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Weekend wrap-up: A silver lining for the Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl of old has been long gone, but the changes ahead could be even more radical.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Washington at Michigan Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are a million things that could be said about realignment. Some genius just last week considered Washington and Oregon near the bottom of the Big Ten’s expansion list, yet here we are already with the conference increasing in number before USC and UCLA play a single down as Big Ten members.

While the merit and logistics of realignment are relevant and important, I wanted to take a moment to talk about a few pieces of fallout on the arrival of two more Pac-12 opponents into the new Big Ten. Despite geographic distance, these two conferences have always been kindred spirits for multiple reasons, so the demise of one — at the hands of the other — is a significant moment.

A new age Rose Bowl

For many generations of Michigan fans, the Rose Bowl was (is?) the crown jewel. There have been countless memories of Wolverines in Pasadena, including the completion of the 1997 National Championship. That win, and many others, came against a Pac-something opponent, which played no small part in the charm of the event.

The arrival of the BCS, and then the College Football Playoff, spelled the beginning of the end for this historic pairing. While the majority of the Rose Bowls over the past decade have indeed featured a Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup, often times at least one of the conference winners is playing in the CFP instead. The game still matters, but it is no longer the grand prize.

With the latest round of realignment, there might not even be a Pac-12 to send a team to the Rose Bowl anymore, but that reality is moot with the expansion of the CFP anyway. The Rose Bowl will be a quarterfinal or semifinal site, meaning it simply becomes no different than any other New Year’s Six bowl today, regardless of the marketing around it.

Ironically, the collapse of the Pac-12 might save the Rose least for the Big Ten. Just as the Big Ten Basketball Tournament has rotated between Indianapolis and Chicago, and also appearing in New York and Washington, D.C., could the Big Ten Football Championship Game be played out west? Should the conference keep growing, the postseason might be even more than a single game, so it feels like there is definitely a chance to keep the Rose Bowl as some sort of icon for the expanded conference.

Non-conference non-existence?

Michigan’s early season schedule has been bashed for the last couple years, but it is disingenuous to suggest the Wolverines are afraid of the marquee matchup. While the UCLA home-and-home was unfortunately canceled, plenty of Power Five opponents are on the upcoming schedules, as well as those recently completed.

There have been plenty of games against Pac-whatever competition, including contests against UCLA and Washington early this century, somewhat recent wins over Oregon State and Colorado, and forgettable affairs against Oregon and Utah. Playing a Pac-X opponent was always just a little more special than seeing someone from any other conference.

With the latest realignment, Michigan will have to cancel the visit out to Washington in 2028, but the larger consideration is what even happens to non-conference games going forward. An 18-team conference could live on a nine-game conference schedule, but any more additions might bump that number up to 10. At that point, there may not even be room for any Power 5 showdowns.

So, on one hand it feels a little surreal to get to see USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon on a much more frequent basis, but at the same time, the specialness of those contests will likely wear off. The era of the exciting non-conference game could be ending quickly, and that is not a fun by-product of these changes.