Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Big 10 in the Rose Bowl: As Bad as You Remember

The first Rose Bowl I can remember took place on January 1, 1972, and featured Jim Plunkett, who led Stanford to a 13-12 victory over Michigan.  So I have seen the last 42 Rose Bowls, not counting today's game between Stanford and Michigan State.  My one overwhelming memory of the Rose Bowl is watching the Big 10 champion (whoever it may be) hurling the ball around in the fourth quarter in a desperate effort to come from behind.  But is that really fair?  I decided to check.  I looked at the results for the last 42 Rose Bowls (I only looked at Rose Bowls, not at other BCS title games that were played in Pasadena).  Of those games, there were three in which no Big 10 team appeared in the Rose Bowl.  Here is how the Big 10 representatives did in the other 39 games:

Illinois:  0-2
Iowa:  0-3
Michigan:  4-11
Michigan St:  1-0
Northwestern:  0-1
Ohio St:  3-5
Penn St:  1-1
Purdue:  0-1
Wisconsin:  3-3
TOTAL:  12-27

So my recollection is basically accurate; the Big 10 has won the Rose Bowl 30.7 percent of the time I've seen them play in it -- that's pretty bad.

I then decided to see how the SEC has done since January 1, 1972 in the Sugar Bowl.  Thirty-six of the 42 Sugar Bowls over that time frame have featured an SEC team.  Here's how they've done:

Alabama:  5-3
Arkansas:  0-1 (Arkansas lost to Ohio State, which was later put on probation)
Auburn:  2-2-1
Florida:  3-5
Georgia:  3-4
LSU:  3-2
Tennessee:  2-0
TOTAL:  18-17-1

Not overwhelming, but not embarrassing.


  1. With 9:27 left in the first half, Stanford leads Michigan State 10-7. Pretty good game so far.

  2. With 2:07 left in the first half, MSU throws a terrible pass that turns into a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown. Stanford leads 17-7, and now this looks more like a typical Rose Bowl.

  3. But Sparty won't go away! MSU drives down the field and scores a quick touchdown with 28 seconds left before halftime. Stanford's lead is now 17-14.

  4. MSU takes the opening kickoff for the second half, and has a nice drive that ends in a field goal. With 12:56 to go in the 3d quarter, the score is tied at 17.

  5. Wow. With 1:51 to go in the third quarter, Michigan State FUMBLES THE BALL on the Stanford 8. Just when it looked as though the Spartans were about to take the lead, they lose the ball. MSU has outgained Stanford 359 yards to 247. But the game is still tied at 17.

  6. But the MSU defense holds, and forces a quick punt. MSU then quickly drives down the field and SCORES A TOUCHDOWN. The Spartans have now scored 17 straight points, and they lead 24-17 with 13:22 left in the game.

    Maybe the Big 10 should send MSU to the Rose Bowl more often.

  7. If the Spartans can hang on, they will be only the second team from the Big 10 to win the Rose Bowl since January 1, 2000. The only other Big 10 victory over that time frame came on January 1, 2010, when Ohio State beat Oregon.

    During that same time period, USC has won the Rose Bowl four times.

  8. With 5:05 left in the game, Stanford kicks a field goal to shave MSU's lead to 24-20.

  9. Stanford's defense holds, and the former Indians get the ball on their own 25 with 3:06 to go. MSU still leads 24-20, so Stanford needs a touchdown.

  10. But Stanford doesn't even make a first down! They are stuffed on 4th and 1 at their own 34, and Michigan State is going to win the Rose Bowl! The Big 10's record since 1971 will improve to 13-27, while MSU is 2-0 over the same period.