LOS ANGELES — Thousands of words will be written and spoken about the Rose Bowl this week, but it may have been Texas Christian defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas who best summed up the essence of his team's matchup with the University of Wisconsin.
"That's like a Ferrari and a dump truck," Bumpas said on Tuesday. "We are fast, but the reality of it is, when the dump truck is going straight ahead, it's a dangerous weapon."
It's the bowl season and for Big Ten Conference teams, it inevitably means a variation of the speed-versus-size argument that is as old as football itself.
The Badgers' previous seven bowl opponents featured five straight teams from the Southeastern Conference, plus Florida State and Miami (Fla.), all bastions of speed. So the Badgers are well versed in the argument.
TCU is looking to become just the third program in NCAA history to lead the nation in total defense for three consecutive seasons. In 10 years under defensive-minded head coach Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs have led the nation in total defense four times. The only other programs to do that since the NCAA started tracking statistics in 1937 are Auburn and Alabama.
The Horned Frogs do it by recruiting the best and fastest athletes they can find, regardless of position, then teaching them to play defense.
"We've had a lot of young men we've brought into the program that have gone to other positions," Bumpas said.
"The one thing we always look at is can the young man run? If he can, that's a good basis to start for a lot of positions."
TCU has a quirky 4-2-5 defense the Badgers say is unlike anything they have faced.
"You've got good athletes with good speed but they play fast because they know what they're doing, they trust what they're doing and I think that's what makes them a good defense," UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said.
It all starts with Patterson and his eye for evaluating talent and fitting those players into the right positions.
"He's got an eye out for an athlete. He can turn a running back into a defensive end, All-American, go to the league," All-American linebacker Tank Carder said in reference to Jerry Hughes, who was the 30th pick overall in this year's NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
"I don't think I've ever seen coach ‘P' miss with a position change," defensive end Wayne Daniels said. "It's not only that we're athletic. Coach ‘P' recruits the blue-collar guys, the guys who are going to work hard. I would venture to say there's no room on our team for anybody who doesn't work."
It's not an easy way to build a defense. It takes time and patience. TCU's defense is fairly complex. The coaches expect a lot out of the safeties in terms of making calls and making tackles.
Linebacker Tanner Brock leads the defense with 97 tackles but the next two are strong safety Colin Jones (70), who took over in the second game due to an injury, and senior free safety Tejay Johnson (56), a finalist for the Thorpe Award given to the nation's top defensive back.
Bumpas chuckled when asked how difficult it is for players to learn the defense.
"It's pretty sophisticated in terms of what they need to do," he said. "They themselves do a lot of audibles. In fact, Tejay is the quarterback for us, what he has to know and what he has to see. We have a lot of (coaching) staffs (who) come in and they're a little bit overwhelmed by what our players do."
The Frogs rank third nationally in run defense, allowing 89.2 yards per game. They are first nationally in pass defense (126.3 yards per game) and have such faith in their cornerbacks it allows them to compensate for a lack of size by committing a lot of bodies to stop the run.
"They slant a lot," UW left tackle Gabe Carimi said. "They're going to try and put more guys (at the point of attack) and have some safeties come in and make tackles, just make you run into the unblocked defender. They're very good at that."
TCU's defenders also tackle extremely well. It's the hope of the Badgers that TCU's safeties get tired after a while of coming up and making tackles on their big backs, notably 236-pound Montee Ball and 255-pound John Clay.
"We're hoping we'll continue that into the Rose Bowl," Bumpas said of tackling well. "A lot of it is a mindset. You have to want to go tackle a guy. Our kids do a good job."
Chryst believes the size-versus-speed angle is only the jumping-off point for this game.
"It's a natural starting point," Chryst said. "We do have size. Once you really get to it, it took you very little time to know there's so much more to it. Certainly, we're not thinking we're going to roll the ball out and say, ‘We're big, therefore we're going to be able to run the ball.' You've got to earn everything you get."
Likewise, the Badgers have speed to go with their bulk. They might look like a dump truck, but it's one that's capable of being taken out on the highway.
"Wisconsin truly is that big," Bumpas said when asked about the Big Ten stereotype. "The disquieting thing about it is they are very fast, too."