Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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towards a playoff system, ending a BCS configuration that lessened the impact of every bowl other than the championship, the Rose Bowl lingers in Michigan dreams. History And Passion Carr knows the history, how Fielding H. Yost took a crew of Michigan players to Pasadena for the inaugural Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1902, long before the stadium or even the bowl's name existed. He harkens back to the 1950s and the several decades that followed, in which the bowl remained the exclusive domain of the Big Ten and Pac-10. Carr expresses concern for what it will be going forward, understanding changes that have arrived with more to come. He's also hopeful that trek remains special for generations of Wolverines to come. "I hope the Big Ten and Pac-12 will always be an important part of the Rose Bowl," Carr said. "The guys who have been around the Big Ten Conference, they all appreciate it. "The coaches emphasize it to the players. I know Brady certainly knows all about the Rose Bowl and what it's like." Skene embraces the topic and passionately argues the importance of the bowl as a reward to Big Ten championship teams out of Ann Arbor. Asked to put his finger on why it's so superior, compared to other bowl venues, he explained the experience has to be felt rather than verbally depicted. "I've tried to describe to friends and family over the years why the Rose Bowl is so special," he said. "There's just something about the electricity and the atmosphere for that football game that's different from other bowl games. "You feel like it's a really, really big spectacle, an event, when you get to play in that game. I really don't know why. We weren't playing for national championships. Even now, when I flash forward 20 years and watch the Rose Bowl, you feel it — this is a really big game. It means so much to so many people." Some scoff; some shrug. In a winnertake-all world, it's about the national championship, they say. Anything less is settling. Michigan coaches have tried for years to get this point across — no Big Ten team is going to win a national championship without first winning the conference title. The Wolverines want to win every game they play, more desperately than anyone looking on. So if the right combination comes together, they might indeed thrust the index finger skyward again. In the meantime, those who have been there won't consider the Rose Bowl a consolation prize. When others don't understand, they just smile. "I encounter those fans all the time," Skene said. "The first thing I do is ask them: 'Have you been to the Rose Bowl? Have you seen a game there?' Nine times out of 10, the answer is no. "How do you explain it to someone who hasn't been there to see that? You ask any fan that's been there to watch their team play, and if their team has won that game, you ask them how important it is. They'll tell you, it's very, very important." Carr concurred: "You can watch it on TV and know that it's something big. But once you go there, and you compare it with the other bowls, nothing can match the tradition of the Rose Bowl." Tears And Triumph The Wolverines knew nothing but victory the first four times they ventured west for the bowl. Yost's crew destroyed Stanford 49-0, and 46 years later, in 1948, Fritz Crisler's Wolverines blasted USC by that same margin. Bennie Oosterbaan's Big Ten champions topped California 14-6 in the 1951 Rose Bowl, and Bump Elliott's crew thumped Oregon State 34-7 on Jan. 1, 1965. Schembechler's arrival in '69 marked a huge upturn in Michigan's overall fortunes from the previous two decades through his 21 years as head coach. The Rose Bowl, for more than a decade, marked a dramatically different story. Schembechler's 1969 team pulled off perhaps the greatest upset in Michigan history, knocking off No. 1 Ohio State 24-12 in Michigan Stadium. Weeks later, the new U-M head coach lay in a hospital bed, the victim of a heart attack the night before the Wolverines' 10-3 loss to USC in the Rose Bowl. That setback — shocking in its circumstance — kicked off a decade of misery and near misses in Pasadena. The Wolverines lost to Stanford in the '72 Rose Bowl (1312), then came up just short in '77 (14-6 to USC), '78 (27-20 to Washington) and '79 (17-10 to USC). As dominant as those Michigan teams proved to be, a trip across the country to play a game in a tough Pac-10 foe's backyard proved too much — barely too much. When Carr joined Schembechler's staff in 1980, Michigan won the first Rose Bowl, played on Jan. 1, 1902, with a 49-0 rout of Stanford, and the win put an exclamation point on the first national championship campaign in U-M history. photo by earle c. anthony/courtesy bentley historical library The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 55

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