As long as I can remember watching the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was a tradition. Since I started watching football, I think I’ve seen every one of them.
This is my opinion on the best games.
1. 2006: Number 2 ranked Texas upset number 1 ranked USC, 41-38, in what might have been the best game of all time. Texas fans probably think that much more than USC fans, but no matter who you were for this was a nail biter from beginning to end. The night was electric and those in attendance could feel it. The USC Trojans were called the best team of all time by the media. With 2004 Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback Matt Leinart handing the ball to 2005 Heisman Trophy winning Running Back Reggie Bush this team was definitely a force to be reckoned with. Texas countered with fantastic Quarterback Vince Young who probably should have won the Heisman.
This game was wild from the kickoff until Vince Young scored the winning Touchdown.
Not only was this game the best Rose Bowl game, but it could be the very best game of all time.
2. 2005: Texas 38 Michigan 37. Texas could not stop Michigan Quarterback Chad Henne to Wide Receiver Braylon Edwards and Michigan could not stop Texas Quarterback Vince Young in a lesson the USC Trojans would learn a year later. Michigan return man Steve Breaston tortured Texas Kick off coverage team time after time gaining 221 yards on 6 returns.
The game went back in forth the entire night before Texas kicker Dusty Magnum booted a 37 yard
Field Goal with no time left on the clock to give the Texas Longhorns the win.
If not for the following season when Texas beat USC with a last second Touchdown, this game could have been one of the best ever.
3. 1993: The Pac 10 Champion Washington Huskies took on the Michigan Wolverines who won the Big 10. Washington was just a year away from their national champion team of 1991 and they had a lot of the same players back. Led by Quarterback Mark Brunell, Offensive Tackle Lincoln Kennedy and Linebacker Dave Hoffman, the Huskies were ranked number 1 before being ambushed by the Desert Swarm defense in Arizona. They also took a hit against their biggest rival, Washington State to come into the game 9-2 and ranked 9th.
Michigan was undefeated, but somehow they had managed to tie 3 games during the season. Bo Schembechler had retired and the Michigan coach was Gary Moeller. Elvis Grbac was their Quarterback and Defensive Lineman Chris Hutchinson led the defense and was their MVP.
This game was a wild one with 6 lead changes. But, Michigan scored the last 2 Touchdowns to win the game 38-31. Running Back Tyrone Wheatley of Michigan was named the Rose Bowl MVP with 235 rushing yards. Schembechler had terrible luck in the Rose Bowl, but Moeller’s team was able to come out on top in this thriller of a game.
4. 2012: Oregon vs Wisconsin. Russell Wilson of current Seattle Seahawks fame played his college football at North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin for his final year. It was a thrilling season for the Badgers and their fans. They won their first 6 games before losing a heart breaker to Michigan State by 6 points. The following week, the Badgers lost by 4 to Ohio State. They bounced back to win 4 straight and clinch the Leaders Division of the Big 10. Michigan State won the Legends Division setting up a rematch of their earlier game. This time, the Badgers won the in a wild and
crazy game setting them up for a Rose Bowl match up with Oregon.
The Ducks lost their opener against LSU and then won 9 straight before losing to USC. They won the North Division of the Pac 12 Conference and had to play a really bad UCLA team because USC was on probation. They beat the Bruins easily enough and earned the right to play Wisconsin.
If defense is your thing, this game was not for you. Wisconsin finished with 508 yards and Oregon with 621 yards including 345 yards rushing.
Oregon won in a shoot out 45-38.
5. 1997: Arizona State was 11-0 and the champion of the Pac 10 coming into this game. In their 3rd game of the 1996 season, the Sun Devils defeated two time defending national champions Nebraska 19-0. Shutting out an offense the caliber of Nebraska’s in those years was a major achievement.
The only close calls for the Devils came against UCLA and USC. The Sun Devils were rated #2 with Quarterback Jake Plummer leading the offense and Linebacker Pat Tillman leading the defense.
The Buckeyes had it going on most of the season after starting out ranked 10th. After some convincing wins, they dropped all the way to the 2nd position in the Polls. They were upset by Michigan 9-13 to ruin any shot at a national title. But, they still entered the game at 10-1 and ranked 4th.
This was a good Ohio State team, but still pretty young. They had Outland and Lombardi award
winner and one of the greatest Offensive Linemen of all time in Orlando Pace. They also had Wide Receiver David Boston, and Middle Linebacker Andy Kotzenmeyer but both were true freshmen. They also had the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year in Shawn Springs.
The first half was somewhat uneventful finishing up at 7-7. After 3 quarters, the Buckeyes led 14-10. The 4th quarter was when the game became most interesting.
The Buckeye’s Pepe Pearson had a nice long run and the game started looking like a Buckeye win. But, the Sun Devil defense stopped the Buckeyes and then they blocked the Field Goal attempt. On the block, the ball was lateraled to Arizona State’s Derrick Rodgers, but it was called back. But, then, Jake Plummer drove the Sun Devil’s down the field to take the lead.
