Stanford vs Cal: Cardinal Are Alive and Well in Pac-12 After Big Game Romp

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2012

BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 20:  The Stanford Cardinal celebrate with the Axe after beating the California Golden Bears in the 'Big Game' at California Memorial Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Saturday's 21-3 romp over the University of California in the Big Game not only ensured that the Stanford Axe remains in Cardinal possession for another year, but it should put to rest any thoughts that Stanford had no shot at reaching the Pac-12 championship game.

Don't let that score fool you—the game wasn't as close as it appears. Stanford held Cal to three yards rushing on the day—a day that saw Stepfan Taylor carry the ball 28 times for a career-high 189 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that proved to be all the offense they needed.

The Cardinal sit at 3-1 in conference play, good enough for third place in the Pac-12 North behind division leader Oregon (4-0) and second-place Oregon State (3-0). In no way am I putting Cal on the same level as those two teams, but Stanford made Cal look like a high-school junior-varsity squad on Saturday.

With matchups against Washington State (0-4) and Colorado (1-2) the next two games on their schedule, the Cardinal will welcome Oregon State—presumably with an unblemished 6-0 conference record—into Stanford Stadium on November 10 with a 5-1 record in Pac-12 play.

The Beavers are no pushovers, but this game isn't in Corvallis. A Cardinal win would put them into a second-place tie, with Oregon next on tap the following week.

Obviously, the Ducks pose an even bigger mountain to climb than the Beavers do—Stanford hasn't beaten Oregon since the 2009 season—but a win is not impossible.

With both Oregon and Oregon State playing each other the following week, someone is going to lose, meaning that Stanford could be sitting in a first-place tie with a 7-1 record.

A trip to UCLA (2-2) wraps up Stanford's regular season. And an 8-1 record in conference play, with wins over Oregon State and Oregon, would be enough to get them into the final game of the Pac-12 season against either USC, who they beat in Week 3, or Arizona State, who they have not faced.

It's easier said than done, but Stanford has the horses needed to pull it off.

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