For only the fourth time in Rose Bowl history, the game on New Year's Day will be a rematch of a game played earlier in the season. But it will not necessarily be a replay.
Appearing at the annual coaches' press conference Tuesday at the Tournament House in Pasadena, both George Perles of Michigan State and Larry Smith of USC agreed that the teams have changed in the months since Labor Day, when USC lost, 27-13, at Michigan State.
Smith said: "Our football team has changed in a lot of ways. The biggest change is in the relationship of the coaches and players and coaches. Going into the first game we didn't know each other. . . . We have a better feel for each other now.
"As a football team, we have matured. Offensively, we have a better balance between run and pass. And in the second half of the season the defense really came together. That's a big factor in why we're here today.
Perles said the biggest change in his team was the development of quarterback Bobby McAllister, who started slowly but who finished the season "throwing the ball pretty good" and also running with the ball more.
The coaches disagreed, however, on the role of tradition.
Perles wants no part of it, preferring the "one game at a time" philosophy. No wonder. Michigan State hasn't been in a Rose Bowl Game since 1966 (and UCLA won that one) and the Big Ten has won only one Rose Bowl Game in the last 13.
Smith said: "I feel just the opposite. Our tradition is why we're here. When I first game to USC, I felt there was something extra in the players. They expect to be fighting for the Pac-10 championship and the Rose Bowl Game every year. A lot of that comes from growing up with the Trojan tradition. That was a motivating force. There was a hunger on this team."
The two teams will have much the same preparation schedule. Perles said that the Spartans are now in school, lifting weights on their own, getting their treatments. When they get out of school Dec. 11, they'll begin practices. On Dec. 18 they'll break for Christmas. Perles is letting everybody go home. The players will fly into Orange County Christmas Day, ready to resume practice Dec. 26 at UC Irvine.
USC will practice Dec. 11, 12 and 13, break for finals week and then resume practice for four days before taking off for Christmas. The Trojans will report back on noon Dec. 26.
Rose Bowl Notes
USC Coach Larry Smith said that freshman Scott Lockwood would start at tailback on New Year's Day in place of Steven Webster, who suffered ligament damage early in the game against UCLA and had to undergo knee surgery. (Webster also missed the season opener against MSU). He'll be backed up by Ricky Ervins. Ryan Knight will start to work more at tailback again, now that both fullbacks are healthy.
The rematch record: In the four Rose Bowl games that have re-matched teams that played earlier in the season, the early winners are 2-2. In 1956, Iowa beat Oregon State, 14-13, at Iowa, then won again, 35-19, on New Year's Day of 1957. In 1965, Michigan State beat UCLA, 13-3, at Michigan State in the season opener, then lost to UCLA, 14-12, on New Year's Day. In 1975, Ohio State beat UCLA, 41-20, at UCLA, but lost to UCLA, 23-10, in the Rose Bowl game. And in 1982, UCLA won at Michigan, 31-27, and beat Michigan again, 24-14, on New Year's Day. . . . USC is 4-2 against Michigan State, but this is the first time the two teams have met in the Rose Bowl game. . . . Michigan State Coach George Perles was named coach of the year in the Big Ten, and Smith was named coach of the year in the Pac-10.