Jake Plummer was supposed to be the comeback kid, but Ohio State Quarterback Joe Germaine led the Buckeyes down the field throwing a Touchdown pass to freshman David Boston for the go ahead Touchdown with 19 seconds left. Plummer’s come back attempt fell short because of lack of time. Buckeyes won 20-17 in something of a late thriller.
6. 1978 The Washington Huskies led by Warren Moon took on the Michigan Wolverines led by Quarterback Rick Leach. Washington jumped out to 24-0 lead. Michigan came roaring back with Rick Leach playing his heart out. He hit walk-on Wide Receiver Curt Stephenson on a 76 yard Touchdown pass. Washington would not go away and kicked another Field Goal to take a 27-7 lead. Michigan would not go away and they scored 2 more Touchdowns in the 4th quarter to pull within 7 points of the Huskies at 27 to 20. Michigan got the ball back one more time and Rick Leach drove the Wolverines down the field and had an opportunity to win the game. Leach didn’t see a wide open
Stephenson in the End Zone and he threw an Interception on the other side of the field to end the game.
Another heart breaking loss in the Rose Bowl for Bo Schembechler and Michigan.
7. 1969 USC vs Ohio State happened 7 times in the Rose Bowl and this was the second of those games. This was one of those #1 vs #2 games that are typically called the Game of the Century. Ohio State came in at 9-0 and held the top ranking. The Trojans were 9-0-1 and ranked 2nd and the Heisman Trophy winner lined up behind the Quarterback in O.J. Simpson.
Simpson wound up running for 171 yards with 80 of those yards coming on one Touchdown. The Trojans just turned the ball over 5 times allowing Buckeye Quarterback Rex Kern, who was the game’s MVP, and his Super Sophomore teammates to prevail 27-16.
Ohio State won the national championship.
8. 1999 There were no titles on the line in this game, just pride was at stake. UCLA was 10-1 and ranked 6th by the Associated Press. They took on Wisconsin who was also 10-1 and ranked 9th. This was a great game with too many highlights to list. The Badgers’ Ron Dayne ran for 4 Touchdowns and 246 yards. While Quarterback Cade McNown from UCLA threw for 340 yards. There was
almost no defense in this game with 1,035 combined total yards of offense.
The Wisconsin Badgers won the game 38-31 in a game that not many will ever forget.
9. 1998 A lot of football fans were probably a little stunned when Ryan Leaf was a bust in the NFL. There was much debate back in those years between Peyton Manning of Tennessee or Ryan Leaf of Washington State as the top pick in the Draft and we all know how that worked out.
The Michigan Wolverines came in 11-0 and ranked #1 with a shot at their first national title since 1948. They had gifted Heisman winner Charles Woodson and Quarterback Brian Griese. Leaf and Washington State came in with a 10-1 record and rated 8th.
The game ended controversially when the clock ran out on Washington State. Michigan held on for the 21-16 win and a share of the national title.
10. 1980 The Rose Bowl capping the 1979 season featured the Trojans of USC against the Ohio State Buckeyes one more time. The Buckeyes came in ranked #1 in the AP Poll, while the Trojans were ranked #3. Charles White of USC was the Heisman Trophy winner and he did not disappoint when he ran for 247 yards.
The Buckeyes held a 16-10 lead until about a minute left in the 4th quarter when White went in for the winning Touchdown giving the Trojans a 17-16 win. This game was not a high scoring thriller,
but it was a hard fought battle from beginning to end.
11. 1996 Northwestern shocked the world when they beat Notre Dame in 1995, then they lost to Miami of Ohio and everyone thought the Notre Dame was a fluke. But, then the Wildcats got on a roll and won the Big 10 and posted a 10-1 record.
They faced the Trojans of USC who came in with an 8-2-1 record.
Cinderella usually loses in the big game and the Wildcats fought hard but came up short with a 32-41 loss to the Trojans.
Still, it was an outstanding season for the Wildcats, one for the ages.
12. 1979 Michigan was 10-1 coming in and USC was 11-1. This game was a defensive battle from start to finish and was not without controversy.
Charles White fumbled the ball before he crossed the End Zone, but one official said he crossed and the Trojans were awarded the Touchdown. This game was known for the ‘Phantom Touchdown’ which gave the Trojans a 17-10 win over Michigan.
13. 2011 TCU vs Wisconsin: Andy Dalton led TCU over Wisconsin. Badgers failed on 2 point
attempt that would have tied game.
14. 2014 Stanford vs Michigan State: Classic defensive battle with the Spartans hanging on for the win.
15. 1988 USC vs Michigan State: Spartan Linebacker Percy Snow was the game’s MVP. Michigan beat USC twice that season.
16. 1975 USC vs Ohio State: This was another good game between the Trojans and the Buckeyes. Pat Haden hit Shelton Diggs for the 2 point conversion and the win.
17. 1972 Stanford vs Michigan: Stanford upset undefeated Michigan with a Field Goal with 12 seconds left in the game to win 13-12.Bo Schembechler had some great teams at Michigan but he could never win the Rose Bowl for some odd reason.