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Top 12 Rose Bowls of All Time!

Publish Date: 12/06/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Greatest Rose Bowls of All Time

Before the College Playoffs started there was nothing like a late afternoon game from the Rose Bowl. Since the playoffs started using the Rose Bowl from time to time that legend has only grown. So many great games were played at the Rose Bowl that I had to leave them out.

12) 1929: Georgia Tech 8, California 7

Georgia Tech will never forget its low-scoring 1929 match against California for Roy “Wrong Way” Riegels’ shocking move of returning a fumble 60 yards into the wrong endzone, leading to a safety and providing Georgia Tech the points required for an 8-7 win.

11) 2011: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19

TCU made their first and only appearance at the 2011 Rose Bowl memorable. Although there wasn’t much offensive power displayed during a close game between TCU and Wisconsin Badgers in its back-and-forth battle, No. 3 TCU showed their mettle by stopping a late rally attempt from Wisconsin Badgers in the final minutes and ultimately emerging victorious. Until last year’s National Semi-Final win, this was the most significant recent win in Horned Frogs’ history.

10) 1972: Stanford 13, Michigan 12

The 1972 Rose Bowl game saw one of the greatest upsets ever witnessed at this bowl, as No. 16 Stanford upended No. 4 Michigan with an unbelievable come-from-behind victory. After an exciting three quarters, tied 3-3 going into the fourth, both teams scored to tie it at 10, and Michigan gained an advantage with a safety. Still, Stanford eventually rallied back with 12 seconds remaining on the clock, scoring the game-winning field goal that gave them victory.

9) 1966: UCLA 14, Michigan State 12

In 1966, No. 5 UCLA and No. 1 Michigan State played out an epic clash. While UCLA took an early 14-0 lead, Michigan State fought back to score 12 points before failing both two-point conversion attempts following fourth-quarter touchdowns and ultimately falling by two.

8) 2012: Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38

Wisconsin made their second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance and demonstrated far more offense, led by quarterback Russell Wilson, than the previous season, yet still struggled defensively. A game which could have been national championship-worthy had both teams not experienced sudden losses during regular season action; it was LaMichael James, De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner who powered Oregon to a comeback win against Wisconsin.

7)  2005: Texas 38, Michigan 37

Vince Young may be most well known for his heroics during this game in 2006, but he was also exceptional during an intense Rose Bowl match between No. 6 Texas and No. 13 Michigan in 2005. The sophomore quarterback amassed 180 yards through throwing and 192 through running, scoring five touchdowns overall in this matchup. Michigan quarterback Chad Henne matched Young with 227 yards and four passing touchdowns. Still, Young stole the show late with two fourth-quarter touchdown runs that propelled Texas from an initial 31-21 deficit into a comeback victory at 37-35 after Michigan scored its field goal, retaking control. Young led his team on a 10-play, 47-yard drive before Dusty Mangum kicked a game-winning field goal as time ran out, giving Texas its inaugural Rose Bowl win.

6) 1980: USC 17, Ohio State 16

Following their stretch of three consecutive Rose Bowl matchups in the mid-1970s, USC and Ohio State battled again to kick off the 1980s and played another classic. In his second-consecutive Rose Bowl, USC running back Charles White was the star again, setting a Rose Bowl game record that still stands today with 247 rushing yards. He would also add one touchdown on the day, which would be the game-winning score with just over a minute remaining in the contest. Once again, the No. 3 Trojans broke the heart of the No. 1 Buckeyes, and earned yet another Rose Bowl victory, their 17th overall at the time and fourth in six years

5) 2022: Ohio State 48, Utah 45

In recent Rose Bowl history, many high-scoring matchups have taken place; one of the best was between No. 10 Utah and No. 7 Ohio State in their most recent edition, in which Utah held onto an early 14-0 lead and still led by two touchdowns at halftime. Ohio State fought back and eventually took a 45-38 lead late in the fourth quarter on Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s 30-yard touchdown catch. Utah responded with a 15-yard Dalton Kincaid touchdown reception that tied the game at 45 with just over two minutes remaining. Still, Ohio State’s offense put together a drive that led to Noah Ruggles kicking a game-winning field goal from 19 yards for a 48-45 victory. C.J. Stroud set Rose Bowl best marks with 573 passing yards and six passing touchdowns; Smith-Njigba set records for receptions (15) and receiving yards (347), with his three touchdowns tied with Marvin Harrison Jr’s for Rose Bowl bests.

