Somehow, Southern Cal was ranked No. 1 in both polls following the regular season. With a young Matt Leinart at quarterback, the Trojans rolled over their opposition, losing just one game. But there was just no room for Southern Cal in the championship game, which featured Louisiana State and Oklahoma. That left the Trojans to face a Big Ten Champion Michigan team in the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines appeared to stand a chance when they drove down the field on their opening drive, but the first of what would become nine sacks by a fast Southern Cal defense forced Michigan kicker Garrett Rivas to attempt a 47-yard field goal, which was blocked. Following that game-changing play, the Trojans used that momentum to take it to the air, using the combination of wide receiver Mike Williams and Keary Colbert to stretch the Wolverine defense. The duo combined for 237 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The play of the game came when Lein art lateralled the ball out to Williams who threw it back to the sophomore signal caller, who walked in for the score. Southern Cal won 28-14, and the Trojans walked off the field as the hands-down better team. And it showed in the final Associated Press Poll, as the writers voted Southern Cal No. 1, and the Trojans shared the National Championship with Louisiana State.
Michigan returned to Pasadena after the bitter defeat Southern Cal handed the Wolverines the previous year. But the 2005 matchup pitted the storied Michigan and Texas programs against each other for the first time in history. The Rose Bowl provided Longhorn quarterback Vince Young a chance to showcase himself on a national stage against a slow Wolverine defense. While Young paced the Texas attack, Michigan wide receiver Steve Breaston had his best overall game as a Wolverine. He finished with 315 all-purpose yards, 221 of them coming off 6 kickoff returns. Beside Breaston, wide receiver Braylon Edwards caught 10 passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns. But in the end, the scrambling ability of Young proved too much for the Wolverines to combat. The sophomore quarterback ran for 192 yards and four touchdowns on 21 attempts. The game went back and forth in a classic Rose Bowl battle. Michigan took a late fourth-quarter lead when kicker Garrett Rivas connected from 42 yards out. Unfortunately, Young wanted the victory too much, as he led the Longhorn offense down the field on a 10-play, 47-yard drive. Texas kicker Dusty Mangum took it from there. As time expired, he knocked a 37-yard field goal through the uprights giving Texas the win, 38-37.
It was to be the game that would determine who was really the 1997 National Champion. Michigan limped into the Alamo Bowl after a humbling defeat in the Big House at the hands of Ohio State. Meanwhile, Nebraska came into San Antonio as a team on the rise. Just like many its games throughout the season, the Wolverines jumped out to the lead and appeared poised to finally win a bowl game. Michigan, behind a solid effort from quarterback Chad Henne, climbed into the lead. But the Cornhuskers had other plans, as coach Bill Callahan turned to running back Cory Ross. Ross ran for 165 yards, and Nebraska fought back from a 28-17 fourth quarter deficit to take a 32-28 lead with just under five minutes left in the game. Cornhusker quarterback Zac Taylor hit wide receiver Terrence Nunn for a 13-yard touchdown strike. Michigan made one last attempt to change the outcome of the game when the Wolverines continued to lateral the ball back until tight end Tyler Ecker found some running room. As Ecker chugged down the field, it appeared the Michigan play would go down with the likes of the band on the field in the Stanford-California game. But the tight end didn’t pitch the ball back to wide receiver Steve Breaston and ran out of bounds at the Nebraska 13 yard line.