Pasadena, CA— Stanford sent a message to the rest of college football on a chilly Tuesday night at the 2013 Rose Bowl: We're baaaack.
Actually, the Cardinal never went anywhere, but they certainly shined in a brilliant 20-14 victory against the 8-5 Wisconsin Badgers.
Stanford's defense held Wisconsin to just one rushing touchdown despite 218 total rushing yards by the Badgers. Meanwhile, the Cardinal offense was fairly balanced—the Cardinal had 187 yards rushing and 157 passing.
Statistically speaking, the teams were even in several categories, including first downs (17 each), time of possession—Wisconsin 29:52, Stanford 30:08—and penalties—Wisconsin 4-for-40 yards and Stanford 6-for-48 yards.
It was Stanford's defense, however, that made the difference, holding Wisconsin scoreless in the second half. Even Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez acknowledged the Cardinal's defensive performance.
"Quite frankly, they're a very good defensive front," Alvarez said. "They were jamming the middle up pretty good."
The Cardinal finish the season as the Pac-12 champions as well as Rose Bowl champions—the last time Stanford won a Rose Bowl was on January 1, 1972. For perspective, Stanford's team name was the Indians, not the Cardinal.
Sure it's been awhile—actually 41 years—but the Stanford Cardinal, under underrated head coach David Shaw, are now back in the driver's seat with returning quarterback Kevin Hogan. Running back Stepfan Taylor won't be returning, but no one is going to write off Stanford due to a loss of a key player anymore.
We learned our lesson when Andrew Luck graduated in 2011 and we didn't put much stock in Stanford's 2012 season.
So what does the future look like at Stanford? Red, white and lots of championships, just like that team in Tuscaloosa.
In fact, Stanford looks and feels like Alabama with its power running, stout defense and disciplined execution. Close your eyes and you're watching Alabama with a big "S" on its helmets. Stanford's rise to prominence—albeit not nearly as storied as some former Alabama teams—has been remarkable.
The Cardinal's 2012 12-2 season was only the second time in school history that the program has won 12 games in one season (the other year was 2010).
Stanford isn't a fluke. Its eight-game winning streak was somewhat foreseeable, but now that it's in our faces and showing a little swag, embrace it.
The Pac-12 could use a non-finesse team to represent the conference, no disrespect to Oregon—or USC, for that matter. The Pac-12 needs an Alabama-type team to garner more respect east of the Muddy.
@lisahorne Stanford's uni's look like Bama on stage!!! Stanford belongs in SEC!!!!!
— Sam (@tide19611) January 2, 2013
When SEC fans notice Stanford's similarities to SEC teams—and specifically to a team like Alabama—it's time for the other 11 Pac-12 teams to start worrying.
Stanford has already stolen Oregon's thunder this year.
Is it time to steal an SEC champion's thunder as well?