4) 2017: USC 52, Penn State 49

After their impressive win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game, No. 5 Penn State came into the 2017 Rose Bowl as the favorite with an exciting offensive lineup featuring Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin. Penn State’s offense was impressive during the Rose Bowl game, scoring 49 points while also boasting nearly 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Barkley – but No. 12 didn’t fare so well against No. 1. Sam Darnold proved up to the task of matching Penn State’s potency as he threw for 453 yards and five touchdowns, including Deontay Burnett’s game-tying 27-yard score that brought USC back from being 49-35 down heading into the fourth quarter. When Penn State got back the ball again, McSorley made costly errors which put USC within field goal range before kicker Matt Boermeester hit his 46-yard field goal that will go down as part of USC football history.

 3) 1975: USC 18, Ohio State 17

Over the years, fans have witnessed numerous one-score matchups at the Rose Bowl game, but few could match 1975’s contest between No. 5 USC and No. 3 Ohio State as a close encounter. This was the fifth meeting between USC and Ohio State in the “Granddaddy of Them All,” with USC winning their initial matchup in 1973 and Ohio State prevailing in their rematch in 1974. This third consecutive bowl game between these schools came down to the wire, as USC quarterback Pat Haden delivered a touchdown pass to John McKay Jr. (son of legendary Trojans coach John McKay Sr.) with just under two minutes remaining to bring them within one point. USC then decided to go for two, where Haden made an incredible play to complete a pass to Shelton Diggs for another touchdown, giving USC an insurmountable lead they never gave back.

2) 2018: Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48

Just a year after USC and Penn State played out an exciting 52-49 contest, No. 3 Georgia took on No. 2 Oklahoma in a College Football Playoff semifinal. Both sides saw plenty of scoring action throughout. Two overtimes later featuring over 100 points and over 1000 total yards of play, Georgia prevailed 54-48 against the Oklahoma Sooners. Although Georgia trailed 31-17 at halftime, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel helped Georgia tie it in the third quarter rushing. Georgia led 38-31 entering the fourth quarter. Still, Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield scored on an incomplete pass, and Steven Parker recovered a fumble for a fumble-recovery touchdown that brought them within one touchdown again. Chubb then tied it at 45 with less than one minute left in regulation before both teams kicked field goals before Oklahoma missed its attempt in overtime and allowed Georgia to win on Michel’s walk-off score.

1) 2006: Texas 41, USC 38

The Rose Bowl game is commonly known as “The Granddaddy of Them All,” but this particular bowl game truly stands as one of the greatest college football contests ever held. Texas returned to Pasadena as the No. 2 team for its second straight Rose Bowl appearance. Texas was coming off two consecutive national championships and riding an incredible 34-game win streak, facing USC. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart both won Heisman Trophies while playing for USC; Texas took leads during both quarters to take an eventual 17-13 victory. However, a 22-yard touchdown pass from Matt Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett put the Trojans up 38-26 with just under seven minutes left, giving hope that Pete Carroll’s squad would clinch their third consecutive title. Young quickly earned his legend when he led Texas on an unprecedented drive he completed with a 17-yard touchdown run to reduce their deficit to 38-33. Texas achieved victory when LenDale White of USC ran into Texas running back Young on a third and short around midfield, forcing Texas back with two minutes remaining and scoring an eight-yard touchdown with only 19 seconds remaining, one of the greatest plays in college football history and earning them their fourth national championship.

Video: The Grand Daddy of All Title Games! (#2Texas vs. #1 USC 2006, Rose Bowl)

The Grand Daddy of All Title Games! (#2Texas vs. #1 USC 2006, Rose Bowl)



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