We Miss You
2007, 2005, 2004, 1998, 1993, 1992, 1990, 1989, 1987, 1983, 1981, 1979, 1978, 1977, 1972, 1970, 1965, 1951, 1948, 1902. These are all of the appearances by Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Every year, usually on the first day of the new year before a long slumber, two very good teams face off in Pasadena's Tournament of Roses. There's a parade, and a lot of sun. Michigan made it here in 1951 after playing in the Snow Bowl. They made it after 2006's Game of the Century, while Ohio State played for the title. They played in the first Rose Bowl, in 1902. They won so badly, the city ran ostrich races, chariot races, and other events for the next 14 years instead of a football game (not kidding). It is the oldest bowl ever, and Michigan's been there six more times than any other school in the Big Ten.
This year, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl will serve as the semi-final games for the national championship. There's a selection committee, a new logo and of course a website. A lot of teams will be scheming to figure out how to play in Pasadena, or else New Orleans at the Superdome, and every elite team in the country will have another chance during the 2017 season. This interrupts the tradition of B1G-Pac-12 play, but it fits the eclectic history of the game, which served as the national championship game twice, featured Big 12, SEC or other schools periodically and was played in North Carolina at Duke in 1942. It will be the first semi-final game ever played, and it should be.
The fact that four teams are entering the playoff from, most likely, just the five power conferences - Notre Dame is the only likely exception - it would seem that winning one's conference is an unwritten requirement. After all, at least one conference winner gets booted every year. Committee members have been firm that that's not the case, and this is one of the bigger changes of the CFP. Realistically, this opens the door for a second SEC school to be included in the title hunt. ACC schools Florida State and Clemson, Big 12 schools Oklahoma and Baylor, B1G schools Michigan State and OSU, and Pac-12 teams like Stanford and Oregon will need to convince the CFP committee that they belong on the field with anyone in the country, and any three-touchdown loss in the first round will incite doubts and criticism about the playoff committee's choices. It will be a rocky and new process for everybody.
And for Michigan, if they are not either the first or the fourth team in the country, they'll have to wait until at least January 2nd, 2016 to play in the next Rose Bowl. It'll be nine years by that point, a streak Michigan hasn't seen since a 14-year drought in the '50s and '60s. Here's hoping it doesn't take that long.
The Greatest Wins Ever
I vaguely remember wondering what a list of each school's best win would look like - and today seemed a good day for that. I also realized going through this that there were some contests that weren't great for one team so much as they were heart-breaking for the other, so I'll also have a Worst Losses at some point as well. Ok, here goes.
Northwestern def. the California Golden Bears, 20-14 (January 1st, 1949)
The 1949 Rose Bowl was the third since the Rose Bowl agreed to terms with the Big Nine Conference (that's us) and the Pacific Coast Conference. Cal was the favorite, a resurgent program led by Pappy Waldorf who had left Northwestern just a couple years previously. Northwestern was the second-best team in the B1G, behind Michigan, but the conference had a rule at the time that no program could represent the
Bi9 Big Nine in back-to-back years. Since the pass-happy Wolverines had crushed USC 49-0 the year before, Northwestern went instead. With less than three minutes left and down 14-13, the Wildcats capped an 88-yard drive with a 45-yard touchdown run on a direct snap to a running back. In fact, Cal fans are still bitter about a disputed play in this game, and the two teams faced off again this past year... with the Wildcats winning again, 44-30.
Ohio State def. the Miami Hurricanes, 31-24 (OT) (January 3rd, 2003)
Yes, the Jim Tressel years. Three appearances in the national championship game, eight 10-win seasons in one horrible decade, eight BCS appearances. The highlight of those, of course, was this game - the one national title in those 10 years. It is their only title since 1970, and snapped a 34-game winning streak by the 'Canes.
While some of the other greatest wins on this list were program-altering in some, seismic way, this one was a culmination of everything the Buckeyes had steadily built. Columbus had seen six national champions, five of them under Woody Hayes (four were shared titles) and none until 1942. Relatively, they were late bloomers. After Woody, Earle Bruce took over, who was a solid, very quality coach who went 9-3 six straight years and didn't lose fewer until his last season. John Cooper followed, who recruited much better than Bruce but somehow didn't turn it into anything better. Tressel, in turn, never won a championship besides that 2002 squad led by players Cooper recruited. Now, Meyer is trying to do it a little bit better - recruit and coach. After the departure of Woody, the team just steadily, slowly grew. Winning football was tried, tested, and near perfected.
