Earlier this week, the Michigan and USC football teams met on separate nights at Lawry’s The Prime Rib, a posh 69-year-old Beverly Hills restaurant, to be honored in the 51st Annual Lawry’s Beef Bowl for their stellar regular season accomplishments and forthcoming participation in the 2007 Rose Bowl Game.

During the course of their respective Beef Bowl events, Michigan consumed 613 pounds of prime rib and USC downed 630 pounds, making it the first time the Wolverines had lost in the legendary event since 1988, which, incidentally, coincided with Bo Schembechler’s last Rose Bowl victory in his coaching career on Jan. 1, 1989.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have to be envious of the Lawry’s Beef Bowl track record of predicting the Rose Bowl Game winner. Thirty-five Beef Bowl winners in the previous 50 years of the event’s history have gone on to win “The Granddaddy of Them All” for a .700 winning percentage.

Will it hold true this year? Strangely, Michigan is the only Big Ten team with a winning record in the Beef Bowl and a losing record in the Rose Bowl, so it came as a bit of a shock to local Los Angeles media covering the event when their Trojans staged the improbable prime rib upset.

Of course, this tradition is just as much tongue in cheek as it is beef in mouth, even though an official tally is conducted by the restaurant’s general manager, Todd Johnson.

“The event is a celebration of champions and not one of gluttony, as the media are sometimes wont to portray it,” says Johnson. “However, it reached legendary status long ago–back in the Seventies–with the players and the media, so we play along with it enough to keep it fun for everyone.”

The event originated in 1956, prior to the 1957 Rose Bowl Game, with the intent of honoring the student athletes who had won their respective conference championships. It was made possible because the Big Ten Conference and Pac-10 (back then it was the Pacific Coast Conference) already had a 10-year existing relationship with the Tournament of Roses Association and the Rose Bowl Game, and both conferences agreed to participate in the pre-game event.

Over the years, all sorts of enhancements have been made to the event’s program. The Rose Queen and her Royal Court are special guests at every event, and the players and coaches now receive limited edition trading cards, mini-footballs and pins, that are among the rarest Rose Bowl Game collectibles each year.

The Sporting News calls the Lawry’s Beef Bowl “the best tradition” of the college bowl game season. During its 51-year history (which happens to make the event older than 28 of the 32 bowl games staged this year) 159 consensus All-Americans and 12 Heisman Trophy winners have participated in the tradition.

A “who’s who” list of college football’s greatest coaches have led their teams to Lawry’s on their road to the Rose Bowl, including Joe Paterno, Don James, Duffy Daugherty, Barry Alvarez, John McKay, John Robinson, Hayden Fry, Terry Donahue, Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, and even Woody Hayes.

However, Hayes only let his Buckeyes participate one time during his reign. That was the 1957 Beef Bowl, prior to the 1958 Rose Bowl Game. Ohio State won at both the training table and on the gridiron that season. Woody’s win-loss record in five other Rose Bowl Games when he wouldn’t let his players participate in the Lawry’s Beef Bowl? Yep, you guessed it. A dismal 1-4.

In total, 17,300 student athletes have been feted since 1956 in Beverly Hills and since 1983 at its sister Lawry’s Beef Bowl event in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl’s participating teams.

Last year, during the Golden Anniversary celebration of Lawry’s relationship with the Tournament of Roses Association and the Rose Bowl Game, Richard N. Frank, the chairman of Lawry’s and founder of the Beef Bowl event, was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

So, when you’re kicked back in front of the tube today, watching the Rose Bowl Game, keep in mind that history dictates that as winners of this year’s Beef Bowl, USC has a 70 percent chance of winning “The Granddaddy.”