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Wisconsin, Oregon to make Rose Bowl returns

PASADENA, Calif. - The last two losers of the Rose Bowl have another chance to get it right.

Pac-12 champion Oregon will face Big Ten champion Wisconsin on Jan. 2 in the 98th edition of the Granddaddy of Them All, the schools learned Sunday night.

The ninth-ranked Badgers (11-2) are headed to their second straight Rose Bowl after losing 21-19 to TCU last year. The No. 6 Ducks (11-2) lost to Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State in Pasadena two seasons ago before falling in the BCS title game last season.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is already motivated for a particularly compelling chapter of the Rose Bowl's traditional intersectional rivalry, with the wildly inventive Ducks pitted against the Badgers' old-school power football.

"The great thing about this bowl game matchup is it's the direct opposites of offensive philosophy," Bielema said. "You want to have unique matchups, and for us to play Oregon in one of the best environments for football anywhere, it's going to be so unique. It's going to draw a lot of attention."

Players from both teams knew their holiday destination well before the official announcement, celebrating with roses in their teeth after they won their conferences' first title games over the weekend. Oregon battered UCLA 49-31 at Autzen Stadium on Friday, and Wisconsin edged Michigan State 42-39 on Saturday.

"I don't get to watch a lot of college football because we're playing, but I watched that whole game," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said of the Big Ten championship. "That was one for the ages, just to see how hard the kids from Wisconsin competed. They were making plays all over the field."

Both coaches were thrilled that the byzantine BCS rules will allow the traditional Pac-12/Big Ten intersectional matchup for just the sixth time in the last 11 years. The Horned Frogs crashed Pasadena last season thanks to a BCS rule that required the Rose Bowl to skip over powerful Stanford, the Pac-10's second-place finisher, which ended up winning the Orange Bowl.

"It means a lot," Kelly said. "In the landscape of college football, with all the expansion going on, I'm a little more of a traditionalist. Watching the Rose Bowl growing up, it was always Pac-10, Big Ten. We've added some teams ... but that's the way I think it should be. That's one of the neat things that we can still look at, the traditional matchup."

These football powerhouses will cap two of the best stretches in the schools' histories with their first meeting since 2001, and just their fifth head-to-head matchup ever. And both schools are eager to finish their seasons with a win, for a change.

Wisconsin has matched the heights of its decade-ago glory days under coach Barry Alvarez by making back-to-back Rose Bowls for just the second time. Yet the Badgers have lost three of their last four bowls, winning only the Champs Sports Bowl in 2009.

Oregon still hasn't won a bowl game in Kelly's three seasons, even with tailback LaMichael James leading a high-flying offense while the Ducks unseated Southern California as the West Coast's dominant program.

The Badgers finished their season with five straight victories to steamroll into Pasadena, rebounding nicely from back-to-back last-second losses to Michigan State and Ohio State in late October. The run culminated in that gritty title-game victory over the Spartans in Indianapolis.

Powered by tailback Montee Ball and one-season-wonder quarterback Russell Wilson, Wisconsin has won two straight Big Ten titles for just the third time in school history -- and the last time the Badgers did it, Ron Dayne capped it all off by leading Wisconsin to victory at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2000.

"They've got a lot of weapons, not just that big, strong offensive line," Kelly said. "I'm a big fan of Russell at North Carolina State, and then what he did in his only year at Wisconsin. You're probably going against the best quarterback-running back combination in college football. It's fun to watch them -- probably not as much fun when you're playing them."

Kelly also jokingly called Wilson "the best receiving quarterback in the country" in reference to his TD catch against Indiana. He also caught a pass for a nice gain Saturday night.

Oregon wrapped up its third straight conference title over the weekend, and the Ducks appeared to be in the running for the BCS title game until No. 5 USC's 38-35 win at Autzen last month.

The Ducks followed up that setback by crushing Oregon State and UCLA, and their latest Rose Bowl appearance is a fitting cap to the careers of the most successful seniors in school history. The Ducks have won 43 games in the past four seasons, including more than 10 victories this season for the third time ever -- and the second straight year.

Bielema said his staff already is working on mockups of the Ducks' famed play-calling picture cards on the sidelines. His scout team will have a bit more trouble simulating the Ducks' speed.

After the fourth 11-victory season in school history, the Badgers are in the Rose Bowl for the eighth time overall. Oregon has made five appearances in the Rose Bowl, but hasn't won it since beating Pennsylvania 14-0 in the third edition of the game on Jan. 1, 1917.

The Rose Bowl, which is not played on a Sunday, will wait until Jan. 2 this time around. The NFL finishes its regular season on New Year's Day.

New York Sports