Mario Cristobal in favor of playoff expansion but relishing the "Granddaddy of Them All"

LOS ANGELES — The head coaches turned to each other as Cheshire cat grins spread across their faces.

Oregon’s Mario Cristobal and Wisconsin counterpart Paul Chryst were asked during Tuesday’s final pre-Rose Bowl media availability if they would like to see the College Football Playoff expanded to eight teams.

The Pac-12 champion Ducks (11-2) and Big Ten runner-up Badgers (10-3) finished No. 6 and No. 8, respectively, in the final playoff rankings.

“You go, Mario,” Chryst said during the joint press conference in a downtown Los Angeles hotel.

Oregon and Wisconsin would obviously like to be competing for a national championship, but the teams are not approaching the “Granddaddy of Them All” as a consolation prize.

“I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. So I want to make sure that part is clear,” Cristobal said. “There’s a lot of teams worthy of playing it out. We take pride in being such a competitive sport and determining who the winners are on the field.

“I think anytime you could include more in that party, it’s a good thing.”

Oregon defeated Florida State five years ago in the inaugural College Football Playoff game at the Rose Bowl. The Pac-12 has not had a team selected the last three seasons.

No. 2 Ohio State lost to No. 3 Clemson, 29-23, in one national semifinal with No. 1 LSU severely outclassing No. 4 Oklahoma, 63-28, in the other last Saturday, which doesn’t help the argument for playoff expansion.

The Ducks were in contention until losing 31-28 at Arizona State on Nov. 23. The Badgers were upset by Illinois and blown out by Ohio State before losing in the Big Ten championship game to the Buckeyes.

“We’re fortunate there’s a ton of people that care about it,” Chryst said of the College Football Playoff. “I’m going to let them figure it out. Like Mario said, this experience that our players get to be a part of, I think if you asked every one of these players, this is very unique. I know both teams were grateful for it.”

Pittman officially back

Cristobal confirmed wide receiver Mycah Pittman, who suffered a broken arm Nov. 16 in a home victory over Arizona, has been cleared by the medical staff to play in the Rose Bowl.

The true freshman has 14 receptions for 197 yards and two touchdowns in six games this season.

“Mycah will be playing,” Cristobal said. “He's been practicing with us. We always mentioned that there was a good chance he would. He has been cleared, and we're excited to have him back.”

The Ducks are healthier at wide receiver entering their 14th game of the season than they were for the opener against Auburn when Pittman was out with a shoulder injury and senior Juwan Johnson was also unavailable with a leg injury.

“We’ve been excited by all the guys who had an opportunity to grow in this offense,” offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “I think Juwan has done a great job stepping in and working through some injuries and really fighting back throughout the second half of the season.

“Young guys that show up that are with you for a short time, Mycah Pittman and examples like that, young guys that have had a chance to perform when their number has been called.”

Family ties

The Rose Bowl will be an emotional matchup for Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn, whose father Paul was an offensive lineman for Oregon from 1980-82.

Paul Sanborn died in 2005 and his son — who leads the Badgers with 72 tackles, including nine for loss — grew up rooting for the Ducks.

“It's special,” Chryst said of Sanborn getting to play Oregon at the Rose Bowl. “For his family, there's a unique tie to it, yet I think it's all about this moment. They've done a good job. The family's out here and taking it all in. …

“I don't know that it tugs any more or less. You're talking about his dad and all he went through, and he was younger. But it certainly is unique.”

Notable

• Touted true freshman Sean Dollars, who had a 63-yard touchdown run against Montana but is redshirting this season, played the lead role of Wisconsin star running back Jonathan Taylor on Oregon’s scout team during practices leading up to the Rose Bowl.

• Despite the return of Pittman, Daewood Davis practiced with the second-team receivers here instead of moving back to cornerback.

Quotable

“This is a game of ups and downs. When there’s adversity, the real person shows up,” Oregon offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said when asked about sending the seniors out at the Rose Bowl three years after a 4-8 finish for the Ducks. “So it’s not a surprise that they persevered just because of their upbringing and who are they are as people.”

Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email questions to rthorburn@registerguard.com. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.