Until the BCS began, the Big Ten champs played the Pac Ten (or 8, or 6) champs in the Rose bowl dating back nearly a half century.
In the last 11 years (or 11 of the 14 BCS years) the Rose has matched up Big Ten vs Pac 12 just six times and even when it has, it hasn’t always matched up the champions from those leagues; Illinois vs USC comes to mind.
ESPN announced a new TV contract with the Rose on Thursday, a 12-year deal that will keep the bowl in its traditional 4pm central time slot on New Years Day.
The Rose is going to be a part of the new Final Four set up and a simple mathematical deduction would say that it would host a semifinal four times given that six bowls will be involved in the championship circuit, however there is some chatter if that number won’t be lower, as in just twice during those 12 years. If that’s the case, it’s something the Big Ten and Pac 12 helped to negotiate in order to keep the Rose Bowl more traditional.
We’ll learn more details in the coming months, but if the Rose is just going to be a two out of 12 affair for national semi’s, then Iowa’s chances of playing in a Rose Bowl just got a lot better.
The Illinois-USC Rose Bowl of 2008 followed the 2007 regular season. Illinois was ranked 13th in the BCS that year, needing to be 14th or better for BCS bowl selection. The Rose took the Illini, who finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and tied for second place in the Big Ten.
If the Rose is only a 2 out of 12 semifinal host, we’ll see more instances like this which means better odds of your team playing in a Rose Bowl because more often than not, the champion of the Big Ten will likely be in the Top Four and off to the playoff.
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Here is something I wrote a few days back:
In the years when the Rose Bowl IS one of the semi-final locations and say the Big Ten champ and Pac 12 champ are in the Final Four, the Rose would host that game. However, the odds of that happening are not all that great. In the years when the Rose is NOT a semifinal location AND when the champs of the Big Ten and Pac 12 are NOT a part of the Final Four, it will be a ‘traditional’ Rose Bowl. In the years when the Rose is NOT a semifinal location and one of the champions from either the Big Ten or the Pac 12 IS a part of the final four, that league will send another team to the Rose to play the champion from the league whose champion is not a part of the Final Four. In the years when the Rose is NOT a semifinal location and it loses both champions to the Final Four, I have no idea what the heck they are going to do.
So taking into consideration the possible 2 of 12 aspect, plus the fact the B1G and Pac12 want to square off against one another in the Rose in the event the champion is not available (unless its a semifinal), I’d say is far more likely that the Big Ten team getting the Rose Bowl bid will NOT be the champion more than it will be the champion.
So over the past decade, that’s good news for programs not named Ohio State. I realize this offering may sound a bit defeatist, but from an Iowa perspective, the Hawks have won the Big Ten just two times in the last 22 years. Michigan State’s last league title came in 1990, the year when Iowa and two other teams shared the crown four ways and also the last time Iowa played in the Rose Bowl (1990 season, 1991 Rose Bowl). Purdue has won the league just once since 1967 when they tied with Indiana and Minnesota, also the last times those two programs won a Big Ten title.
Iowa has been a much better program than Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern the past 22 years, but has the 6th best winning percentage among Big Ten teams during that span, a full 21 wins behind Wisconsin who is in 5th in the league.
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I don’t think that the Big Ten title game loser is going to be the automatic choice to go to the Rose when the winner goes to the Final Four. Not if there is a team with a similar record who won their last game and has more bowl momentum, but that’s going to be something the league and bowl officials will need to sort out. The same can be said over on the Pac 12 side, too.
The reality is the same for every team in the league; entry to the Rose Bowl is likely to become statistically easier in this new Final Four era. It’s simply more likely that a team will finish in the top two or three in a league than it will win the league outright. It’s more likely Iowa will do this than Indiana, Minnesota and a few others, if the past 10 years is a guide of any sort.
It’s not exactly your father’s Rose Bowl prestige, but will that really matter when you’re sitting in the stands taking in the view of the San Gabriel mountains as your favorite team takes the field?