The Rose Bowl is known as “the grand daddy of them all” and has been one of the most widely-watched college football games of all time. The Rose Bowl has been host to many major Big 10 vs Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10) contests, but it’s also been host to the national championship, the ultimate prize coveted by all. As you’d imagine, many Heisman winners have come to this bowl game, and some have had outstanding performances, while others had forgettable games, or came out on the losing end of the contest despite outstanding efforts. But among the Heisman Trophy winners, a number of them are names you probably know well. Will the Heisman winner play in this year’s game? Possibly if Christian McCaffrey and Stanford have another big year.
This is where a big bowl rivalry back in the 60s and 70s between USC and Ohio State started. OJ Simpson had a glorious 1968 season and brought home the Heisman to his alma mater. The Trojans would host Woody Hayes’s Buckeyes in their home town and had high hopes for this game. Much to Simpson’s credit, he had an outstanding game, gaining 171 yards on the ground and rushing for a big touchdown. But it wasn’t enough as the Trojans fell 27-16 in this game.
The Trojans decided to exact a bit of retribution on Ohio State for spoiling OJ’s big game on New Years day 6 years ago. This time when Woody Hayes came to town with his own Heisman-winning runningback Archie Griffin, the Trojan’s defense completely stifled him. In this 1974 Rose Bowl, the Trojans defeated the Buckeyes 18-17, a close game but Griffin was held to only 75 yards and no score, the only game all year he didn’t break 100 yards. The next year, Griffin once again led his team to the Rose Bowl, facing UCLA this time. But again, he was held under 100 yards and his team lost 23-10.
This star Michigan wide receiver came into the 1991 Rose Bowl looking to do amazing things after breaking a plethora of school records all season and getting the coveted Heisman. It was not meant to be however, as the U of M was beaten soundly by the Washington Huskies 34-14, and Howard only had 1 catch and no touchdowns all game. But don’t feel bad for Howard, he would go on to play for the Packers in the NFL and win the MVP award of Superbowl XXXI.
While one Michigan player had a disappointing Rose Bowl follow-up to the Heisman Trophy award, another had one of the best performances. Charles Woodson has been one of the few defensive players to win the Heisman Trophy over the years, and in 1997 he brought home all the marbles with a Rose Bowl national championship win for Michigan over Washington State 21-16. He had an interception, and played some offensive series in this game. He won one of the best Heisman races ever, beating Peyton Manning.
A Legend in Wisconsin football, Ron Dayne broke records in Wisconsin right and left and twice led his team to Rose Bowl victories in some great games. Although it was only one in 1999 in which he was awarded the Heisman Trophy. Dayne scored a touchdown and ran for over 200 yards in this game. It was about as perfect an ending as you could script for a season in which Dayne actually broke the all-time NCAA rushing yards record for a career, one that had just been set only a year earlier by Texas running back Ricky Williams.