Outlook: The puzzling Gators had a strange and disappointing season. Florida beat Tennessee but lost twice at home -- an overtime heart-breaker to Alabama and a loss to rival Florida State. The Gators were outplayed by Vanderbilt and got manhandled by the Crimson Tide in the SEC title game. Coach Steve Spurrier has admitted that his harsh criticism all year probably hurt the team. The QB controversy was a distraction. Doug Johnson is slated to start here. Skilled WRs Darrell Jackson (nine TDs) and Travis Taylor are the best weapons. The ground game is capable but MSU's defensive front is tough. Second-team All-America DE Alex Brown is a nasty speed rusher on a young, athletic defense. Nick Saban led the Spartans to their best season in years and promptly bolted for the LSU coaching job. Former assistant Bobby Williams already has the permanent position. The Spartans beat Michigan in October, lost at Purdue and Wisconsin, but closed with a win over Penn State. Inconsistent senior QB Bill Burke has a top-notch pair of WRs in Plaxico Burress (nine TDs) and Gari Scott. Emerging freshman RB T. J. Duckett (10 TDs) is a bruiser. The tenacious defense is led by two third-team All-Americans, LB Julian Peterson and CB Amp Campbell. Florida has won three straight bowl games; Michigan State has dropped its last four.
No. 4 Wisconsin (9-2) vs. No. 22 Stanford (8-3)
When: Today, 4: 30 p.m.
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
TV: Ch. 2
Line: Wisconsin by 13 1/2
Outlook: Bruising Wisconsin won its last seven games to earn its third Rose Bowl berth under Barry Alvarez. Heisman winning RB Ron Dayne broke the Division I-A career rushing record with 6,397 yards. He should end his remarkable college career with another huge day here. The O-Line is enormous, led by first-team All-America OT Chris McIntosh. The offense took off when versatile freshman QB Brooks Bollinger was inserted as the starter in October. WR Chris Chambers can provide the big pass play. Second-team All-America CB Jamar Fletcher leads an active and disciplined defense. Surprising Stanford was supposed to serve as doormats for the rest of the Pac-10. Instead, the Cardinal took advantage of a subpar conference and stunned everybody by earning its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1971. Stanford's luck might have run out, however. First-team All-America WR Troy Walters probably will miss this game with a wrist injury. There are other playmakers on offense, though. Accurate QB Todd Husak (2,689 yards passing, 18 TDs) will likely look for WR DeRonnie Pitts (58 catches, eight TDs). RB Brian Allen provides balance on the ground. The vulnerable defense could be in for a long day.
No. 8 Michigan (9-2) vs. No. 5 Alabama (10-2)
When: Today, 8: 30 p.m.
Where: Miami, Fla.
TV: Ch. 2
Line: Alabama by 1 1/2
Outlook: Michigan lacks a true star -- although sophomore WR David Terrell could become a standout -- but the Wolverines get fine performances at nearly every position. Underrated senior QB Tom Brady displays uncanny poise. TB Anthony Thomas (16 TDs) is a workhorse, but he might not find much running room here. A solid defense is paced by two third-team All-Americans, NG Rob Renes and LB James Hall. The secondary is susceptible to big plays. UM notched wins at Wisconsin and Penn State, blew a big lead against Illinois and lost at Michigan State. Alabama regrouped to win eight of its last nine with the only loss coming against Tennessee. The Crimson Tide beat Florida twice -- including a 34-7 romp in the SEC title game -- to show they're again one of the nation's best. Second-team All-America RB Shaun Alexander (1,383 yards rushing) does it all. He scored 24 TDs, and no player means more to his team. QB Andrew Zow can play and dangerous WR Freddie Milons excels in the new spread offense. The fast-improving defense dominated at times down the stretch. Don't expect much from the Michigan ground game. The Wolverines averaged just 129.5 ypg rushing and Alabama ranked second in the nation against the run (75.3 ypg) and ninth in total defense (297.3 ypg). However, T Chris Samuels, the Outland Trophy winner for Alabama, is "very doubtful," coach Mike DuBose says, because of a lingering knee injury.