When it came time to decide what games would be included in the College Football Playoff system, the easiest decision had to be including the Rose Bowl, the oldest bowl game. It was first played in 1902 and has been played every year since 1916.
For much of its history, the game has featured the champions of the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences. However, during the BCS Era, this wasn’t always the case. When it was the Rose Bowl’s turn to host the national championship game (2002 and 2006), it hosted the top two teams in the country regardless of conference affiliation.
But in the other years, it was allowed to continue with its Pac-12/Big Ten affiliations. The same holds true for when it is the Rose Bowl’s turn to host a semifinal game for the College Football Playoffs.
Its origins date can be traced as far back as 1888 when the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club was formed. Two years later, the first Tournament of Roses parade and games was held featuring foot races, tug of war competitions, jousting, etc.
It wasn’t until 1902 that the first football game was held at Tournament Park. Organizers had hopes that it could help raise money to cover the cost of the parade. The contest billed as the Tournament of Roses East-West Game, pitted Michigan against Stanford.
The Wolverines won in a blowout, 49-0. The game got so out of hand Stanford quit in the third quarter. Since the game was not competitive, it was discontinued. In the years to follow, the Tournament of Roses featured chariot races (starting in 1904). Ostrich races were held in 1913, and there was even an ‘elephant versus camel’ race (the elephant won).
The crowds became too big for Tournament Park, and a new stadium was commissioned and built in 1922. It cost a mere $272,198 to construct and sat 57,000 people and was named ‘The Rose Bowl.’ USC won the first Rose Bowl game played in it (1923), a 14-2 win for USC over Penn State.
Over the years, the seating capacity has been increased. Its capacity is listed at 92,542 but has been known to seat well over 100,000.
The only time the game was not played in Southern California was in 1942. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, organizers feared the Japanese might try to attack the west coast. Duke offered to host the game rather than see it canceled. Organizers accepted the offer so for one season it was played in Durham. North Carolina.
USC has appeared in the game the most (34 times; have won the most too, 25) followed by Michigan (20), Stanford (15), And Ohio State and Washington (14). Alabama has the most appearances for a team not in the Big Ten or Pac-12 (six; won four).
USC and Penn State thrilled fans with an exhilarating and high-scoring game last year that saw Sam Darnold throw for 453 yards and five touchdowns. USC overcame a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to win 52-49.
This year, the Rose Bowl will feature one of the College Football Playoffs semifinal games.
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