beef Bowl" in Beverly Hills. While he's a huge fan of the national title game itself, he said the Rose Bowl is the second-best game on the bowl lineup.
Mac Engel: What do you make of this matchup?
Ed Cunningham: To me what this game represents really is almost new school old school. I don’t mean outsider TCU versus big boy Wisconsin. The spread offense has equalized college football so much. But Wisconsin is so traditional. Their offensive coordinator (Paul Chryst) is an NFL guy. He likes that style.
Now TCU’s 4-2-5 defensive is something everyone is trying to run in the Midwest. This defense was built to beat the offenses in the Big 12, Conference USA and Mountain West.
How does that 4-2-5 do against a traditional power running team? That’s what I mean by old school versus new school.
ME: The spread has been so successful but it seems to get a stigma because it sounds gimmicky, and traditional people hate gimmicks.
EC: Without a doubt. Our school is ruled by tradition and culture. And by God if a coach learned something back in 1977 he’s going to teach it now. People don’t seem to know this but the New England Patriots run the spread offense. The only difference is Tom Brady can’t run. Other than that, they’re a spread.
What makes people uncomfortable with it is that you have to walk people away from the line of scrimmage. TCU is built to handle that. Wisconsin can bring two tightends, a fullback and two guys who are going to play in the NFL. To me, that is what is beautiful about this game.
ME: Do you see the 4-2-5 evolving and spreading the way the spread offense has?
EC: I don’t know. The problem with the spread offense is that it came from high school. It’s guys like Art Briles at Stephenville. You had these smaller schools who were tired of losing to the big schools with all the money. So these offenses were invented with these smaller, faster guys and it gave defenses fits.
Now you have guys in high school who are taught and know how to control space before they get to college. The guys that are playing competitive 7-on-7 football have such an advantage. They have an understanding of spacing and field awareness.
ME: Pick this game.
EC: I don’t like to but I had to for the ESPN Bowl Mania. I’m on record as Wisconsin.
- Mac Engel