Only six years ago, Stanford football was the laughing stock of the Pac-10 and fielded one of the worst teams of all time.
The 1-11 Cardinal team was so bad that their players looked like a group of math and science geeks in football pads. In fact, they probably were.
Nowadays, business is different in Palo Alto.
In his four years as coach, Jim Harbaugh transformed Stanford football from a perennial joke to a year-in and year-out contender. The turnaround was nothing short of miraculous, as the Cardinal went 12-1 in Harbaugh's final season.
After bolting to the NFL, Harbaugh was replaced by then-running backs coach David Shaw, who is about to start his second season as Stanford head coach.
Although Shaw has inherited a good program with top-notch players, he undoubtedly has his work cut out for him. The Pac-12 is quickly becoming one of college football's elite conferences, and it's unlikely Shaw and the Cardinal will take home the Pac-12 title this year.
However, Shaw has an outstanding chance of winning the Pac-12 a few years down the road.
The road will be tough, but these factors reveal why Stanford is on the verge of a Pac-12 title.