After early season losses to #9 Missouri and unranked Michigan State, Michigan won 4 straight games before their showdown with heavily favored top ranked Ohio State for the Rose Bowl berth. Michigan shocked the college football world by upsetting the #1 ranked Buckeyes, 24-12.
The week before the Rose Bowl, Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler suffered a mild heart attack and had to miss the game.
Aided by a pass interference penalty and a controversial last minute touchdown, USC earned the Rose Bowl berth with a 14-12 win over rival UCLA in the season's final game. The only blemish on their record was a 14-14 tie at South Bend against Notre Dame. The Trojans were making their fourth consecutive Rose Bowl Game appearance.
The score was tied at 3–3 at halftime. With three minutes to play in the third quarter, USC quarterbackJimmy Jones threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Bob Chandler to give the Trojans the 10–3 victory.
USC finished the year undefeated with one tie, earning a #3 ranking behind undefeated and untied #1 Texas and #2 Penn State. Bob Chandler went on to play for the NFL for 11 years with the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders. Michigan finished 8-3 and was ranked 9th in the AP poll and 11th in the UPI poll.
↑Historical Media Guide, Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, 2009