Wisconsin entered the game as a co-champion of the Big Ten Conference (with Purdue) and a 6-2-1 record (4-1-1 in conference). Wisconsin and Purdue did not meet. The out of conference loss was to UCLA, while the conference loss was to Ohio State. Wisconsin tied Minnesota in their season-ending rivalry game. This was the first bowl game appearance by the Badgers.
This was the first win by a Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) team over a Big Ten team since the Rose Bowl began its exclusive contract to pair the champions of these two conferences in 1946 (beginning with the 1947 Rose Bowl). This was only the second time in Rose Bowl history that the PCC representative defeated a team from the Big Ten, the only previous win being California's defeat of Ohio State in the 1921 Rose Bowl.
This game featured the fewest points scored in a Rose Bowl since the 0–0 tie in the 1922 Rose Bowl. As of the 2012 Rose Bowl, this game still stands as the second-fewest points ever scored in a Rose Bowl, and the fewest scored since the Rose Bowl started pairing the Big Ten and West (PCC/AAWU) champions for the game. Ironically, the next time these two teams met in a Rose Bowl (1963), they would combine to break the record for the most points ever scored in the game.