The selection process for the Rose Bowl Game has, in a sense, gotten easier in the College Football Playoff (CFP) era. In what is known as a “traditional” Rose Bowl Game year, like the 2019-20 college football season, the Rose Bowl Game is contractually obligated to feature the Pac-12 Conference Champion and the Big Ten Conference Champion. The contract, known as a tri-party agreement, is between the Tournament of Roses, Big Ten and Pac-12. It is the longest consecutive bowl and conference agreement in college football, dating back to 1946, and was first executed in the 1947 Rose Bowl Game.
In both the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and the CFP, if Pac-12 or Big Ten Conference Champion was selected to the National Championship or National Semifinals, that team was released to play in that game and the Tournament of Roses would select a replacement team. In the past, that allowed teams like the University of Texas (2005, 2006) or Texas Christian University (2010) to play in the Rose Bowl Game. Now, however, in the CFP-system, the Tournament of Roses may only select a team from its partner conferences.
Should a team from the Big Ten or Pac-12 be selected to go to the College Football Playoff, the Tournament of Roses will traditionally select the next-highest CFP-ranked team from that conference. There is, however, a caveat to that clause in the contract.
“If the next-highest ranked team is in a ‘cluster’ of teams, meaning there is another team or teams from the same conference ranked within several spots of each other, the Tournament of Roses will select the team from that cluster that will result in the best possible matchup for the Rose Bowl Game,” said Rose Bowl Management Committee Chair Scott Jenkins.
In a cluster situation, the Tournament of Roses will take into account factors, in no particular order, such as: the last time a team played in the Rose Bowl Game, head-to-head results, regular season schedule, overall record, opponents played, past playoff or bowl appearances and performance, and historical matchups.
It should be noted that it is the strong preference of the Tournament of Roses, Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences, that the highest-ranked available team in each conference be selected as the replacement team.