Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Granddaddy of Them All.
This is it, sports fans, what every Sun Devil football player dreams of. The ultimate goal, the pinnacle of perfection, the promised land.
As of this writing, it is safe to say that No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State will be facing in the National Championship Game, at the Rose Bowl on January 6. Barring any setbacks against the Michigan schools in the next two weeks, the Ohio State Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) will return to Pasadena for their 15th Rose Bowl appearance.
The Sun Devils have considerably less experience in playing on New Year's Day, sporting a 1-1 Rose Bowl record. That one loss is what is stuck in the craw of so many Sun Devil fans, players and coaches.
The 1996 Sun Devils (11-0) led by Jake Plummer and a defense anchored by Pat Tillman were the consensus No. 2 ranked team in the country and a victory in the Rose Bowl would secure the schools' first National Championship due to No. 3 Florida defeating No. 1 Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. The only thing in their way was the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1).
The Sun Devils trailed 14-10 heading into the fourth quarter and stepped up big time by blocking a Buckeye field goal attempt in the final five minutes. Jake Plummer once again worked his late-game magic by scrambling 11 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Buckeyes' final drive of the game led by Joe Germaine will forever be tainted in Sun Devil faithful minds by the two pass interference calls that led to the fateful pass to David Boston with 19 seconds left in the game. The Buckeyes' 20-17 victory would dash the hopes and dreams of everybody in the Sun Devil family and Arizona State would return to mediocrity.
Could this game happen? Can the Sun Devils finally even the score with the Buckeyes and lay the 17-year-old loss to rest? Although it won't be for a national championship, a Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State will forever change the course of this football program, elevating the team into the elite of college football.
David is the Featured Columnist of Arizona State Athletics for B/R. Follow him on Twitter at @asudave.