USC Football’s Rose Bowl History Shows Triumphs and Tribulations

Looking back at USC football’s recent history in the Rose Bowl tells the story over the Trojans’ triumphs and tribulations over the past decade.

USC football and the Rose Bowl has been a very common occurrence. In fact, the Trojans have dominated the New Year’s spectacular with 24 wins. The next highest win total after USC’s record is Michigan’s at eight.

This year USC won its way back to the Rose Bowl with eight-straight victories, catching a break from the College Football Playoff Committee with the No. 9 ranking. That last playoff ranking was just good enough for the Trojans to claim the Rose Bowl berth over No. 10 Colorado.

USC football hasn’t always been that fortunate with past selection committees. The historic 2003 snub from the BCS Championship game was particularly annoying as the Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the country by both the AP and coaches polls.

The consolation prize for USC was a match up with No. 7 Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

The steaming Trojans impressively won the game impressively and the AP — to their credit — voted USC No. 1 in their final poll, sealing the dreaded 2003 split national championship. The following season USC went undefeated and left nothing up to any polls.

The Trojans continued their winning ways — 33 wins, in fact — until meeting Texas in the 2005 BCS Championship game at the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns won the game in the final minutes in what many say is one of the best college championship games ever. It was a spectacle, but could have been much better from the USC perspective with a different ending.

USC’s last Rose Bowl visit was also against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The 2008 USC team was one of the last from the Pete Carroll era. And it was loaded.

The linebackers alone sound like a fantasy team. Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing were the Trojan starters. They all made their presence felt in the 2009 Rose Bowl game with five, six and seven tackles respectively.

To Penn State’s credit they were the only team that season to score more than seven points in the second half against USC, even if it was 31-7 at the half.  Final score: USC 38, PSU 24.

If a college football playoff had existed, USC had a great chance of capturing another championship. But it didn’t and, unfortunately, bad things were on the horizon.

Mark Sanchez who had five TDs in the Rose Bowl was about to exit school after one year of starting. Carroll thought Sanchez should stay for another season, but he himself was very close to leaving, ultimately departing after the 2009 season. And the NCAA was one year away from handing down their dreaded and ridiculous sanctions.

It took USC eight years to get back to the Rose Bowl, but are they back back? Who knows the answer to that question. However, with a world-class winner like Lynn Swann still in his first year as the USC AD, things are looking rosy.

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