By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) As the Granddaddy of Them All, it’s always a big game.
But, fact is, the Rose Bowl hasn’t been much of a B1G game for years.
In fact, since the 2000 season, the Big Ten has gone just 1-9 vs. the Pac-12 on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, with Ohio State’s 26-17 win over Oregon in 2010 as the league’s lone victory.
Which makes for an awfully lonely victory, too.
No. 4 Michigan State, however, will be hoping to give that win some company when it attempts to right the Big Ten’s ship this afternoon against No. 5 Stanford in the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl. The game, as you might have heard, is Sparty’s first appearance in Pasadena since Jan. 1, 1988, when MSU edged out USC 20-17. What you might not have heard, though, is that 11 games before ending that season with a Rose Bowl win over the Trojans, the Spartans opened the 1987 season with a win over them.
On Sept. 7, 1987, in the first-ever night game at Spartan Stadium, Michigan State beat USC 27-13.
As you prepare to watch today’s game, here are five other things you might not have known about the Rose Bowl and its participants over the years.
The Big Ten isn’t the best conference in the land.
But over the past 25 years, you can make a strong case for it being the most balanced. Consider this: Since 1989, nine different Big Ten teams have appeared in the Rose Bowl (10 if you count Nebraska in 2002, which at the time was still in the Big 12) – every team except for Indiana and Minnesota. Since just 2004, six different Big Ten teams have played in Pasadena.
The Pac-12, meanwhile, has had seven different schools in the Rose Bowl since 1989 and only three – USC, Oregon and Stanford – have represented the conference in the past 10 years.
As other points of comparison, the SEC has had six schools represent it as league champs since the its conference championship game was created in 1992.
The Big 12, meanwhile, has named six schools as champs since its championship game (defunct since 2010) was instituted in 1996. But three of those teams – Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M – now play in leagues other than the Big 12.
A Rose is a Rose is a … What?
The First Rose Bowl was played on Jan. 1, 1902, back when it was titled the “Tournament East-West football game.”
Rose Bowl has a little nicer ring, don’t you think?
In an ironic twist, the game back then actually was started up with the intent of helping fund the cost of the Rose Parade. Today, the parade serves as a precursor to the game.
In the inaugural Rose Bowl game, Michigan routed Stanford 49-0 in a game so bad that Californians literally quit after the third quarter.
So lopsided was that contest that the Tournament of Roses officials decided to not even play another football game for 13 years, instead opting to run chariot races, ostrich races and other various events instead of football.
On New Year’s Day 1916, however, the Rose Bowl was resurrected – with that official name replacing its clunky “East-West” predecessor – as the State College of Washington (now Washington State University) beat Brown University 14-0.
The Original Armed Forces Bowl
During the early years of the Rose Bowl, the game pitted a team from the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC), predecessor to today’s Pac-12, against a team from the East. However, during the last two years of World War I – 1918 and ’19 – the Rose Bowl actually featured teams from military bases.
In 1918, Mare Island (USMC) beat Camp Lewis (U.S. Army) 19-7. In 1919, Mare Island again appeared in the Rose Bowl, but fell 17-0 to Great Lakes (U.S. Navy).
Where the Hail are the Victors?
Since the Rose Bowl began traditionally matching up Big Ten teams against Pac-12 teams in 1947, no Big Ten school has appeared in the game more often than Michigan, which has played in Pasadena 20 times.
The Wolverines, however, haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since 2007 – a seven-year drought that’s the school’s longest since Michigan failed to qualify for the game from 1952 through 1964. In fact, Illinois has been to a Rose Bowl more recently than the Wolverines.
Let that roll around your head for a while.