The Stanford Cardinal have positioned themselves quite nicely for a BCS bowl.
With a 27-23 victory over the Oregon State Beavers, the team has improved to 8-2 on the year and has won four straight games.
After losing so much talent from a year ago, many believed that the Cardinal were going to take a step backwards in the Pac-12, but it has been quite the opposite this year. Stanford now has two victories over Top 25 programs and could have possibly won the game against Notre Dame that ended with a highly questionable call at the end in overtime.
But now with a victory over Oregon State, Stanford moves into second place in the Pac-12 North and is quietly chasing the Oregon Ducks. While Chip Kelly's high-flying team hasn’t shown many weaknesses, next week’s matchup against Oregon now becomes that much bigger for Stanford.
The goal has been to appear in the BCS Rose Bowl this season, according to Jon Wilner of the Mercury News.
"We've definitely put ourselves in position to actually get to our goal," linebacker Jarek Lancaster said before the game against Oregon State. "Every game is like a playoff."
With the Cardinal winning today, Stanford remains alive to make those goals a reality.
If Stanford can somehow find a way to win the game in Autzen Stadium, the path for the Cardinal to reach the BCS Rose Bowl becomes almost a certainty. If Stanford can continue to run the table the rest of the way, the school will play for the Pac-12 Championship Game, knocking out Oregon from the conversation.
The Cardinal will then likely play a USC team that it has already beaten this year, or a UCLA team that has been inconsistent the entire season. You would have to like the team’s chances in either situation.
But with today's victory, Stanford could still make the big game even if it loses to Oregon next week.
If the Ducks happen to finish the season undefeated, it is likely the team will be selected as one of the two squads to play in the BCS National Championship. This would then open up an at-large selection in the BCS Rose Bowl, making Stanford a strong candidate, especially with the constant struggles of USC this year.
So how does Stanford actually compete with Oregon to make this possibility a reality?
Well, the Cardinal have played terrific defense all year long, forcing 22 turnovers in 10 games. It is a physical bunch that is arguably the best in the Pac-12 and creates nightmares for opposing quarterbacks, as it entered the Oregon State game with 39 sacks on the year.
Running back Stepfan Taylor has also found his mojo on the offensive side of the ball, rushing for 114 yards and a score against a tough Beavers defense. If he is able to continue running like that, it could be a long day for the Top 3 team in the country.
Oregon has been lighting up the scoreboard all season long, and although Stanford doesn't have the household names that the Ducks have, the Cardinal are still only one game behind them in the Pac-12 North.
Stanford increased its chances to reach its goal with a victory, but it is next week’s matchup that is now bigger than ever.
The Cardinal has another playoff game ahead of them.