After Ohio State completed one of the most insane comebacks in Rose Bowl history to beat Utah 48-45, I firmly placed my tongue in my cheek and tweeted the following:
well that was the best rose bowl game ever played— johnny (@johnny11w) January 2, 2022
That might be slight hyperbole, given the 108-year history of the oldest college football bowl game that's decided national champions on multiple occasions (including possibly the actual best game ever played), but it did get me thinking: given Ohio State's own history with the Rose Bowl, where does this 9th Rose Bowl win rank among other Buckeye wins in the Granddaddy Of Them All? Was my stupid Tweet as stupid as all my other stupid Tweets? Well...
The Aughts and Teens
Ohio State's wins against Washington (in 2019) and Oregon (in 2010) were satisfying, the latter especially because it was at least a temporary refutation of the idea that the game had left Jim Tressel and company behind, and that the likes of Chip Kelly and the Ducks were simply too much for the Buckeyes to handle. Instead, five point underdogs Ohio State controlled most of the game, eventually winning 26-17. While the game itself wasn't always gangbusters and the Buckeyes had to kick four field goals, the result was pretty fun to watch.
As a kid, I thought that Arizona State had the inside track to win this game because their quarterback was nicknamed "The Snake." Jake Plummer was in fact worthy of the name, and the 4th quarter of the '97 Rose Bowl featured two highly ranked teams throwing haymakers at each other for 15 minutes. Joe Germaine's orchestration of a last-minute comeback drive is still legendary, but really the entire final quarter was incredibly entertaining, made better that Ohio State escaped the Rose Bowl with a 20-17 win.
We Hate USC
The Buckeyes have lost more Rose Bowl games to the University of Southern California than they've won, but what really makes their wins in 1974 and 1969 were the national implications of those wins. The 1973 Ohio State team was coming off a tie against Michigan that likely cost them an outright national championship, but they knew that to stay in the conversation they needed to win the Rose Bowl and they did, 42-21. Conversely, the team that did end up fulfilling their destiny was the 1968 Buckeyes, who beat No. 2 USC 27-16 and were selected as consensus national champions.
Denying the California Golden Bears a national title for the 1949 season was probably a lot of fun, as was making Auburn's heads explode after beating Oregon in the 1958 edition of the game, thus convincing the Coaches' Poll to split the national title for some reason (the Tigers were undefeated and Ohio State was not). But the real MVP during this decade comes in the form of the 1955 game, which the Buckeyes won 20-7 over USC, completing a perfect season and gaining a national title. Unfortunately for also undefeated UCLA, a dumb Rose Bowl about rule about teams playing in back-to-back years kept them from Pasadena and a chance to prove themselves against the Buckeyes. Oh well!
In context, it's hard for the 2022 edition of the Rose Bowl game to beat out actual national championships that the Buckeyes have won via Pasadena in terms of both importance and excitement. But outside of that? For my money, this was the most exciting Ohio State Rose Bowl victory since at least the 70's, and maybe beyond. Frustrating, sure, befuddling, absolutely. But in terms of sheer entertainment value there simply isn't a lot that can top what we saw last night, and hopefully next season a more robust defense will have us comparing notes for a whole new set of bowls.