With a 20-14 win over Wisconsin on Tuesday afternoon, Stanford brought home its first Rose Bowl victory in 41 years.
Get used to that happening a lot in the very near future.
After the Cardinal went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl in 2010, Jim Harbaugh departed for the NFL. Usually, that would signal a major step back for a program, but thanks to a certain quarterback named Andrew Luck, expectations remained sky high even without Harbaugh.
Stanford lived up to those expectations, going 11-2 and coming up just short against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
But this season was really supposed to be different.
Harbaugh was gone. Luck was gone. David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin and Coby Fleener were gone. The Cardinal managed to earn a preseason rank of No. 21, but a return to a BCS bowl was inconceivable.
Naturally, Stanford won 12 games, beat USC, beat Oregon, won the Rose Bowl and will likely finish the season ranked in the Top Five.
Nonetheless, don't be surprised if the pundits once again take the Cardinal down a notch in the offseason.
Dynamite running back Stepfan Taylor will be taking his talents to the NFL, the quarterback situation is still far from ideal, and although it's a month away from being final, the incoming class is ranked just 38th in the country.
But at this point, one thing should be clear: The talent level in Palo Alto doesn't matter anymore.
As long as head coach David Shaw is in control—and he will be—the Cardinal will always exceed expectations.
Shaw has done a marvelous job in his first two years as head coach (22-4), and he proved once again on Tuesday that it is his style that wins games, not the star-ranking behind his players.
His teams are tough. They win the battles in the trenches. They play aggressive, hard-nosed defense. They take good care of the ball and simply overwhelm teams.
You can keep taking away the Lucks and the Taylors, but Shaw will continue to get the most out of his players and sustain Stanford's recent winning ways, even if it isn't always a pretty sight to behold.
Happy New Year.
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