Rose Bowl preview: Key players and matchups in Oregon-Wisconsin

Oregon-Wisconsin set for Rose Bowl (1:17)

Rece Davis and the crew discuss Oregon playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual on Jan. 1. (1:17)

In a rematch of the 2012 Rose Bowl that saw Oregon outpace Wisconsin 45-38, the Ducks and Badgers return to Pasadena, California, for what is arguably the most interesting matchup of bowl season outside the College Football Playoff.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal has returned the Ducks to the national scene in just his second year on the job, while Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst is looking to guide the Badgers to their third top-10 finish in four years.

Key player for Oregon: Quarterback Justin Herbert's final chance to impress NFL scouts with the Ducks comes on one of the biggest stages college football has to offer. He had the chance to leave and potentially become a top-five NFL draft choice a year ago, but the opportunity to exhaust his eligibility for the program he grew up watching brought him back. If the Ducks win, Herbert will be one of just three quarterbacks to lead Oregon to a Rose Bowl win in the past 100 years.

Key player for Wisconsin: Running back Jonathan Taylor enters the game with 1,909 rushing yards, just 27 behind Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard for the most in the country. Taylor is looking to become the first player since Texas' Ricky Williams (1997-98) to lead the country in rushing in back-to-back seasons and just the second player in FBS history to run for 2,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons. The only player to accomplish that is Iowa State's Troy Davis (1995-96).

Matchup to watch: In the Pac-12 championship game beatdown of Utah, Oregon's offensive line was the difference. The Ducks opened up massive holes against a defense that allowed a national-best 2.26 yards per rush during the regular season and sprang running back CJ Verdell free to run wild. Wisconsin's defensive line, which ranks No. 18 nationally in yards allowed per rush (3.38), will pose a similar challenge.

X factor: Both Herbert (five interceptions) and Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan (four) were able to limit turnovers this year, but the Ducks, as a team, were much more efficient overall in turnover margin. They ended the season plus-13, while Wisconsin was just plus-3. In a game in which the teams are as evenly matched as these are, that area always has a chance to play a crucial role.

Motivation factor: Neither of these teams backed into the game. For at least a few weeks, it was a best-case scenario for both teams and there shouldn't be any lack of motivation for "The Granddaddy of Them All." While bowl games across the board are becoming less meaningful outside of the playoff, this one has maintained an aura of importance.