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How has UW fared against USC, UCLA?

Depends on if you look all-time, or at more recent matchups

Star player on the “worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl.”

Starting this week, we’ll take more of a deep dive into each remaining B1G team’s all-time performance against USC and UCLA . Wisconsin doesn’t have quite the history with the Trojans and Bruins as, say, Ohio State and Michigan. However, the limited matchups have produces some great moments, historic performances, and one all-timer of a game from way back.

4-7 vs. UCLA

Wisconsin won the first meeting in 1938, then lost seven in a row, including a regular season matchup in 1952, a year when UW made the Rose Bowl (and lost to USC, see below) and UCLA did not. They also lost regular season games in 1953, 1969, and 1979-1982 (oddly, three of those four games were in Madison). So, yeah, UCLA pretty much owned Wisconsin.

In the regular season.

As of 1982.

But then 1993 happened. Barry Alvarez led Wisconsin out of nowhere to a Rose Bowl appearance where UCLA was waiting. Given that there were 21 penalties, and four players (two from each team) were ejected in the third quarter, I believe you could call this game “intense.” The Badgers had no answer for J.J. Stokes, who set Rose Bowl records for receptions (14) and yards (176), but Brent Moss carried the ball 36 times for 158 yards to pace the Badger offense.

They key play—and most important, if unlikely, run—came on 2nd and 8 from the UCLA 21 with UW clinging (TM) to a 14-10 lead:

Five years later, these two teams would again meet in the Rose Bowl. While both entered the game 10-1, UCLA was a clear (9-10 point) favorite as they were headed for the inaugural BCS championship game before a loss to Miami in the season finale (the non-conference game was rescheduled owing to a hurricane) in a game where Edgerrin James ran wild (foreshadowing alert!). Meanwhile, UW didn’t play B1G tri-champ Ohio State and lost to B1G tri-champ Michigan, making the Rose Bowl only because of the B1G’s tiebreaker of “if there’s a tie, and no complete head-to-head round-robin, the team who made the Rose Bowl least recently gets to go.” UW was so unimpressive to the the experts that Craig James called them the “worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl.”

Well, maybe UCLA was a disappointed to have missed out on the title game, but they had plenty to play for when Edgerrin James went off, and Ron Dayne did the same. Rumbling for 246 yards (one shy of the record) and 4 TDs (tying the record), Dayne pace an offense that set the Rose Bowl record for yards per play. Cade McNown led UCLA to a Rose Bowl record for total offense, but threw a critical pick-six early in the fourth that put UW up two scores. The Badgers would hold on for a thrilling 38-31 victory.

To round things out, the most recent matchup was the 2000 Sun Bowl. UCLA led 20-7, but Wisconsin rallied to take a 21-20 victory, meaning UW is on a three-game winning streak vs. the Bruins, and is 3-0 against UCLA in bowl games.

1-6 vs. USC

This is not good. But bear with me. The six losses were all between 1953 and 1966. UW lost both ends of a home-and-home in ‘55-’56 and ‘65-’66 (the former, competitive, the latter, not so much), and the 1953 Rose Bowl in a 7-0 slugfest. The Badgers were shut out despite future Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche (1954) breaking 100 yards rushing.

The two teams would meet up again in the Rose Bowl ten years later. The stakes were even higher in the 1963 game, which featured the first ever bowl game matchup of #1 (USC) vs. #2 (Wisconsin). After a 7-7 first quarter, the game turned into a mismatch, with USC taking a 42-14 lead with a TD early in the fourth. But UW, behind 401 passing yards from Ron Vander Kelen, came roaring back, cutting the lead to 42-37 late. However, USC covered an onside-kick, just missed having a punt blocked (after having a bad snap turn a previous punt attempt into a safety), and held on for the win, and John McKay’s first national title with USC.

Additional notes:

1) Two-time All-American TE Pat Richter would catch 11 passes for 163 yards and a TD for Wisconsin. He would go onto greater fame at UW’s AD from 1989-2004. He hired Barry Alvarez and Bo Ryan and, along with Alvarez—who succeeded Richter as AD--is the person most responsible for turning around Badger athletics after a moribund spell in the late 70s and 80s.
2) Marv Marinovich of USC was ejected from the game for fighting. After an disappointing pro career, he would get big into sports training, intensely study Eastern Bloc methods (the speed/flexibility aspects; not the insane steroid aspect), and decide that his gifted son, Todd, should never consumer a Twinkie, or any refined sugar. Todd Marinovich went on to start at USC as a freshman, get kicked off the team as a sophomore, yet still be a first-round pick of the, of course, Los Angeles Raiders (for whom Marv had been one of the NFL’s first strength-and-conditioning coaches), who passed on Brett Favre in making this selection. Todd Marinovich’s career, and post-career struggles, have received plenty of attention over the years.

The only recent matchup between these two came in the 2015 Holiday Bowl. You probably don’t remember this game unless you’re a UW fan, and even then, maybe not since it kicked off at approximately 2:47 a.m. However, frequently maligned QB Joel Stave led a fourth quarter drive to defeat the Pac 12 South champs, 23-21. Most memorable, however, was Badger LB Jack Cichy recording sacks on three consecutive plays in the third quarter: