Ranking the Greatest Rose Bowls

Dan VastaSenior Writer IIIDecember 22, 2011

Ranking the Greatest Rose Bowls

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    The Rose Bowl is less than two weeks away, and many are anticipating what should be one of the most entertaining games in the history of Pasadena.

    The “experts” have 72 points being scored, which would give us a game filled with fireworks. Two of the best running backs and most productive quarterbacks will also be playing, and Pac-12 against Big Ten is always amazing to watch.

    Oregon and Wisconsin have a chance to surpass last year’s TCU-Wisconsin matchup, and it could rank near the top of Rose Bowl history.

    Speaking of history, here are the greatest Rose Bowls we have ever seen.

Honorable Mention

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    There were several other choices that I left off but deserved some props regardless.

    1998 Rose Bowl: Michigan 21, Washington State 16

    1990 Rose Bowl: USC 17, Michigan 10

    1966 Rose Bowl: UCLA 14, MSU 12

    1979 Rose Bowl: USC 17, Michigan 10

    1975 Rose Bowl: USC 18, Ohio State 17

    1970 Rose Bowl: USC 10, Michigan 3

1999 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31

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    Ron Dayne was coming off winning the Heisman, but his Badgers were still playing the underdog role in the UCLA Bruins' home stadium.

    UCLA was expected to play in the national championship but lost to the Miami Hurricanes. Instead, the Badgers gave them another grueling loss as Ron Dayne won the MVP by setting the modern-day record for rushing touchdowns in the prestigious bowl (four).

    Southpaw Cade McNown went bonkers for the Bruins, as the team totaled for 538 total yards. However, it couldn't match Dayne's four rushing touchdowns or a crucial pick-six in favor of the Badgers (Jamar Fletcher).

2010 Rose Bowl: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19

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    It was the 97th Rose Bowl, and the Badgers and Horned Frogs gave us a tremendous game. Wisconsin squandered a few opportunities that proved to be the difference.

    Andy Dalton carved apart the Badger secondary just enough (219 yards, two total TDs), as Jeremy Kerley and Jimmy Young proved to be too quick for the Big Ten champions.

    Wisconsin could not be stopped on the ground, rushing for 226 yards, but a missed field goal by Philip Welch in the first half was vital.

    Montee Ball scored a late touchdown, but Scott Tolzien's pass for the two-point conversion was knocked down by Tank Carder, which secured TCU and the non-AQs their very first Rose Bowl.

1988 Rose Bowl: Michigan State 20, USC 17

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    This was a rematch from a matchup earlier in the season, which Sparty took care of on Labor Day night by winning 27-13.

    Wide receiver Andre Rison of Michigan State was known for his dazzling receptions, but it was linebacker Percy Snow who was the Rose Bowl MVP with his staggering 17 unassisted tackles.

    Rodney Peete of USC battled back to give some hope for Fight On nation, but USC fell short after he fumbled a snap in the closing moments. The Spartans sat on the ball and came away with a fortunate three-point Rose Bowl victory.

1985 Rose Bowl: USC 20, Ohio State 17

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    The Trojans were not even ranked in the Top 10, and they had to battle a fierce and talented Top Five squad in the Ohio State Buckeyes.

    The Trojans had a fairly commanding 17-6 lead at halftime, but defensive MVP Jack Del Rio was helped out by three interceptions thrown by Mike Tomczak.

    USC quarterback Tim Green won the offensive MVP, and his two passing touchdowns were just enough as the Trojans hung on and squeaked out a three-point win.

1993 Rose Bowl: Michigan 38, Washington 31

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    This ended up being one of the most entertaining Rose Bowls of all time, as there were six lead changes between Michigan and Washington.

    After a missed field goal late in the third quarter, Washington coughed it up on the next play. Talk about an all-time momentum switch, because Tyrone Wheatley scored on the very next play from 24 yards out.

    Wheatley was the Rose Bowl MVP, toting the rock 15 times for 235 yards and two touchdowns. The thrilling victory gave the Wolverines a Top Five finish, but Mark Brunell and the Huskies gave everything in what is still remembered as one of the best bowl games.