Wisconsin def. the UCLA Bruins, 21-16 (January 1st, 1994)
It actually occurred to me to put the 70-31 win over Nebraska here. After all, they were 7-5 and came out of nowhere in that game; it was a really great win, and sent them to their third consecutive Rose Bowl. But, Wisconsin already had too much respect as a program at that point. Take it back to the 80th Rose Bowl, when the Badgers had won only one bowl in their history up to that point and were entering their fourth Rose Bowl appearance without a win. Thirty-one years had separated their last conference title to this one, and between 1912 and 1993, Wisconsin stood atop the Big Ten only three times in those 70 years. Also, this game gave them 10 wins, which Alvarez would do three more times but had never happened before. It's easy to see the Badgers as a somewhat top-tier B1G team now - but it was a very different story twenty years ago.
Minnesota def. the Iowa Hawkeyes, 27-10 (November 5th, 1960)
I had a lot of options with Minnesota. At one point the Gophers won 21 straight games and 28 without being beaten. They beat Michigan once when they were ranked #3, en route to a national championship in 1940. That was a 7-6 victory. There was a 102-0 win over Grinnell College, but I threw that one out after seeing another, 146-0 win over Grinnell College a couple years later - which still stands as the 17th-largest margin of victory in college history. In fact, that game in 1904 was the crown of an incredible undefeated season. By the time those Grinnell players were walking into their locker room, the Gophers had outscored their opponents 584-0. They only gave up points in one game, and ended the year 725-12, which means that on average, the Gophers won every game by better than 60 to 1. It was a brilliant season, and Grinnell was the unluckiest victim of the Golden Gophers.
As far as one individual game though, I'd have to go with one in the 1960 season, against the #1 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. Those Hawkeyes were 6-0 and had spent the year beating the #10, #12, #13, #16, and #19 teams in the country. The week after they lost by 17 to Minnesota, they beat #3 Ohio State by 23. They call it "The Forgotten Season" in Iowa City because the Hawkeyes finished #2 and #3 in the polls but were forced out of the Rose Bowl while Minnesota won the national championship, all thanks to this game.
Michigan def. the Ohio State Buckeyes, 24-12 (November 22nd, 1969)
It was the first Game between Bo and Woody. The year before, in a national championship campaign, OSU won 50-14 as the Buckeyes ran up the score with 2-point conversions. Then, in 1969, OSU never trailed all season long leading up to this game. They were riding a 22-game winning streak. They would win 9 straight after this game, and they were in position to be crowned the national champion if they beat a first-year coach. As one sports writer put it, the only game worth watching in '69 was on Tuesdays, when the OSU offense scrimmaged against its defense. Supposedly, they could not be stopped.
On the other side, Michigan had fallen on hard times and wasn't the team of old. Their only really good year in the '50s or '60s was in '64, when they went 9-1. Bo Schembechler, a player under Woody and a former assistant coach at OSU, left Miami of Ohio to bring life to the moribund program. In the team's first camp, he trained his players so hard they quit in droves. Some left every single day (hence, this). Then, they started just 3-2. Before the OSU game, he had the number 50 taped to everyone's practice jerseys as a constant reminder of the embarrassment from a year before. Bo was as single-mindedly bent on winning this game as Woody was, who himself hated Michigan and would have gladly run up the score again.
The apprentice beat the master, started a ten-year war, and put Michigan back on the map.
Penn State def. the Miami Hurricanes, 14-10 (January 2nd, 1987)
The 1987 Fiesta Bowl is is the most-watched college football game of all time, and pitted Paterno's Nittany Lions against Jimmy Johnson and the seemingly unbeatable Miami Hurricanes. Led by Vinny Testaverde, the team entered the game 11-0, beating their opponents by an average of 38 to 12. Penn State, meanwhile, had lost some close games against lesser foes. But they had an elite defense.
"We were a team that couldn't be intimidated," said linebacker Pete Giftopoulos, "and that's what Miami liked to do to other players. How are you going to intimidate a bunch of steel-town kids from Pittsburgh, Ohio, Pennsylvania? You just can't do that." Commentators described the game as "good vs. evil."
