Now that we've established that Notre Dame perhaps wasn't the best option to meet Alabama in the national championship game, what about Stanford?
Perhaps that's a bit unfair to the Fighting Irish. They weren't the only team this year that didn't stand a chance against mighty Alabama. It's just that they stood less of a chance than some of the other teams that faced Alabama this year, and it has caused us to take a cold, hard look at the other would-be contenders.
And really—what about Stanford?
Some may laugh. This, after all, is a team that lost to not-good-enough Notre Dame at one point this season—and however fluky and unlucky that overtime loss was, it was still a loss. But as we've seen from Alabama—another team that didn't finish this season with a pristine record—a loss does not define a season. The big wins do.
The Cardinal had a few of those. They beat Oregon, for one. And USC. And UCLA, two weeks in a row. Who says the Pac-12's best team isn't good enough to contend for a national title?
Whether or not Stanford could have or should have been in the mix for the national championship this year, we can say this much with certainty: Stanford is becoming a pretty impressive powerhouse, and it's even more impressive in light of all of the personnel it has lost over the last several years. The Cardinal have lost a star quarterback, a star head coach and a handful of star offensive linemen, and yet you wouldn't even know from what they have been able to do—especially this year.
This year was the most impressive one for Stanford in recent memory—perhaps even more impressive than what it was able to do with Andrew Luck at the helm—if only because of the fact that all of the odds were stacked against this team.
The two teams picked by most of the pundits to win their divisions in the Pac-12 in 2012 were USC and Oregon. One of those teams lived up to the hype. The other's first sign of turmoil came when it lost to—you guessed it—Stanford.
But we've seen plenty of teams triumph in spite of a lack of respect. What made this team special was that it lost a Heisman Trophy candidate who went on to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and it didn't even miss a beat.
The Cardinal managed a 12-2 season and a Pac-12 championship, plus a successful trip to the Rose Bowl.
There is little reason to believe Stanford won't be just as dangerous in 2013 as it was in 2012. And who says that a Pac-12 team can't contend for the national championship?
These Stanford teams seem to be getting better with age, and next year could be the year they go one step up from the Rose Bowl.