1980 Rose Bowl: USC 17, Ohio State 16

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    Charles White was coming off his Heisman Trophy victory, but he wanted his Trojans to find a way to knock off the top-ranked Buckeyes (AP Poll).

    White and USC were trailing towards the end of regulation, but they capped off a game-winning drive that resulted in a one-yard plunge by White. The victory gave John Robinson and the Trojans the No. 2 ranking in the final poll behind only Alabama.

    Note: White had 39 carries for 247 yards.

1987 Rose Bowl: Arizona State 22, Michigan 15

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    Bo Schembechler's Michigan Wolverines were ranked fourth in the country, but they were no match for Arizona State's quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst.

    He was the Rose Bowl MVP thanks to his two passing touchdowns, though Michigan signal-caller Jim Harbaugh played valiantly in the losing effort.

    The Sun Devils rose to the occasion and shut out the Wolverines for the entire second half when everything was on the line. After the loss, Schembechler would coach for just three more seasons, though he returned to the Rose Bowl two more times (1-1).

1997 Rose Bowl: Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17

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    Jake "The Snake" Plummer and the Sun Devils were ranked No. 2 in all three polls (Bowl Alliance, AP, Coaches), but they could not bury the Buckeyes when they had the chance.

    Arizona State had an early drive turn into just three points in the third quarter, and those four points left off the board ended up proving the difference.

    Blown coverage with 17 seconds to go by redshirt freshman Courtney Jackson left freshman David Boston wide open for the game-winning touchdown.

    It was just your typical Rose Bowl thriller, but the loss by the Sun Devils enabled third-ranked Florida to capture the national championship after it dismantled the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl.

1963 Rose Bowl: USC 42, Wisconsin 37

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    Recalled by many as one of the greatest bowl games of all time, this game was played in Pasadena, where the Trojans jumped out to a 42-14 fourth quarter lead.

    Badgers signal-caller Ron Vander Kelen put together 23 unanswered points, though his rally fell just short, 42-37.

    Along with USC quarterback Pete Beathard, the two were named co-MVPs in the Rose Bowl. With the victory for USC, it was declared the national champion.

2005 Rose Bowl: Texas 38, Michigan 37

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    Vince Young and Braylon Edwards seesawed back and forth to amaze us. Young contributed five TDs and nearly 400 yards of total offense.

    Edwards hauled in 10 passes for 109 yards and three TDs, but it was an inability to run against a Longhorns defense and inability to turn its three field goals into touchdowns that cost Michigan the victory.

    The pace was perfect to watch on the national stage, and it seemed that the Wolverines had the game in the bag when Garrett Rivas hit the go-ahead field goal with just three minutes to go.

    However, Young marched the Longhorns right back down into field-goal range for Dusty Magnum to boot home the game-winning 37-yarder, 38-37.

    It proved to be one hell of a Rose Bowl, as it was exactly one year later, where Vince Young and the young Longhorns performed in the exact same stadium against a USC Trojans squad that was chasing history.

2006 Rose Bowl: Texas 41, USC 38

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    For the rest of eternity, this game may stand as not only the greatest BCS championship game of all time (Canes-Buckeyes is close), but perhaps the best bowl game to ever be played regardless of the era.

    On a crucial 4th-and-5, the Trojans defense needed to make just one more play to secure their three-peat in college football's immortality (they led 38-33).

    Instead, Vince Young escaped from very little pressure, and he cruised to pay dirt from eight yards out to secure the 41-38 thriller.

    The two teams combined for over 1,000 yards, with Young rushing for 200 yards (three TDs) and passing for 267.

    Matt Leinart was not too shabby, throwing for 365 yards and a touchdown on top of one key interception.

    The Heisman winner was Reggie Bush (gave trophy back but had 177 total yards and one TD), and he will forever be remembered by being left on the sidelines (and his bonehead lateral) for a crucial 4th-and-2 on the Longhorns 45.

    USC figured if it picked up the first down, the game would be over.

    LenDale White was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, and Young took things over from there. Texas went on to win in what in my eyes is without a shadow of a doubt the most exciting and thrilling game in all of college football history.

    Note: This was also broadcast legend Keith Jackson's final game, which only adds to the memories of this all-time thriller. Whoa, Nellie.