In the 2000 season, the Huskies shared the Pacific-10 Conference title with Oregon and Oregon State. Washington had given Oregon State their only defeat of the year 33-30. Oregon gave Washington their only defeat of the year 23-16. Oregon State beat Oregon in the 2000 Civil War game 23-13. Ultimately, it was a 23-37 loss at Wisconsin by Oregon earlier in the season that decided the Rose Bowl representative. With two losses, by the multiple team tie rules Oregon was out of the comparison. This left Oregon State and Washington, and the Huskies won the head to head matchup with the Beavers. Washington, Oregon State and Oregon were ranked 4th, 5th, and 9th respectively in the final regular season AP football poll.
The Big Ten champion Purdue Boilermakers, were led by quarterback Drew Brees. They did not have a particularly auspicious start, winning against Central Michigan and Kent before losing at Notre Dame. They defeated Minnesota, but then lost at Penn State. The Boilermakers made surprising wins in October starting with Michigan, then at Northwestern, at Wisconsin and finishing with Ohio State. A loss at Michigan State set them back, but a win over Indiana and losses by Michigan and Ohio State left them in a three way tie with Northwestern and Michigan. Purdue got the Rose Bowl invitation by virtue of the head to head victories over Northwestern and Michigan.
Washington, led by senior quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, the Rose Bowl MVP, finished the season at 11-1 and was ranked third in the final national polls. Rick Neuheisel became the only former Rose Bowl MVP to coach a Rose Bowl winning team.
Oregon State and Oregon both won their bowl games, and the final rankings were Washington 3rd, Oregon State 4th, and Oregon 7th in the final AP poll. Oklahoma, who was undefeated and beat Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl, was named the national champion.
This was Purdue's second Rose Bowl appearance, both of Purdue's starting Rose Bowl quarterbacks (Bob Griese and Drew Brees) started and won the Super Bowl.