The Stanford Cardinal nearly managed to give the lowly Washington State Cougars their first Pac-12 win of the season, but a 25-yard fourth-quarter interception return by Ed Reynolds sealed the deal for the No. 17-ranked team in the nation.
Stanford was not projected to be as good as the Andrew Luck-led team that went to the Fiesta Bowl last year, and they haven't been. However, the current team has proven that it is not too far behind and has shed the stigma that it was only good because of its Heisman candidate quarterback.
Saturday's win was paramount to the Cardinal's aspirations of going to back-to-back BCS bowls. Oregon and Oregon State are still undefeated and tied atop the Pac-12 North. However, Stanford controls its own destiny with those two still to come on the schedule.
Stanford uses an old-school run to set up the passing game. Stepfan Taylor has carried a lot of the load on offense. Taylor is threatening to be Stanford's all-time leading rusher, and will likely hit the mark at some point this season.
The senior back has carried the ball over 20 times in every game this season except for once, and that was in a 50-13 blowout win against Duke. Taylor needs only 154 more yards to break the 1,000-yard mark for the third time in his college career.
Despite the flack that Josh Nunes has taken this year, he has led a better-than-average passing attack. Saturday was the first time Stanford has won when Nunes was held under 200 yards. In their two losses this season, Nunes only threw for 125- and 170-yard totals. Saturday, Nunes was only 7-of-15 for 136 yards and a touchdown.
Outside of the game against Arizona where the defense allowed 48 points, the Cardinal defense has been elite. The stingy defense has allowed just under 13 points a game if you exclude the game against the Wildcats.
The Cardinal's two losses are an area of concern. Coming off the big upset victory of USC, Stanford came out flat against a very average Washington team, losing 17-13. The team recovered with a big overtime win against the Arizona Wildcats at home, but then dropped a tight game to then-No. 7 Notre Dame.
While the game went down as a loss, the Stanford players learned a lot about themselves after their battle with the Irish. The team learned that they can run with the country's elite teams.
If the Cardinal manage to knock off two top-10 opponents in Oregon and Oregon State, Stanford would be among the elite teams in the nation and would have earned their place in the Rose Bowl.