'Traditional' Rose Bowl? Look a little closer

Stanford arrives via the still-new Pac-12 title game, and Wisconsin has five losses. But then, tradition constantly needs to be recalibrated nowadays.

This is being called a "traditional" Rose Bowl because the football champions of the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences just hit town, went to Disneyland, plan to eat wheelbarrows of prime rib and then play in the sacred Jan.1 post-parade time slot.

Stanford, representing the West, got here the old-fashioned way — by defeating UCLA twice in six days after putting down USC for a fourth straight season.

Wisconsin won the Big Ten, fair and square, by finishing third in its division and then crushing old (well, not so much) league nemesis Nebraska.

TIMELINE: College football 2012-13 bowl schedule

Stanford and Wisconsin played a combined six overtime games this season. In the old days those would have been called "ties."

OK, so maybe this isn't quite how your granddaddy remembers it, but in football's changing modern age tradition constantly has to be recalibrated.

Stanford is still the school that does things the right way … even though it did leave one player home this week because of an NCAA violation. The whiz kids also placed three players on the Pac 12's all-academic first team. Only Utah (five), Arizona (four) and Colorado (four) had more first-team selections.

Of course, everyone knows Arizona has never been to a Rose Bowl primarily because it would never put football ahead of the classroom. And Utah and Colorado have been perennial academic Pac-12 stalwarts for what seems like months now.

You want tradition?

Meet Wisconsin's three head coaches … since Dec. 1.

Bret Bielema handled the yearly yeoman's load and even took part in a Dec. 2 conference call welcoming this season's participants to college football's most hallowed bowl event.

"We're proud of where we are and who we are and what we represent and are very excited to play in the Rose Bowl," Bielema said.

Within a week, he was the head coach at Arkansas, saying how happy he was to finally be in the big leagues.

"I grew up, ironically, on a pig farm," Bielema said at his introductory news conference in Fayetteville.

Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin's athletic director, became Wisconsin's second head coach of December after players talked him into coming out of sideline retirement for one last float ride.

It seems the players actually want to win a Rose Bowl after going 0-2 under Bielema.

"I was surprised, totally caught by surprise," Alvarez said of Bielema's defection.

Alvarez was 3-0 in Pasadena during his coaching tenure in Madison before retiring in 2005. Alvarez, four years ago, was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

This "interim" tag works out perfectly.

"I always liked to coach big games," Alvarez said.