PASADENA, Calif. » The Rose Bowl is a living archive of football tradition. Every year, teams participate in the same oceanside pep rallies, Disneyland visits and Hollywood beef-eating extravaganzas before those flowered parade floats glide down Colorado Boulevard right before the game.
All that history suits No. 9 Wisconsin perfectly. Coach Bret Bielema has built a Midwest powerhouse by largely adhering to traditional styles and schemes, determined to win Rose Bowls with unapologetically old-fashioned football.
And though No. 6 Oregon usually seems to be visiting our planet from the near future, coach Chip Kelly’s Ducks also love every bit of the history they see out of their mirrored helmets.
The last two losers of the Rose Bowl will return today for a chance at redemption in the 98th edition of the Granddaddy of Them All, matching two offenses with thoroughly disparate strategies for racking up similarly huge numbers on the scoreboard.
"You can’t get two teams much more different than these, but that’s why I think it’s going to be a great game," said Bielema, who has led the Badgers to their first back-to-back Rose Bowls in a dozen years. "We do things a certain way at Wisconsin like we’ve done them in the past, and Oregon always has something new for you. People are going to see something special in this matchup."
Bielema was a defensive lineman at Iowa in the 1991 Rose Bowl, which featured the most total points (80) in the game’s history. That record could fall before sunset in Arroyo Seco if quarterback Russell Wilson gets the Badgers (11-2) rolling and Oregon’s Darron Thomas can orchestrate his offense’s usual success.
"We’ll be comfortable from the jump, because we’ve already played in these types of games before," said Thomas, a redshirt at the Rose Bowl two years ago. "Everybody wants to knock us off, so they come with their best punch. It’s not really pressure, but we want to win one."
Both teams head into the Rose Bowl with impressive pedigrees of recent success — except in bowl games.
Two-time Big Ten champion Wisconsin lost the Rose Bowl to TCU last year, while three-time Pac-12 champion Oregon was beaten by Ohio State two years ago before falling in the BCS title game last January. The Ducks are the only school playing in their third straight BCS bowl this season, while the Badgers are looking for just their second bowl win in five years.
Although Oregon has revolutionized college football with everything from its hurry-up offenses to its wildly inventive uniform looks, Kelly relishes this matchup and this stadium more than, say, the site of the BCS title game in suburban Phoenix last year.
"You felt like you were walking into a spaceship," Kelly said of the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium. "It has kind of a futuristic feel to it. I’m a lot more comfortable in the Rose Bowl setting. That’s what college football is all about."