Iowa, Stanford see Rose Bowl as solid substitute for playoff
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) Kevin Hogan will make a bit of Rose Bowl history when he steps behind center Friday for his record-tying third start for Stanford in the Granddaddy of Them All.
It's all new to his Iowa counterpart, C.J. Beathard, who will make his first bowl start in the Hawkeyes' first trip to Pasadena in 25 years.
Hogan is grateful for Stanford's remarkable run of three Rose Bowl berths, but he doesn't think the No. 5 Cardinal (11-2) have much of an advantage over the sixth-ranked Hawkeyes (12-1) in the 102nd edition of college football's most historic game.
These teams are too talented, and there's too much on the line - even if the national title is not.
''Both of us could be in the playoff,'' said Hogan, who will become just the third quarterback to start three Rose Bowls. ''Both of us could be playing for a national championship, but there's not enough room for us, and we did that to ourselves. We're going to enjoy this opportunity instead.''
The Rose Bowl is the traditional reward for outstanding seasons in the Big Ten and Pac-12, and tradition should run rich in this matchup: two run-oriented offenses, two no-nonsense defenses and a list of stars led by running back Christian McCaffrey, Stanford's Heisman Trophy finalist.
Iowa and Stanford gratefully embraced this assignment after they ended up as the last two teams to miss the College Football Playoff.
''It's such a historic bowl, and I can't imagine there's a better environment in America to play college football,'' said Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who finally led the Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl after 17 years as head coach. ''But it's still a game.''
The Hawkeyes returned on the strength of their school-record 12-0 regular season. Even after a narrow loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, Iowa got the chance to win the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1959 game after losing its last three appearances under Hayden Fry.
''The only right way to end the season would be to go out with a win,'' Beathard said. ''(If) you start 12-0 and lose your last two games, that's tough.''
Stanford's improbable Nerd Nation powerhouse is back yet again after the Cardinal won another Pac-12 title, bowling over schools with bigger budgets and less stringent academic demands. Hogan is grateful for his place in history, but he is only interested in ending his career by joining the list of two-time Rose Bowl champions.
''We had a couple of losses, but a win in the Rose Bowl is the best way you can go out,'' he said.
Here are some more things to watch on another beautiful New Year's Day in Arroyo Seco:
ADVANTAGE IOWA?: Stanford's relatively modest fan base could have Rose Bowl fatigue, but Iowa appears ready to fill any gap. Hawkeyes athletic director Gary Barta said the school had 55,000 requests for tickets and fulfilled more than 23,000. Everybody expects a sea of old gold and black in Pasadena - and it might have been even bigger, but storms across the Midwest scuttled many fans' travel plans. ''Many of our fans were here for the last Rose Bowl and couldn't wait to do it again,'' Barta said. ''There was probably a pent-up desire to be in this special place at this special time.''
MCCAFFREY MAGIC: McCaffrey is making his Rose Bowl debut after setting the NCAA single-season record for total yards during his spectacular sophomore campaign. The son of NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey never attended the Rose Bowl as a kid, but remembers watching it on television on New Year's Day.
STILL HUNGRY: Stanford's experience won't translate into Rose Bowl fatigue, Hogan promised. The Cardinal's current upperclassmen beat Wisconsin in their first trip in 2013, but they lost to Michigan State two years ago, stoking a motivational fire. ''We felt like we didn't do our best that year, and it left a horrible feeling,'' Hogan said. ''You felt how it felt to be up on that stage after winning the game, and then we felt how it felt to go back to the locker room after losing. It doesn't get stale. We're just as excited to come down here this time as we were the first time.''
PAYING ATTENTION: Stanford coach David Shaw likes to spend his Saturday mornings watching early games, and he paid close attention to Iowa's rise. ''You respect the way they went about their business and didn't care what people said they could or couldn't do,'' Shaw said. ''They've had a special season, and it's been very similar to our season.''