The game was presiding over by the 1994 Royal Court and Rose Parade Grand Marshal William Shattner. Members of the Royal Court are: (Queen Erica Beth Brynes, Princesses Nicole Bangar, Therese Erdman, Shannon Mall, Sabrina Prud'homme, Shannon Sheldon and Jennifer Trayner). Tournament of Roses Interim President Michael E. Ward.
Ohio State lost to Michigan 0-28 in their annual rivalry game. Wisconsin and Ohio State ended the season with identical 9-1-1 records with 6-1-1 conference records, and tied the only time they met during the season in a game at Camp Randall (college football did not adopt "overtime" to resolve ties in regulation until the 1996 season). Wisconsin and Ohio State were co-champions of the Big Ten. Wisconsin won the Rose Bowl invitation tiebreaker due to Big Ten rules which resolved first-place ties by eliminating the most recent invitee: Wisconsin had last been to the Rose Bowl in 1963, while Ohio State was in the 1985 Rose Bowl.
UCLA opened the season with two close losses: 25-27 against California, and 13-14 against Nebraska. The Bruins then won seven in a row, including a win over #7 Arizona. They lost 3-9 against Arizona State. The 1993 UCLA-USC rivalry game had the Pac-10 championship and the Rose Bowl berth on the line for both the Bruins and the Trojans. UCLA won 27-21 at the Coliseum. Arizona was tied for first, but did not receive the Rose Bowl invitation because of the head-to-head loss at UCLA. This was coach Terry Donahue's last Rose Bowl appearance.