To some extent, the game played out exactly as everyone expected. The 'Canes outgained the Lions 445 yards to 162. However, they had seven turnovers, including five interceptions by Testaverde. It was a tie game at halftime, and the veteran Penn State defense held the 'Canes to a field goal in the second half.
With Penn State unable to move the ball, Miami began their last drive on their own 23 with 3:07 left in the game. A 4th-down completion to Brian Blades went for 31 yards and moved Miami into Penn State territory. With a minute left, Testaverde hit Michael Irvin at the Penn State 10. The connection put the Hurricanes inside the 5 with 45 seconds left. Even with a national championship at stake, though, Penn State linebacker Pete Giftopoulos said the Penn State defense remained calm. "We had some great players - (seniors) Shane Conlan, Timmy Johnson, Bob White," he said. "They were key character people. To not see any fear in their eyes helped me as a junior and helped the other players to play the game. ... Nobody was losing it in the huddle, nobody was screaming. Everyone was like, 'Here's the play; let's do it.'"
On second-and-goal, Testaverde dropped back, but Tim Johnson broke free and sacked him. On third down, Testaverde threw incomplete into the flat. On fourth-and-goal, with 18 seconds left, Testaverde threw to the end zone, but was intercepted by Giftopoulos. The interception, Giftopoulos' second of the game (and Testaverde's fifth), ensured Penn State's second national title in five years.
Michigan State def. the Stanford Cardinal, 24-20 (January 1st, 2014)
Ah, thank god, I don't need Wikipedia for this one. The Spartans made up for lost time with a thrilling and cathartic win in a legendary Rose Bowl. Whispers about the Big Ten had started to creep up every time a B1G team was mentioned, and the entire conference needed a boost against an elite opponent. Facing two top-five teams in back-to-back weeks, the Spartans did just that, knocking off the Buckeyes and then representing the conference... pretty well. Hey, I can't give them too much credit.
Nebraska def. the Oklahoma Sooners, 35-31 (November 25th, 1971)
Nebraska has a number of #1 vs #2 match-ups in its history. The 1995 national championship pitted Steve Spurrier against Tom Osborne, passing vs. running, and Danny Wuerffel (3,266 yards) against Tommie Frazier (1,362, with 604 rushing). The Huskers were small favorites going in, but exploded in the second quarter for 29 points on the way to a rout. The exclamation point came in the third quarter, with a play known as the Run.
There would also be a drubbing of Bear Bryant and Alabama at the end of the 1971 season to give them the title. Then, in 1987, Oklahoma and Nebraska faced off, and Oklahoma won, 17-7. But I'm going with a game earlier in the '71 season against their long-time foe. The Sooners and Cornhuskers pitted 17 All-Big 8 first-team selections against each other, with that Husker defense considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, defenses in college football history. Oklahoma attacked them with a wishbone offense that enabled them to net a record 472 rushing yards per game.
Oklahoma got 467 yards on them, but the Huskers made the quarterback run into their defense. Each team had surges, and ESPN said afterward the game exceeded the hype. Nebraska took the lead with two minutes left, then finished it off on a fourth-down sack of OU's quarterback. At the time this earned a record 55 million viewers on Thanksgiving Day. As a result, Nebraska became much more of a household name, already furnished by a championship the year before and a slight penchant for home sell-outs.
Iowa def. the California Golden Bears, 38-12 (January 1st, 1959)
The Hawkeyes have only 2 Rose Bowl wins in their history - in 1957 and 1959 - with the win against Cal securing a national championship. This was the easy pick, and while some others were in contention - I would have liked their win over Michigan State in 2010 if the Spartans hadn't then gotten crushed by Bama, and, of course, there was the last-second win over Saban in his last game at LSU - but in the end I stuck with the easiest choice. Iowa broke four Rose Bowl records in this game: team rushing (429), total yards (516), longest run (Bob Jeter, 81 yards) and best running performance (Jeter, 194 yards). This is their only national championship season.
Indiana def. the BYU Cougars, 38-37 (December 21st, 1979)
The Hoosiers are, of course, the losingest program in the conference, and have only three bowl wins to their name as well as two conference titles (1945 and 1967). However, under the tutelage of Lee Corso, they fought an 8-point favorite BYU team that was 11-0 at the time and won in dramatic fashion. Trailing 37-31 late, the Hoosiers got a timely, 62-yard punt return from Tim Wilbur to take the lead. The Cougars had one last chance, but Brent Johnson's 27-yard field goal attempt as time ran down was no good. This was the Hoosiers' first bowl win, and their most prestigious opponent.
