Since Nov. 20, Michigan has known it would play in the Rose Bowl. This weekend, the other seven spots in the four Bowl Championship Series games were determined, and, as has been the case every year, it couldn’t happen without controversy.

The Wolverines will face Texas for the first time in their 125-year history on New Year’s Day. The Longhorns were in fifth place in the BCS Standings behind California entering the weekend, but the Bears struggled to defeat Southern Miss. on Saturday, causing the two teams to switch places in the standings.

The BCS Standings take into account the human polls as well as the computer rankings. Both California and Texas failed to win their conference title, but teams that finish in the top four in the BCS Standings are guaranteed a spot.

The Rose Bowl has traditionally been played between the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions, which are Michigan and Southern Cal. this season. But Southern Cal. will be playing in the Orange Bowl, this season’s BCS title game.

Michigan, which lost to the Trojans in last year’s Rose Bowl, will be playing in Pasadena in consecutive years for the first time since 1992 and 1993

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said he hadn’t spent much time preparing for a specific opponent because of the possibility that it could switch in the season’s last week.

“Everybody understood that it was very close, and the role the computers were going to play in the final selection,” Carr said.

“In terms of the history of the Rose Bowl, I’m sure there is tremendous disappointment at the University of California because their players have grown up dreaming of playing this game, and they don’t get that opportunity.”

Never before have two teams meeting for the first time had as many combined wins as Michigan and Texas. The Wolverines rank first in all-time wins with 842, and the Longhorns’ 786 wins put them in a tie for third with Nebraska.

If there’s a team in college football that has sympathy for Cal’s situation, it’s Texas. The Longhorns haven’t won the Big 12 championship since 1996, but many times have been in position to earn one of the two at-large BCS bids and seen things go awry. Last year, Texas was lined up to play in the Fiesta Bowl, but when Kansas State upset Oklahoma in the last week of the season, the Longhorns were left out.

This year, for the first time in the history of the BCS, there are three teams — Southern Cal., Oklahoma and Auburn — from the six largest conferences that are undefeated. But the Trojans and Sooners were considered the top two teams when the season began, while the expectations for the Tigers were significantly lower.

Auburn will face ACC champion Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, and in the Fiesta Bowl, Big East champion Pittsburgh will face Utah, which is from a non-BCS conference but earned an automatic berth by finishing in the top six of the BCS Standings.

 

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