In CFP era, Rose Bowl still special

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
In this aerial photograph provided by the Tournament of Roses, fans attend the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game between Oregon and Ohio State on Friday, Jan. 1, 2010, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Tournament of Roses,Tim Long)

The College Football Playoff has turned the bowl system into store-brand ketchup. Some stuff is better than others, but none of it tastes quite as good as Heinz.

I am not making that up. Author Malcolm Gladwell has written an entire treatise on ketchup, and it turns out that the majority of taste testers prefer Heinz to anything.

But I digress. Moving away from condiments back to bowls, the CFP so outshines all other postseason games that fans are in hurry-up-and-get-here mode. Why pay attention to the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, which has more vowels than viewers, when the playoff semifinals (Cotton and Orange bowls) will help determine the national champion?

The majority of bowls have become so passé that even Mother Nature has seen enough. Boston College and Boise State never even got a chance to complete the First Responder Bowl on Wednesday because of severe weather conditions that canceled the game in Dallas.

All of which brings us to the Rose Bowl, the granddaddy of them all, at least all not affiliated with the playoff. If you are of a certain age, the Rose has not lost much of its luster. In Big Ten country, it stands above the Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Cotton and Peach in years when those five are not part of the playoff.

Not long ago, the Rose was something of a magical event played in sunny Pasadena and watched on TV by frozen Midwesterners who were California dreamin’ about Hollywood endings. Of course, until recently, most of those endings felt like "No Country for Old Men," which is to say they finished poorly for the Big Ten. Relatively young’uns will recall that Ohio State has won its past two Rose Bowl games — 26-17 against Oregon in 2010 and 20-17 against Arizona State in 1997 — but the older set still cringes at memories of Sam "Bam" Cunningham, Wendell Tyler and Jim Plunkett.

The 1970s were great for classic rock music, but not so fun for Ohio State and Michigan, which combined to go 1-9 in Rose Bowls played in that decade.

Even then, however, the Rose was regarded as something special. I still consider it as such, probably because SoCal remains just exotic enough to make me think any football game played there means just a little more.

Apparently, I am not alone. When discussing the Rose Bowl, Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa sounded like a 7-year-old counting down to the traditional 5 p.m. kickoff.

“The granddaddy of them all, right? That’s what you watched when you were a Big Ten fan,” Studrawa said. “That was all you cared about. You didn’t care about anything else. It’s fantastic.”

Studrawa will be taking it all in on Tuesday when the Buckeyes play Washington in Pasadena, where late in the game, if skies are clear, the sunset glow off the San Gabriel Mountains will take your breath away.

Other times, it is the game itself that leaves you breathless. The Rose still has the distinction of hosting what many consider to be the best bowl game ever (and perhaps the most entertaining game in history, period): the 2006 classic in which No. 2 Texas defeated No. 1 Southern California 41-38.

Ohio State tailback J.K. Dobbins was an 8-year-old growing up in Texas when he watched Longhorns quarterback Vince Young total 467 yards of offense, including 200 yards rushing, against the Trojans.

“Watching Vince Young, that’s what made me want to play in the Rose Bowl,” Dobbins said.

Dobbins would have preferred to make the playoff, but the Rose will suffice. Those palm trees are pretty cool.