What if we had some fluky fumble returned for touchdown in the game we played against CU and lost? We then proceed to go on and be exactly the same team we wound up being. We'd be a better team than CU, but would not have been picked.
Seems to me saying "USC was better" is more arguing how many angels fit on the head of a pin than "CU earned it due to actually winning the division." One is assumption, the other is what was actually earned on the field. Remember, CU losing the conf champ game was required for them to TIE with us in the standings. Had they never played the conf championship game they'd have had the rose bowl.
The better team does not always get the RB. If UW didn't go to the playoff the RB would have taken them, though USC clearly was better head to head. The Rosebowl has always been EARNED as opposed to given to the team we suppose will play better.