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Every New Year's Day, the winner of the Big Ten conference plays the Pacific Ten conference champion in the "Granddaddy of Them All": the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Usually it's Michigan or Ohio State facing one of the West Coast powers: USC, UCLA or Washington. But this year, it's USC versus the Wildcats of Northwestern University. Northwestern? "It's phenomenal," says TIME's Julie Grace in Chicago. "People used to hide their [Northwestern] purple sweatshirts. Now, they're wearing them proudly down the middle of the street. A ticket to the Rose Bowl is the most expensive ticket in town. The city is completely into it. All of the alums are coming out of the woodwork to get tickets to the game." It has been a long time for Northwestern. The Wildcats last won the Big Ten title 59 years ago. Although they have won 10 games so far this year, they won only 11 in the four previous years combined.