For the 2005 season, the Rose Bowl also served as the BCS National Championship Game as a result of the Bowl Championship Series agreement. In the weeks leading up to the 2006 Rose Bowl, the game was described by numerous publications as one of the most-anticipated match-ups in college football history and even as the greatest college football game of all time. This was Texas' second trip to the Rose Bowl in school history, alongside their trip the previous season.
Less than three weeks before the game, USC Trojan Reggie Bush won the Heisman trophy—since vacated—ahead of second place finisher Vince Young. Bush had the second highest number of first place votes in Heisman history (behind O.J. Simpson) and the highest percentage of first place votes, while Young had a record number of second place votes. Bush's 933-point margin of victory was the 17th highest in the history of the Heisman voting. The third finalist was USC's Matt Leinart, who won the Heisman trophy in 2004. This Rose Bowl would mark the first time two Heisman trophy winners would ever play in the same backfield.
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