Stanford will take on Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 7, hoping to beat the Sun Devils for the second time this season. A win, which would give give the Cardinal its second straight conference title, would undoubtedly force pundits to recognize Stanford's position atop the Pac-12.
When the Pac-12 comes to mind, the talk always seems to revolve around Oregon, especially with USC struggling to climb back to national prominence. The Ducks have the hip uniforms and the remarkable facilities, allowing them to make a splash on the national radar. And in truth, UO has built something special in Eugene.
However, with a victory come Dec. 7, it will be the Cardinal that have hoisted the hardware in back-to-back seasons. It will be those same Cardinal that stopped Oregon two years in a row on what many thought would be possible BCS Championship Game seasons for the Ducks.
Stanford is more than just those two wins, though. This team, with a Pac-12 Championship win, would be sitting at 46-7 over the last four seasons, including a 33-5 Pac-12 record. With David Shaw at the helm for three of those four seasons, and for two Pac-12 Championships, it would be less about him continuing the run of Jim Harbaugh, and more about him building on that success.
As Stanford football notes, these seniors—with the help of some star talent that left for the NFL early—have built a lot in their four years.
More than just building, the Cardinal are building a champion out of that success.
This Stanford program, much like its coach, is the real deal. A win over the Sun Devils would be a firmly planted flag to let the nation know that the Pac-12 is the Cardinal's conference and the Ducks just live there. By laying Arizona State to bed next weekend, it would be clear that the road to the conference title runs through The Farm.
Of course, that is all predicated on the Cardinal getting a victory over the Sun Devils, likely on the road in Tempe. The Sun Devils team that the Cardinal made light work of in September, winning 42-28 in Palo Alto, is not the same squad Stanford will be facing next weekend. Since that September contest, the Sun Devils have ripped off eight wins and enter the Pac-12 Championship as a team looking to avenge the early-season loss.
The Cardinal will have its hands full with running back Marion Grice, if he's healthy, as well as quarterback Taylor Kelly and defensive linemen Will Sutton and Carl Bradford; all of whom have come into their own in the back half of the season. A win will not come easy, but the rewards will be bountiful.
Shaw's team will hoist the trophy and set up the travel details for a Rose Bowl trip for the second year in a row. A win will also mean the nation has to start recognizing the Cardinal for what they are: the class of the Pac-12, sitting on back-to-back titles.