PASADENA — Wisconsin believes its third straight trip to the Rose Bowl could be the charm. Stanford is hoping for another victory in its charmed run through the Bowl Championship Series.
The unranked Badgers (8-5) and the No. 8 Cardinal (11-2) will meet in the 99th edition of the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, the bowl formally announced Sunday night.
Arroyo Seco will be filled with fans wearing red and white when two schools with virtually identical colors play a rematch of the 2000 Rose Bowl, won 17-9 by Wisconsin with Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Ron Dayne.
That loss was Stanford’s most recent trip to the Granddaddy of Them All, while the Badgers lost the last two Rose Bowls to TCU and Oregon.
Stanford is in its third consecutive BCS bowl.
The Cardinal’s run to the Orange, Fiesta and Rose bowls in consecutive seasons was a nearly unimaginable feat just six seasons ago when coach Jim Harbaugh took over the long-struggling program at a school with lofty academic standards and a fan base dwarfed by the conference’s big-name football schools.
Wisconsin is no stranger to surprising occurrences after this weekend. The Badgers seemed highly unlikely to make their third straight Rose Bowl this season after a series of narrow losses, but they stunned Nebraska 70-31 on Saturday in the Big Ten title game to earn yet another sun-splashed break from the Wisconsin winter for their hearty fan base.
Harbaugh and quarterback Andrew Luck led Stanford’s turnaround over the past four years, but those two NFL-bound leaders never managed what coach David Shaw and freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan did in the past month by winning the conference title and getting the Cardinal back to Pasadena.
After beating No. 1 Oregon 17-14 in an overtime thriller two weeks ago, Stanford beat UCLA twice in seven days, clinching the Rose Bowl berth with another nail-biter at Stanford Stadium on Friday night.
Stanford hasn’t won the Rose Bowl since the Indians — as the Cardinal were known until 1972 — earned back-to-back victories following the 1970 and 1971 seasons. Quarterback Jim Plunkett led the first win to cap his Heisman Trophy season.
The Badgers finished third in their division, but capitalized on their chance to play for the title with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for postseason play. After routing the Cornhuskers, the Badgers became the first five-loss team ever to reach the Rose Bowl — and just the second Big Ten team to play in three straight Rose Bowls, joining Michigan in the late 1970s.
Wisconsin wasn’t as mediocre as its 7-5 regular-season record indicated, however. Those five losses were by a combined 19 points, including three overtime defeats — and the Badgers left little doubt they’re the best bowl-eligible team in the Big Ten with their demolition of Nebraska, the odds-on favorite to return to the stadium where the Huskers lost to UCLA back in September.
Star tailback Montee Ball is among the Badgers who will be playing in their third Rose Bowl. He rushed for 132 yards against TCU and 164 against Oregon, but Wisconsin lost a 21-19 nail-biter to the Horned Frogs before the Ducks shredded their defense for 621 yards in last year’s 45-38 victory — the highest-scoring Rose Bowl ever played.
Stanford’s entire renaissance has been leading to this trip down the California coast, ever since Harbaugh took over a moribund program in 2007 and immediately engineered one of the biggest upsets in college football history, beating No. 2 Southern California as a 41-point underdog.
Harbaugh and Shaw, his offensive coordinator, finally put together a winning season in 2009 to earn the Cardinal’s first bowl appearance since 2001. Stanford then went 12-1 and beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in 2010 before Harbaugh’s departure to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Cardinal didn’t miss a beat when Shaw took over, with Luck leading them to an 11-2 season ending with an overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. Stanford bounced back from early losses to Washington and Notre Dame this season with a spectacular finish, including that suffocating defensive performance against the previously dominant Ducks — on Oregon’s home field, no less.