USC to oppose Michigan in Rose Bowl for eighth time

Updated: December 4, 2006, 2:59 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- There was no celebrating a traditional matchup in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi -- at least by the participants.

Those associated with the game are overjoyed.

Southern California and Michigan will meet New Year's Day in the granddaddy of 'em all, with each playing in the game for the third time in four years.

Tournament of Roses CEO Mitch Dorger was most pleased about the traditional matchup of Pac-10 and Big Ten teams.

"I have to say that along the way, we had some doubts as to whether we were going to be able to achieve that. We're very excited about having these good friends back in the game," Dorger said, pointing out that USC and Michigan ranked 1-2 in Rose Bowl appearances.

Both teams had hoped to be in Glendale, Ariz., a week later, playing for the national title. That honor goes to Ohio State and Florida -- ranked 1-2 in the final Bowl Championship Series Standings released Sunday.

USC and Michigan had their chances. The Trojans (10-2) entered the weekend with the inside track, but a 13-9 loss to crosstown rival UCLA on Saturday knocked them out.

No. 3 Michigan (11-1) was overtaken by Florida (12-1) on the strength of the Gators' 38-28 triumph over Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday. The Wolverines didn't get their hoped-for rematch with the Buckeyes, who beat them 42-39 on Nov. 18 in the final regular-season game for both.

In The Associated Press poll, which is not used in the BCS standings, Florida also passed Michigan, moving into second but held just a three-point advantage. USC fell from second to eighth. The Wolverines were third and the Trojans fifth in the BCS standings.

"We have a system," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said on a conference call. "I've said all along that system would speak. It has spoken.

"I don't know exactly what the voters were thinking. You'd have to ask them."

Carr said he wouldn't have had a problem if USC were chosen to face Ohio State had the Trojans beaten UCLA. He was convinced Michigan would have remained No. 3 -- ahead of Florida -- in that case.

But, he added, there's no way he could feel anything negative about playing in the Rose Bowl, even if he didn't agree with the way it came about.

"The day will never come in my lifetime where there'll be a disappointment in playing in the great tradition of the Rose Bowl, where every kid in the country will be watching and cheering for somebody," he said. "It's been a special team, a special year. We'd like to win one."

USC will oppose Michigan in the Rose Bowl for the eighth time. The Trojans have a 5-2 record against the Wolverines in the game including a 28-14 triumph three years ago, when they were bypassed for the BCS title game but won a piece of the national championship.

Michigan lost to Texas 38-37 in the Rose Bowl two years ago, and USC was beaten by the Longhorns 41-38 in Pasadena last year in a game that determined the national champion.

Carr said his players were OK, but disappointed, when he gave them the news.

"I think what they learned here is that regardless of some of the things that don't go your way in life, you have to move on, you have to take advantage of your opportunities and the good things," he said. "And certainly, the Rose Bowl is a good thing."

Trojans coach Pete Carroll has said from the time he became USC's coach following the 2000 season that the team's No. 1 goal every year is to win the Pac-10 title and play in the Rose Bowl.

"To have this opportunity is something we shot for way back when," Carroll said. "USC and Michigan has become a very special matchup. We'll enjoy all the festivities and the buildup and look forward to a great event."

Carroll said he understood how Carr felt since USC was bypassed for the national championship game three years ago despite being ranked No. 1 in the human polls.

The BCS system has been tweaked since that time.

"I know it's challenging to have to live with the results of it," Carroll said. "I admire his respect for this game and this matchup.

"They're loaded, they've had a great season. They came up a couple points short of winning their conference championship."

USC has played in 30 previous Rose Bowl games, going 21-9, while Michigan has played in 19, going 8-11. The Wolverines beat Stanford 49-0 on Jan. 1, 1902 in the first Rose Bowl.

The Rose Bowl contracted with the Big Ten and Pac-10 before the 1947 game. Representatives of those conferences played from that time until the 2002 game, when Miami beat Nebraska to win the national championship.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press