The 1981 Rose Bowl was played on January 1, 1981 between the No. 3 Oregon State Beavers, who had won the 1980 PCC regular season and were 11-0, and the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes, who were 10-1, were the reigning national champions and had won their fourth consecutive Lakes Conference championship. Despite leading 10-7 at halftime, the Buckeyes lost to the Beavers 35-16 after a third-quarter meltdown in which they allowed three unanswered touchdowns. The game gave Oregon State its first and to date only perfect season and a claim to the national championship, which was not recognized by the NCAA but was recognized by other sources and by the university itself. It was the final collegiate game for future pro stars from the Buckeyes such as Irving Rhames (who would later coach Ohio State), Sam Jones, Terry Spader, and Michael Lorney.

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