The 1978 Rose Bowl game was played on Jan. 2 instead of Jan. 1 because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday. It seemed this would be a good omen for Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler. He could change his luck.
Schembechler was 0-3 in Rose Bowl appearances then and it was said with some assurance that he would finally win one. Washington, a 14-point underdog, was the opponent and the Huskies seemed overmatched.
Bur Coach Don James threw away the conventional playbook and upset the Wolverines, 27-20.
Now Schembechler is back in Pasadena again for a Rose Bowl rematch against Washington Thursday, dragging his postseason record along with him a ball and chain.
Schembechler is 0-5 for the Rose Bowl and 0-7 for all bowls, having also lost in the Orange and Gator bowls. Michigan is favored again -- this time by only 7 1/2 points. But that does not mean much because Shcembechler's teams have been favored in almost every Rose Bowl game.
Schembechler has conducted himself with admirable restraint and countesy when questioned repeatedly about his Rose Bowl record. He says that the past is the past and this is the start of a new decade. He also points out correctly that his teams could have won the previous Rose Bowl games and were never blown out.
However, the Big Ten has lost 10 of the last 11 Rose Bowls to the Pacific-10, a record that suggests the Pac-10 just might be the better football conference.
Michigan and Ohio State have taken turns losing to the Pac-10, which has been represented during this dominant period by USC (seven times), Stanford, (twice) and UCLA and Washington (once each).
As usual, the Wolverines have impressive credentials. They have won eight straight for a 9-2 record after early season losses to Notre Dame and South Carolina.
Moreover, Michigan's defense has not allowed a touchdown since an Oct. 25 game against Illinois, or more than 18 quarters. Schembechler also has skilled offensive players, such as all-America wide receiver Anthony Carter, running backs Butch Woolfolk and Stan Edwards and quarterback John Wangler, who made a courageous comback from an offseason knee operation.
The Huskies, like the Wolverines, have a 9-2 record but are ranked only 16th in the wire service polls. Michigan is ranked fifth.
Washington's national image was damaged when it was upset by Navy, 24-10, in a nationally televised game in Seattle Oct. 25. Since then, the Huskies have won five straight, including a Rose Bowl-bid clinching 20-10 victory over USC Nov. 15.
Washington became a Rose Bowl cofavorite with Stanford only when the Pacific-10 ruled that five conference schools were ineligible to play in any bowl game or compete for the league title because of violations of conference academic rules.
The Huskies not only won the Pac-5 title, but the Pac-10 championship outright.
The Huskies aren't exactly a no-name team, but they don't have any highly publicized stars. Only placekicker Chuck Nelson made the Pac-10 All-Star Team.
Bur James has a well-balanced team, one that is more pass-minded than in previous years.