Purdue def. the Kansas State Wildcats, 37-34 (December 29th, 1998)
The Boilermakers would appear in the Rose Bowl two years later, the last with Drew Brees at the helm. All the same, they lost that one 34-24 to the Washington Huskies. In this game, they faced a Kansas State team that was a double-overtime loss in the Big 12 Championship Game from going to play for the national title. Purdue, meanwhile, was an 8-4 squad that had lost to every ranked team they played in '98. They had one advantage, though: the defensive ends kept Michael Bishop off-balance. A back-and-forth affair saw Purdue up three with 4:10 left when David Allen returned a punt 32 yards and set up a touchdown. Joe Tiller's Boilermakers, led by Drew Brees, drove 80 yards with 1:24 remaining and won.
Illinois def. the Iowa Hawkeyes, 33-0 (October 1st, 1983)
I maybe should have picked a 40-7 win over Stanford in the 1952 Rose Bowl, which clinched them a title - their only one after a string of four national titles from 1914-27. However, I'm going to go with a regular-season shut-out against a very, very good Iowa team. The Hawkeyes averaged almost 32 points that year, beat #3 Ohio State by six, and won their nine games by an average of 26 points. The Illini beat #4, #6, and #8 teams to finish the year 10-2 and 9-0 in the Big Ten.
Rutgers def. the Princeton Tigers, 6-4 (November 6th, 1869)
WHEW thanks, Rutgers, I needed that. NEXT.
Maryland def. the Tennessee Volunteers, 28-13 (January 1st, 1952)
The '52 Sugar Bowl featured two teams that, according to different metrics, won the '51 championship. Tennessee does claim this year as a title, but Maryland does not - despite the 10-0 record and Sugar Bowl win over Tennessee.
Hitting the Links Is A Catch
Most of this is actually a time-trip of Channel 7 coverage, but the first minute is a great preview of the Game of the Century, 2006 Edition.
First Tyler Green, then Grant Schmidt. Tyler was a three-star safety according to everyone but 247Sports, and Schmidt is a three- to four-star lineman. It's encouraging that even though the Wolverines' recruiting has gone down, we're still out-recruiting them right now.
Again, I always like to show things that take you behind the doors of things around football. Here is Devin Gardner leading 'The Victors' for people taking part in the Michigan Men's Football Experience, which costs $2,500 and comes with meeting coaches and players. Some of the proceeds go toward prostate cancer research.
I was a little impressed by this B/R article. It's very solid, nothing most fans wouldn't know already but a good summary position by position, if you're interested.
The first game up is #15 Michigan against Iowa. Later, when two Big East games come up, baseball, basketball, and mascots are the reasons for the picks. Good, normal GameDay. Florida did beat Vandy, by the way, in a close one.
This is a terrific play, but there's also 2+ minutes of analysis of it that you can probably skip.
I'll be looking forward to this match-up - our corners against their receivers. Even fans who don't take Indiana that seriously have to like the challenge of Countess, Peppers, Taylor, & Lewis going up against them.
There are some interesting young corners in the B1G right now - Sojourn Shelton of Wisconsin, Desmond King of Iowa, Eric Murray of Minnesota, and Jourdan Lewis, of course. If the Big Ten wants to take another step forward in competition, it needs better cornerback play. College quarterbacks will always look good on busted coverages, and there'll always be some of that at this level. But if you're playing against good corners and an organized D, it's another game.
Remember, Stefon Diggs picked Maryland over Ohio State. If they had signed Diggs, with Philly Brown and Devin Smith, I don't see how anyone would have stopped them last year.
The Badgers just got two cornerback commits from the same school on the same day. They are under-the-radar, two-star players at the moment.
I definitely recommend this feature by ESPN. It's very organized, direct and could answer most any question you're liable to have.
...the French horn, cornet, Navy officer, baseball player, golfer, tennis player, beat cancer....
Auburn and other schools have had similar instances, given when the AP Poll was started and the fact they didn't have one for the week after the bowl games for a long time. Better late than never, I guess.
This excludes the bowl season, so they're basically predicting an 8-4 season for Michigan.