The national championship game may capture the college football-loving public’s attention every season, but in terms of pageantry and tradition, no bowl game tops the Rose Bowl.
The 2014 battle for the roses will be the 100th edition of the matchup. Chances are the contest will get its traditional and desired Big Ten versus Pac-12 matchup, but there are still a number of different scenarios that can play out during the conference championships that will ultimately determine the participants.
Let’s start on the Pac-12 side because it is fairly straightforward.
Whoever wins the Pac-12 title clash between North division winner Stanford and South division winner Arizona State goes to Pasadena. Based on the Sun Devils’ better conference record, they will be hosting the game. The Cardinal already won versus Arizona State once this season, but the Sun Devils have won seven in a row and are clicking on offense.
So the Pac-12 champ is assured a spot in the 100th Rose Bowl, but what about its Big Ten counterpart?
While the bowl organizers would likely love to have Ohio State and the throngs of traveling fans in Buckeye Nation, the only way that happens is if Ohio State beats Michigan State for the Big Ten title and then gets leapfrogged by a one-loss SEC champion. Considering that an undefeated team from a power conference has never finished below a one-loss team in the final BCS standings that probably won’t happen, regardless of the outcries from the South.
If the Spartans were to upset the Buckeyes, that would automatically clinch a Michigan State versus Pac-12 champion Rose Bowl.
The scenarios become far more interesting if we assume Ohio State beats Michigan State and heads to the national championship contest. If the Spartans, who are currently No. 10 in the BCS rankings, remain in the top 14 following the loss (a team must finish in the top 14 to be eligible for at-large selection), the Rose Bowl will almost certainly select them as the Big Ten representative.
However, what if Michigan State falls out of the top 14?
The only way that realistically happens is if Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde and the rest of the Buckeyes crush Michigan State. For argument’s sake, let’s say that happens.
That leaves the Rose Bowl in a bind that could result in a Pac-12 versus Pac-12 showdown in Pasadena with Oregon getting an at-large bid. That would only happen if Arizona State beats Stanford, because the Sun Devils didn’t play Oregon this year, and the Cardinal already handled the Ducks.
The only other realistic scenario would be the Pac-12 champion versus two-loss Oklahoma if the Sooners knock off Oklahoma State Saturday. That’s probably not going to happen if the Cowboys continue to play like one of the best teams in the country.
Ultimately, the projection here is that Ohio State wins the Big Ten and goes to the title game, Arizona State gets revenge on Stanford and wins the Pac-12 and Michigan State stays in the top 14.
That would give us Arizona State versus Michigan State in the 100th Rose Bowl.
Follow and interact with Bleacher Report writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.
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