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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

No college football on Jan. 1? Say it ain't so

It doesn't seem right, playing traditional New Year's bowls on Jan. 2. But when Jan. 1 is a Sunday, the colleges step aside for NFL. Anyway, it doesn't mean the games won't be just as good a day later.

December 27, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Missouri had a short-lived celebration with the Independence Bowl trophy once their team mascot got its paws on it.
Missouri had a short-lived celebration with the Independence Bowl trophy… (Henrietta Wildsmith / Associated…)

There is nothing like college football on Jan. 1 to ring in the New Year, but don't ring this Sunday because only the NFL will be home.

Deck the halls with bowls of folly as college cedes its traditional day to the religious celebration known as "Tim Tebow versus Kansas City."

No Jan. 1 college games this year — now that's sacrilege. But let's get over it. Look, it's already been an oddball bowl season. Louisiana Lafayette used an "illegal stemming" call to beat San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl.

Illegal stemming sounds more like an infraction a Rose Parade official would call on a float.

Missouri's mascot, Truman the Tiger, accidentally dropped the trophy before Monday's Independence Bowl. The crystal shattered into tiny pieces before Missouri could joyously hoist it to dozens of fans celebrating victory against North Carolina.

The paid attendance in Shreveport, La., for that game was announced as 41,728, but on TV it looked more like the Indy Bowl "500."

In other news, Craig James of ESPN recently announced he was running for the U.S. Senate in Texas. Perfect, a vacuous analyst vying for a vacant seat.

Also, before Santa went down the chimney, UCLA players went "over the wall" in a timeless but tired tradition new Coach Jim Mora hopes to end along with 50-0 losses to USC.

Is the NFL really so powerful, though, as to force the colleges off Jan. 1?

The answer is no, it just seems that way.

College football historically has not played on Jan. 1 Sundays, although Nebraska and Miami did in the 1995 Orange Bowl.

The Tournament of Roses has never staged its parade or game when Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday. That decision dates to a 1893 "never on Sunday" parade edict that had to do with not wanting to frighten horses tethered outside local churches.

Oregon and Wisconsin will play the 13th Rose Bowl game contested on Jan. 2, and the first since 1995. The unlucky Oregon omen is the Ducks were 38-20 losers to Penn State in that game.

Penn State also lost when it capped an undefeated season by finishing No. 2 to national champion Nebraska. The teams couldn't play because Penn State was contractually obligated to Pasadena, but the controversy ultimately led to the creation of the Bowl Championship Series.

And that led to the Rose Bowl being played on Jan. 3 in 2002, two days after the parade, when Miami trounced Nebraska for the BCS title. The Rose Bowl was contested on Jan. 4 in the classic 2006 title-game matchup of USC and Texas.

The good news about Oregon-Wisconsin this year is that we can money-back guarantee you this game will be better than the first Jan. 2 Rose Bowl — played in 1922. Oregon and Wisconsin have the nation's No. 3 and No. 4 scoring offenses, averaging a combined 91 points per game.

On Jan. 2, 1922, California scrummed Washington & Jefferson to a scoreless tie in the last Rose Bowl played at Tournament Park.

Cal was a heavy favorite only a year after its "Wonder Team," led by Brick Muller, roughed up Ohio State, 28-0. Washington & Jefferson, a tiny Pennsylvania school of 450 students, was not supposed to stand a chance.

One West Coast sportswriter quipped before the game, "All I know about Washington and Jefferson is that they're both dead."

Bettors ended up losing lots of Benjamin Franklins. Cal's star, Muller, entered the game with bothersome carbuncles and Cal struggled offensively, amassing zero points and zero yards passing. The most impressive fact of the game was that there were no substitutions.

There have been more interesting Jan. 2 moments. The highlight of Washington's 17-7 win over Minnesota in 1961 was the halftime show. Caltech pranksters sabotaged the flip-cards and had them spell out "SEIKSUH." That's Huskies spelled backward.

Minnesota returned on Jan. 1 the following year, beat UCLA, and hasn't been to a Rose Bowl since.

Caltech struck again on Jan. 2 in 1984 by rigging the scoreboard to read Caltech and MIT instead of UCLA and Illinois.

USC fans remember the 1967 Rose Bowl in part because coach John McKay went for two on Jan. 2. That Rose Bowl followed a season in which Notre Dame claimed the national title by playing for a 10-10 tie against Michigan State.

McKay promised his Trojans he'd go for the win against Purdue but a failed two-point try in the third quarter ultimately handed Bob Griese's team a 14-13 victory.

Don't get too caught up with Rose Bowl names, dates and numbers. Many are subject to interpretation.

Example: Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball, with 38 touchdowns, needs two against Oregon to technically break former Oklahoma State star Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39.

Problem: The NCAA didn't start counting bowl-game statistics as part of records until 2002, negating five touchdowns Sanders scored in a Holiday Bowl.

This is the 110th anniversary of the first Rose Bowl of 1902, played on a 110-yard field. Michigan won in such a rout, 49-0, that Stanford conceded with eight minutes left and the game was scrapped and eventually replaced with chariot races.

Football returned for keeps in 1916.

A year later, Oregon defeated Pennsylvania, 14-0. It was Eugene's first Rose Bowl victory.

Oregon seeks its second on Monday, on the second.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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