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Another break in tradition for the Rose Bowl

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Rose Bowl was supposed to take a one-year break from the Pacific-10 vs. Big Ten tradition to host the national championship game last January.

Make it two.

No. 7 Washington State will face No. 8 Oklahoma in the 89th Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year's Day, and while that has the look of an excellent matchup, it's Pac-10 vs. Big 12.

Meanwhile, No. 3 Iowa of the Big Ten will play No. 5 Southern California of the Pac-10 in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 in what's being called ``Rose Bowl East.''

``We learned a lot about the BCS this year and the way that it operates,'' Rose Bowl chief executive Mitch Dorger said Sunday. ``We did not anticipate all the subtleties of the system.''

Dorger said last week he'd be ``severely disappointed'' to lose Iowa to the Rose Bowl. While he sounded testy, he seemed to do everything possible to put a positive spin on the Washington State-Oklahoma pairing.

``We're extremely excited by the matchup we have this year _ two great institutions,'' he said. ``We think the two teams offer some interesting contrasts in style, both very strong, both conference champions.

``Everything this year was conducted in accordance with the rules. The Orange Bowl has arranged for themselves an outstanding matchup, we congratulate them for that. We're happy with the teams we have.''

Miami beat Nebraska 37-14 last January in the Rose Bowl _ when it was designated as the national championship game. The Fiesta Bowl has that honor this winter, with No. 1 Miami defending its title against No. 2 Ohio State on Jan. 3.

Last season's Rose Bowl matchup was the first that didn't involve teams from the Pac-10 and Big Ten since the 1946 game, when Alabama beat USC 34-14.

The Pac-10 and Big Ten each have two teams playing in the four major bowl games next month. But only one will be playing in Pasadena.

``We entered the year hoping to return to a traditional matchup,'' Dorger said. ``The system did not provide that to us.''

Washington State (10-2), sixth in the final BCS standings, beat UCLA 48-27 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday to make certain it would return to Pasadena to play New Year's Day.

WSU and USC both had 7-1 conference records, but the Cougars beat the Trojans 30-27 in overtime Oct. 5 to earn the Rose Bowl berth.

The Cougars will be making their fourth Rose Bowl appearance _ they beat Brown 14-0 in the 1916 game; lost to Alabama 24-0 in the 1931 game; and lost to Michigan 21-16 in the 1998 game.

Cougars coach Mike Price said he had no problem facing a team from the Big 12 instead of the Big Ten.

``You've got to be kidding me. This is going to be a great game, this is awesome,'' he said. ``They're really excited to come out here, we couldn't be more excited.

``It's great for our conference, it's great for both schools and it's going to be great for the Rose Bowl.''

Price expressed confidence that Jason Gesser, who holds several WSU passing records, will be in good shape for the Rose Bowl. Wearing braces on his sprained right knee and ankle, Gesser passed for 247 yards and two touchdowns against UCLA.

``I plan to have a tractor run over his leg before the game because he seems to play better when he's hurt,'' Price said. ``He'll be back fine.''

Oklahoma (11-2), the national champion two years ago and seventh in the final BCS standings, beat Colorado 29-7 in the Big 12 championship game to ensure its place in a BCS bowl.

As it turned out, the Sooners will play in their first Rose Bowl.

``I think it's fantastic,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ``We're all incredibly excited about it because it's just rare when this opportunity comes around. It's the way the BCS has worked out. Oklahoma's never been in one, and I don't know how many opportunities we'll have to be in one.''

Stoops and his brother, Mike, the Oklahoma defensive coordinator, played in the Rose Bowl for Iowa 21 years ago. Another member of Oklahoma's staff, offensive coordinator Chuck Long, played for the Hawkeyes in the Rose Bowl four years later.
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