UW Huskies have history with the Big Ten: 5 memorable matchups

Aug 12, 2023, 1:40 PM

UW Huskies Big Ten...

UW Huskies QB Marques Tuiasosopo moves with the ball during the Rose Bowl Game. (Photo by Stephen Dunn /Allsport)

(Photo by Stephen Dunn /Allsport)

Thanks in no small part to the Pac-8/10/12’s longstanding affiliation with the Rose Bowl, the UW Huskies have plenty of history against current Big Ten programs.

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For decades, the Pac-12 champion was guaranteed a bid to face the Big Ten champion on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif. UW has played in 14 Rose Bowls throughout its history, with 11 of those matchups coming against current Big Ten members. The Huskies’ all-time non-conference schedule is littered with Big Ten opponents, too. In fact, UW’s four most frequent non-conference/bowl game Power 5 opponents are all in the Big Ten: Minnesota (17 games), Michigan (13), Ohio State (12) and Illinois (11). The Huskies also have faced Nebraska 10 times.

Excluding the other Pac-12 defectors — USC, UCLA and Oregon — here are five memorable games UW has played against schools currently in the Big Ten. UW announced last week that it will join the conference next summer.

Jan. 1, 1992: Washington 34, Michigan 14 (Rose Bowl)

The greatest season in UW football history ended with a decisive victory over the Wolverines. It capped the Huskies’ only unbeaten season in the modern era, a perfect 12-0 record that secured a share of the 1991 national championship (with unbeaten Miami). It also produced one of the more memorable individual moments in program history: star receiver Mario Bailey striking the Heisman pose after catching a 38-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Bailey was mimicking star Michigan receiver Desmond Howard, that year’s Heisman winner, who had struck a similar pose after a punt-return touchdown against Ohio State.

Don’t forget, either, about UW’s victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl to cap the 1977 season — Don James’ first appearance in the game — or the Huskies’ wild wins over the Wolverines at Husky Stadium in 1983 and 2001.

Jan. 2, 1961: Washington 17, Minnesota 7 (Rose Bowl)

UW’s only loss in 1960 was a 15-14 defeat to Navy in Week 3, or else the Huskies might have sailed to a national title. Instead, the Huskies entered this Rose Bowl ranked No. 6 in the AP poll, facing the No. 1-ranked Golden Gophers and star quarterback Sandy Stephens. UW’s own star quarterback, Bob Schloredt, returned from injury to guide the Huskies to an upset victory — it was Minnesota’s first ever Rose Bowl appearance, but the Gophers were favored by a touchdown — and earned Rose Bowl MVP honors for the second year in a row.

The AP released its final poll of the season prior to bowl games back then, so Minnesota still was able to lay claim to a national championship. In 2007, UW formally recognized the 1960 Huskies as national champs, citing the Helms Athletic Foundation’s postseason poll that ranked UW No. 1.

Sept. 19, 1992: Washington 29, Nebraska 14

This is where realignment alters history a bit: the Cornhuskers, of course, were members of the Big Eight at the time (the Big 12 was founded in February 1994), and didn’t jump to the Big Ten until 2011. But it’s still true that the Huskies are about to share a conference with a program involved in one of the most memorable nights in Husky Stadium history. UW was ranked No. 2, fresh off its unbeaten finish in 1991, and then-powerhouse Nebraska was ranked No. 12. This was a rare night game at Husky Stadium (though still a 5:30 p.m. PT kickoff) and it was televised nationally by ESPN.

That all combined to render Tommie Smith’s safety — on a sack of Nebraska quarterback Mike Grant — a legendary Husky Stadium moment. The broadcast famously noted the stadium’s decibel level measured at a then-record 133.6. The sellout crowd of 73,333 may have roared even louder as Smith blindsided Grant in the end zone for a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. UW rolled to a 23-7 halftime lead and never looked back.

UW’s 36-21 win at No. 9 Nebraska in 1991 deserves mention, too.

Jan. 1, 2001: Washington 34, Purdue 24 (Rose Bowl)

This list could be all UW-Michigan games, if we wanted it to be; the schools met four times just in the Rose Bowl between 1977-1992. But in an effort to diversify the opponents, we’ll submit the Huskies’ triumph over Drew Brees and the Boilermakers to cap an 11-1 season and cement a No. 3 national finish.

Led by senior quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, the Huskies’ only defeat came at Oregon in Week 4, and they won seven of their games that season by a touchdown or less. UW, Oregon and Oregon State actually tied for the Pac-10 title, with the Huskies winning the tiebreaker. The Beavers, also a one-loss team, blew out Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl to finish right behind UW in the final AP rankings at No. 4.

Sept. 13, 1986: Washington 40, Ohio State 7

The Huskies have won only three of their 12 games against the Buckeyes all-time, and have lost four in a row since their last victory in 1994. In 1986, though, the Huskies welcomed a top-10 Ohio State team to Husky Stadium and handed the Buckeyes their most lopsided loss of the season. Fun fact: Cris Carter scored Ohio State’s only touchdown.

The Buckeyes had lost by only six points the week prior to No. 5 Alabama, and, after losing in Seattle, won eight consecutive games before dropping a 26-24 decision to No. 6 Michigan in its season finale. Ohio State wound up beating Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl to finish with a 10-3 record and No. 7 final ranking. The Huskies finished 8-3-1 and ranked No. 17 after losing to Alabama in the Sun Bowl.

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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UW Huskies have history with the Big Ten: 5 memorable matchups