I don’t claim to be a college football historian. I was born in 1994 so I have no memory of the 1997 National Championship team, however I’ve heard and read about them extensively. That also obviously means that I have no memories of a Michigan Rose Bowl win.
Since I started being an avid fan during the Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Braylon Edwards era, Michigan has never won a CFP or a BCS title. They have beaten the Buckeyes five times: in 2003, against interim coach Luke Fickell in 2011, and then again in back-to-back-to-back years from 2021 to 2023, as we all know.
In postseason play, Michigan’s bowl record is not great. Beating Urban Meyer in the 2008 Capital One Bowl was fun, but losing the Rose Bowl three out of four years from 2004-2007 was very much not.
In my memory prior to this season, the two most memorable and significant bowl wins were the 2012 Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech and the 2016 Citrus Bowl against Florida. The Sugar Bowl was in Brady Hoke’s first year. It was a beacon of hope for a Michigan football program that had been dragged through the mud during the Rich Rodriguez era. However, that hope didn’t last long. Similarly, the Citrus Bowl was during Jim Harbaugh’s first year as head coach at Michigan. The 41-7 blowout by the Wolverines was destined to be a sign of the times to come until it wasn’t.
Needless to say, Monday’s Rose Bowl win over Nick Saban and Alabama easily trumps either of those two bowl wins. You could make the case that any of the three wins over Ohio State from 2021-2023 are just as consequential as Monday’s game and I would entertain that discussion. But in postseason play, you certainly have to go back to the pre-BCS era to find a worthy opponent.
As I mentioned, I don’t claim to be a football historian. I’m sure there were a multitude of huge wins for Michigan pre-1998 seeing as Michigan claims 11 national championships and I haven’t even mentioned 10 of them. I’d love for some of you history buffs to educate me in the comments.
Where does Michigan’s Rose Bowl win over Alabama rank for you in terms of historical significance? Was it bigger than any of the past three wins over the Buckeyes? Was it bigger than all three because it’s in post-season play? How far back in history do you have to go before you find a more significant game?
I want to continue relishing this victory because Rose Bowl victories do not come easily, just ask the Michigan Wolverines.