Evaluation of biomass crops for breeding or pricing purposes requires an assay that predicts performance in the bioenergy conversion process. Cell wall polysaccharide hydrolysis was compared for a dilute sulfuric acid pretreatment at 121°C followed with cellulase hydrolysis for 72 h conversion assay (CONV) with in vitro rumen microflora incubation for 72 h (RUMEN) for a set of maize (Zea mays L.) stover samples with a wide range in cell wall composition. Residual polysaccharides from the assays were analyzed for sugar components and extent of hydrolysis calculated. Cell wall polysaccharide hydrolysis was different for all sugar components between the CONV and RUMEN assays. The CONV assay hydrolyzed xylose-, arabinose-, galactose-, and uronic acid-containing polysaccharides to a greater degree than did the RUMEN assay, whereas the RUMEN assay was more effective at hydrolyzing glucose- and mannose-containing polysaccharides. Greater hydrolysis of hemicelluloses and pectins by CONV can be attributed to the acid hydrolysis mechanism of the CONV assay for noncellulosic polysaccharides, whereas the RUMEN assay was dependent on enzymatic hydrolysis. While CONV and RUMEN hydrolysis were correlated for most polysaccharide components, the greatest correlation was only r = 0.70 for glucose-containing polysaccharides. Linear correlations and multiple regressions indicated that polysaccharide hydrolysis by the RUMEN assay was negatively associated with lignin concentration and ferulate ether cross linking as expected. Corresponding correlations and regressions for CONV were less consistent and occasionally positive. Use of rumen microbial hydrolysis to characterize biomass performance in a conversion process may have some limited usefulness for genetic evaluations, but such assays would be unreliable for biomass pricing.