ANAHEIM, Calif. – It will be a Rose Bowl of firsts when No. 5 Ohio State faces No. 9 Washington.
The Buckeyes and Huskies will meet for the first time in the Granddaddy of Them All, despite each team making its 15th appearance.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 champions will meet for the first time since 2014 and for the first time since the introduction of the College Football Playoff the following year.
Urban Meyer and Chris Petersen will each make his first appearance in the game as a head coach.
New additions to old traditions mean the Rose Bowl is no consolation prize for teams that had national championship aspirations.
“I think this is how it’s supposed to be,” Washington running back Myles Gaskin said Wednesday as the teams visited the Disneyland Resort.
For Ohio State (12-1), visits to Pasadena have been few and far between despite their success this century.
The Buckeyes won their ninth conference title since 2002 this season but are playing in the Rose Bowl for just the second time in that span.
Jim Tressel led Ohio State to a 26-17 win over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl for his only appearance in the storied game, and Meyer’s third Big Ten title team is bringing him to California for the first time. Ohio State won the inaugural CFP after the 2014 season, and the Buckeyes defeated Southern California in the Cotton Bowl last season with the Rose Bowl hosting what would be an instant classic semifinal between Georgia and Oklahoma.
Meyer is set to retire after the Rose Bowl and said his career would have felt incomplete without leading a team in the first and oldest bowl game.
“To never have the opportunity to coach in the Rose Bowl and say I’m done, that would have been very hard,” Meyer said.
Washington (10-3) is making its first visit to the Rose Bowl since the 2000 season after winning its second Pac-12 title in the past three seasons. Gaskin said it would be a refreshing change of pace to enjoy the perks associated with the game, including a trip to the two Orange County theme parks and dinner at a Beverly Hills steakhouse, instead of the more regimented focus going into the semifinal at the Peach Bowl in 2016.
Gaskin struggled to recall what the Huskies did two years ago.
“We didn’t go to Disneyland,” Gaskin said. “I ain’t go on no roller coasters, either, so it’s definitely different.
“It’s definitely a lot more fun.”
Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller prefers the current itinerary to what Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes put together in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s by having his players stay sequestered at a monastery instead of a hotel and often skip the annual Beef Bowl dinner at Lawry’s Prime Rib.
“That would be a little too quiet,” Fuller said. “If I wanted to step out and go to the mall or something, I don’t know if a monastery would be close to a mall or anything like that.”
Fuller and Gaskin said the Rose Bowl still resonates with younger generations of football players, though their memories of the game might be more likely to include Texas quarterback Vince Young than games between the Big Ten and Pac-12 representatives.
Fuller said the importance of the Rose Bowl helped Ohio State get over the disappointment of not being selected for the CFP in “probably, like, five minutes. Definitely disappointed that we couldn’t made it, but going to the Rose Bowl is a blessing. Winning a Big Ten championship is a blessing, too, so I really can’t ask for anything else out of this season.”
“I would say we know how important, how big this game is,” Gaskin said. “I think we’re going to learn some more history of it as this week goes on, but just being able to say we’re playing in the Rose Bowl is great enough.”
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