The old size-versus-speed debate is one of the most overused and illogical ways to analyze or preview a college football game.Unfortunately, Badger fans heard all about it leading up to the Champs Sports Bowl against “speedy” Miami.Many believed “The U” would be too fast for the Badgers. Experts feared those watching would inevitably be blinded by the overwhelming quickness of the ‘Canes. The powerful UW rushing attack was supposed to pale in comparison to the Hurricanes’ athletic front seven.So how did the Badgers manage to upend Miami down in Orlando? How did they hold that explosive Miami attack to just 249 yards of total offense?To sit here and say that it was UW’s size that defeated Miami’s speed is quite honestly false. Those two teams represent a lot more than those two words.Sure, Wisconsin’s powerful rushing attack and enormous offensive line had something to do with the signature victory, but UW outplayed the Hurricanes in every aspect of the game. They were not just the more physically imposing team, they were simply the better team. The Badgers are more than just powerful — they are incredibly balanced and, yeah, they too have some fast players on the roster.True to form, UW ran it down Miami’s throats and it was an impressive display, but that’s not all it did. The Badgers won that game with a relentless pass rush, sure tackling and the ability to consistently convert on third down through the air.You know what’s funny about all those things? The vast majority of teams in college football, whether labeled speedy or not, are well aware they lead to wins.And that’s what makes this whole speed and size debate so aggravating: it just doesn’t exist. Everyone needs speed and everyone needs physicality — this is football we’re talking about after all.Twenty years ago there may have been a gap in speed and athleticism across college football. I wouldn’t disagree that the southern teams had more speed, but in today’s game, every program gets its hands on quick players. Recruiting now goes coast-to-coast as midwestern programs continue to bring in players from Florida and California.As far as speed is concerned, the playing field is now pretty much even.And while everyone was busy talking about the difference in styles between the two programs, no one acknowledged that Miami had almost the exact same offensive game plan as the Badgers. Most overlook this, but the Hurricanes’ offense is only successful when they get their running game going. They had three backs combine to total over two thousand yards on the year — that’s physical football. They have a big offensive line and physical runners, but they are labeled as the speedy finesse team. The Miami players shivering in 50-degree weather didn’t promote a very rugged image, but they at least wanted to be physical up front.There are very few teams in football that can run their offenses effectively without moving the ball on the ground or winning the battles on line of scrimmage. UW won those battles and got pressure on Jacory Harris, while Scott Tolzien was comfortable in the pocket. That’s why we saw the Badgers dominate in the passing game, because I don’t care how fast your receivers are, without time to throw, no one looks open.And as the Hurricanes’ offense struggled, Tolzien became the first Wisconsin quarterback to reach 200 completions in a season, but you won’t hear anyone acknowledge the strides UW has made in the passing game.Yet, the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl isn’t the only example of a game that illuminates the idiocy of the speed and size debate, especially in the Big Ten.Ohio State and Terrelle Pryor ran wild in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes dominated the line of scrimmage and wore down an Oregon offense that was said to be the most explosive in the country. And thanks to Iowa and Penn State, the Big Ten proved it has some capable athletes to go along with oversized linemen (four Big Ten teams finished in the top 16).Here’s the thing — in college football today we have so many types of offenses, so many formations that we lose sight of the basics. Some teams spread it out, some opt to play between the tackles and others pull out some crazy triple option attack. But in the end each team’s core objective remains the same: you must control the line of scrimmage.Down in those trenches you need size, you need to be physical. Big Ten teams, SEC teams, ACC teams, all of them. And as unbelievable as it sounds, the good teams have both size and speed.Just check out Miami head coach Randy Shannon’s comments to ESPN.com prior to the bowl game.“It’s not going to be a situation where we’re going to be faster than those guys or they’re going to be faster than us,” he said. “We have a big offensive line; they have a big offensive line. They have big guys on defense; we have big guys on defense. It’s going to work itself out.“It’s just a myth that if you’re down south you run faster.”Coach Shannon was proved right as UW dispelled the ridiculous myth once again. I guess if the south wants to regain the speed advantage they just need to get faster, because the rest of the country has certainly caught up.Max is a junior majoring in journalism. Think the size versus speed debate should continue? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For players, coaches and fans alike, the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA is a long-awaited treat at the end of the season. With just two weeks left before bowl season, the No. 13 Trojans (7-3) will travel to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to face the Bruins (4-6).Brian Chin | Daily TrojanBeat the Bruins · Junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and the football team are traveling across town to take on UCLA. The Trojans have defeated the Bruins in 13 of their last 17 meetings, including last year’s 40-21 win.The teams have undergone quite different storylines as this season has progressed. Having won six straight, USC vaulted up in the College Football Rankings this week after defeating playoff contender then No. 4 Washington, but head coach Clay Helton has been working to keep his players focused on the task at hand this week.“We have a job to do,” Helton said. “That’s been the overriding emphasis each and every week: do our job, on this day, in this moment. And that’s what I’m going to keep selling.”The Bruins have struggled without their starting quarterback Josh Rosen, who was replaced by redshirt senior Mike Fafaul. The Bruins have relied heavily on their passing game as they are averaging just 87.2 rushing yards per game. Sophomore defensive end Porter Gustin emphasized the need to maintain that standard in this game.“We’ve talked all week about establishing that they’re not going to run the ball on us early,” Gustin said. “Making them one dimensional and getting after the quarterback, that’s a key for sure.”The Trojans will most likely be without junior defensive tackle Josh Fatu who is suffering from an ankle injury. The team expects to be at full strength on the offensive side of the field. The team is preparing for a Bruin defense that is extremely effective on third down.“Not only one of the best secondaries that we’ve faced, but also one of the defenses with the best third down efficiency,” Helton said. “They come in right at 32 percent, which is one of the top three in the league.”Combatting a staunch defense will be a Trojan offense that ranks second in the Pac-12 at third down efficiency, coming in at 46.2 percent, showing that the effort USC has put into third downs each week at practice has paid off.“That’s a key battle of keeping drives alive on the field,” Helton said.Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold has impressed the nation during his tenure as the starting quarterback.“Everyone is seeing touches and everyone is making plays,” junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said.Darnold leads the nation in touchdown passes, completion percentage, yards per attempt and passing efficiency this season among freshman. He has thrown 22 scoring passes this year. Darnold is ranked fifth in the nation in ESPN’s Total QB Rating and is the highest rated freshman.Darnold has been able to spread the wealth among his receivers, not just targeting Smith-Schuster but also making names for wide receivers senior Darreus Rogers, sophomore Deontay Burnett and redshirt freshman tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe.“Smooth is the right word to describe Tay (Deontay Burnett),” Darnold said. “Tay is just one of those players who knows how to get open and knows how to do his thing once the ball comes to him.”Helton hasn’t downplayed the rivalry aspect of this week, but has said several times that he is trying to keep his team as calm as they can be. Smith-Schuster said on Tuesday that the coaching staff talked to the team in order to help them refocus after the Washington win and to not get caught up in the hype of the rivalry.Last year, the Trojans won 40-21 at the Coliseum, but the year before suffered a defeat at the Rose Bowl, 38-20. The 2014 win is just the fourth win the Bruins have had in the last 17 meetings.“The more and more the day comes closer, you get more excited,” Smith-Schuster said. “It’s a big rivalry game and everyone is excited, but you just have to keep calm.”The Trojans need to win on Saturday to keep their hopes of a Pac-12 South title alive in addition to needing Utah and Colorado to each lose one of their remaining two games.“The one thing I’ve been proud of this team for the past six weeks is we haven’t been about the hype,” Helton said. “We say execution fuels emotion.”