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Published: Tuesday, 12/7/2004

First Rose for Texas: Bowl officials happy to have hooked Horns

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Brown Brown
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ANN ARBOR - The Rose Bowl traditionally has matched the Big Ten and Pac-10.

That won't be the case this year.

Although Big Ten co-champion Michigan will play in the Rose Bowl, the New Year's Day game will have a Texas twist to it.

After losing Pac-10 champion Southern Cal to the national championship Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl officials had the first pick and had to decide which of the two other at-large Bowl Championship Series teams they wanted to face the Wolverines - Texas or unbeaten Utah.

The Rose Bowl opted for No. 6 Texas (10-1), which edged out No. 4 California (10-1), the Pac-10 runner-up, for the fourth and final guaranteed spot in a BCS bowl.

The Longhorns, under coach Mack Brown, who lost only to unbeaten Oklahoma in the Big 12, are just the fourth team from outside the Big Ten or Pac-10 to play in the Rose Bowl since the 1946 season.

"The Rose Bowl is different than any other bowl in America," Tournament of Roses CEO Mitch Dorger said. "It's a tri-partnership between the Pac-10, Big Ten and the Tournament of Roses. We expect every year it will be a Pac-10/Big Ten game. Now we are delighted to have an organization of the stature and reputation of the University of Texas in our game."

Dorger said the Rose Bowl selected Texas over No. 5 Utah (11-0), which ended up in the Fiesta Bowl, after considering how well Longhorns fans travel, and after consulting with ABC, which will televise the game.

"Texas and Utah were attractive to both the Fiesta Bowl and us," he said. "One is a far more storied, legendary program. The other is a Cinderella story for this particular year. After considering all the factors, we determined that Texas was the best choice for us."

No. 13 Michigan (9-2) is the winningest program in college football history with 842 wins. Texas is fourth with 786.

However, the two powers who have been playing organized football for a combined 237 years - Michigan for 125, Texas for 112 - will square off against each other for the first time on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.

"When you talk about Texas and Michigan, you talk about programs that are tradition-rich," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "It's something that excites all of us. It's a game that everybody in this country is going to want to see."

The Wolverines, whose eight-game winning streak was snapped in a season-ending loss at Ohio State on Nov. 20, will be making their NCAA-leading 30th consecutive bowl appearance, and their second straight Rose Bowl. They lost to top-ranked USC 28-14 last year and have an 8-10 record in the Rose Bowl.

"Michigan is going to be a real good test for us," Texas receiver Tony Jeffery said. "Michigan is on TV as much as we are. I got a chance to watch them and really appreciate the different styles of play across the country. I think you'll see two different styles of football, and hopefully, we'll come out on top."

Although Texas is appearing in a BCS bowl and the Rose Bowl for the first time, the Longhorns, who have won six in a row, are playing in a postseason game for the seventh consecutive season.

"You'll never have a group that's more excited to come to Pasadena than the Texas Longhorns," Brown said. "I told our staff, the good news is we're going to the Rose Bowl. The bad news is, we're playing Michigan."

"There's no question their high ranking is deserved," Carr said of Texas. "Look at what [Brown's] done since he's gone to Texas. Year-in and year-out, they're one of the best programs in the country."

The Longhorns surged past California in the final BCS standings Sunday, despite California's 10-point victory over Southern Mississippi the day before. The Golden Bears, who haven't been to the Rose Bowl in 46 years, tumbled to the Holiday Bowl, although their only blemish was a six-point loss at USC.

Rose Bowl officials side-stepped questions when asked about losing Cal.

"We have been traditionalists," said Dave Davis, Tournament of Roses president. "But we understand the BCS rules. We need to comply with the BCS rules. Therefore, we're going to put on the very best game we can for these two teams."

Contact Ron Musselman at:

mussel@theblade.com

or 419-724-6474.



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