PASADENA, Calif., Dec. 31 -- Next year, the Rose Bowl will be host of the national title game, but this year's granddaddy of the post season games is still a big-time event for Purdue and Washington.
"Playing in the Rose Bowl has always been a dream of mine," said Purdue quarterack Drew Brees, who will make it a reality when he leads the 14th-ranked Boilermakers against fourth-ranked Washington on New Year's Day.
As part of the Bowl Championship Series rotation, the Rose Bowl will host the title game following the 2001 season. This will likely be the last year that the game will feature opponents from the Big Ten and Pac-10 Conferences, an alignment that dates to 1946.
Washington (10-1) made a serious effort to end that tradition this season. The Huskies suffered their only loss to Oregon and could have been playing in the national title game in the Orange Bowl if a few things had bounced their way.
Washington posted its first 10-win season since 1991 and handed second-ranked Miami its only loss of the season, but somehow has been excluded from any consideration for a national title.
While most of the attention will be focused on Brees, the Huskies have a dynamic quarterback of their own in Marques Tuiasosopo, the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year with 2,146 passing yards and 14 TDs.
Rich Alexis, a freshman tailback who did not start the first month of the season yet finished with 726 yards in a rotation that includes Paul Arnold and Willie Hurst, has been a pleasant surprise for Washington.
The Huskies hope to have injured safety Curtis Williams in attendance. Williams suffered a severe spinal injury against Stanford on October 28.
Washington ranked 41st in the nation against the pass and will have its hands full with Brees, whose 11,815 total yards ranks fourth in NCAA history.
Brees threw 24 TD passes this season and has the Boilermakers in the Rose Bowl for the first time since a 14-13 win over USC following the 1966 season. While Tuiasosopo is generally considered a better runner than Brees, it was Brees who had the better overall rushing numbers. Brees ran for 534 yards and five scores while Tuiasosopo had 406 yards and six scores.
Favorite target for Brees is Vinny Sutherland, who had 65 catches, 24 of which were third-down conversions. Brees also operates behind a line that permitted just seven sacks in his 473 attempts.
Purdue (8-3), which won five of its last six games, is 6-2 in bowl games. Washington is in the Rose Bowl for the first time since appearing every year from the 1990 through 1992 seasons. The Huskies have lost five of their last six bowl games. Washington has won the last six meetings with Purdue, but the teams have not met since 1990.NEWLN: