LOS ANGELES — Although Montee Ball and Stepfan Taylor have barely met, Taylor is pretty sure they would get along famously.
“We had a quick hello this week, but you can tell we’ve got a lot in common,” the Stanford running back said. “At least on the field.”
In an era of college football dominated by spread schemes and prolific quarterbacks, these two tailbacks personify an old-fashioned, smash-mouth approach to offense. Running behind similar massive offensive lines at Wisconsin and Stanford, both backs persevered through slow starts to their careers to earn prominent spots in the record books heading into their big finales in the 99th Rose Bowl.
“You can’t really have a better running back matchup in college football than this one,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said.
Ball and Taylor expect to get to know each other while they prepare for the upcoming NFL draft, where they’re both likely to be high picks. They’ll first finish up their college careers against each other when the surprising Badgers (8-5) make their third straight Rose Bowl appearance Tuesday against the favored No. 8 Cardinal (11-2).
When Ball is asked about Taylor’s abilities, he realizes he might as well be describing himself.
“We’re both not blazing fast, but we both do a good job playing to our strengths,” Ball said. “We run behind our pads, run between the tackles and always stay physical. We’ve got a lot of similarities, so it’s good to see him have success. Just hopefully not too much success in the game.”
The Rose Bowl is a culmination of two resilient tenures at a notoriously fickle position.
Both backs are playing in their third straight BCS bowls: Ball was outstanding in both of the Badgers’ previous trips to the Rose Bowl, while Taylor had big games in Orange and Fiesta bowls over the past two years.