ESPN ranked multiple classic matchups for new conference rivals

UCLA and games that they have played against Big Ten teams were listed in the top 50 best games in college football between teams that the majority will be new conference partners in 2024.
Rose Bowl: Michigan State v UCLA Bruins
Rose Bowl: Michigan State v UCLA Bruins / George Rose/GettyImages

UCLA was listed in five of the 50 all-time match ups ranked by ESPN.

No. 50: No. 5 Maryland Terrapins vs . No. 1 UCLA Bruins in 1955

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UCLA had an amazing defense back in 1955 with their only regular season loss to Maryland that season. The Bruins won the Pacific Coast Conference that season but ended up losing to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl by only three points.

No. 49: UCLA Bruins vs. Illinois Fighting Illini  (John Hancock Bowl) 1991

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In one of the closely and contested bowl games of the season, a defensive battle, these two teams played to a 6-3 bowl game finish. Years later they would meet again and follow it with another 6-3 match in 2003. The Bruins had a good season that year finishing being ranked No. 19 in the country. They won seven of their last eight games including wins over Oregon, USC, and Arizona during those stretch of games.

No. 27: No. 9 Wisconsin vs. No. 14 UCLA (Rose Bowl) 1994

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That season, Wisconsin finally received a long-awaited Rose Bowl bid after a 31-year drought. They forced seven fumbles in the game and recovered them all. The Badgers Darrell Bevell, the quarterback, scored the game's winning points in the fourth quarter to lead the team to its first-ever Rose Bowl victory.

UCLA if it wasn't for all of their turnovers played well in every other facet of the game. The produced more yards on offense then the Badgers by a 500 to 346 yard margin and had 192 more passing yards then Wisconsin as well.

No. 18: No. 17 UCLA Bruins vs. Northwestern Wildcats (Sun Bowl) 2005

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Seldom will you see a bowl game that went the way it did between the Wildcats and Bruins. Northwestern used two pick-sixes to take a 22-0 lead early in the game, but the Bruins responded with a huge momentum shift with a 36-0 UCLA run to put the Bruins ahead comfortably. However, with just under three minutes remaining in the game, Northwestern had narrowed the lead to 36-31, but UCLA returned an onside kick attempt for a score to seal the win for UCLA or that is what many Bruins thought. However with under 30 seconds remaining in the ball game, Northwestern scored once more, and UCLA's Brandon Breazell scored from another onside kick for the Bruins to seal the win for UCLA officially.

No. 3: No. 5 UCLA Bruins vs. No. 1 Michigan State Spartans (Rose Bowl) 1966

The matchup was a rematch of Michigan State's 13-3 victory in the season opener in East Lansing. Michigan State also prevailed in the two prior meetings between the Bruins and Spartans, which took place in 1954 and 1956.

It's one of those rare games that the Rose Bowl has produced so many times over the years—perfect weather and enormous stakes. UCLA had only lost once since their season-opening loss to Michigan State, so they were ready to exact revenge on the top-seeded Spartans but this time on their home field. UCLA legend Gary Beban scored a quick touchdown in the game, and UCLA recovered the ball with an unexpected onside kick, and Beban scored once more. Beban would later in his collegiate career win both the Maxwell Award and the Heisman Trophy in 1967.

That total of 14 was sufficient to secure an upset victory for UCLA that season. With just over six minutes remaining in the game, MSU's running back, Bob Apisa, scored on a 30-yard run, but a 2-point pass attempt for the Spartans failed. Then a UCLA punt was partially blocked by Hall of Famer Bubba Smith, and quarterback Steve Juday's touchdown with 31 seconds remaining made the score 14–12. However, the Bruins would hold to to win the game.

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