UCLA and Stanford each have 12 Rose Bowl appearances, with UCLA's last in 1999 and the Card's last in 2000, when they lost 17-9 to Ron Dayne and Wisconsin. USC leads the conference with 32 appearances (but trails Notre Dame 10-0 early). Washington is second with 14. Wisconsin and No. 14 Nebraska will meet Saturday in Indianapolis to determine the other half of the Rose Bowl matchup.
Wisconsin or Nebraska?
Lots of reasons to think Stanford would win should they advance to Pasadena. Per Sagarin, entering today, Stanford would be six-point favorites to Nebraska (10-2) and 10-point favorites to Wisconsin (8-4) on a neutral field. Both teams lost to their only Pac-12 opponents this year: a visiting Nebraska to these very Bruins, 36-30, and Wisconsin at Oregon State, 10-7. Plus, both offenses are run-first attacks, and against this Stanford front seven, you'd have to like the Cardinal's odds. Frankly, I like Stanford's chances against either squad, so I'm rooting for Nebraska, as that would be the more impressive scalp.
Oregon or Florida? Underrated possibility no one is talking about: I know Florida beat Florida State today, but Oregon also beat Oregon State (and more impressively) and was only .012 behind the Gators in the BCS entering the day. Should Notre Dame lose, the Ducks could leapfrog the Gators and find their way into the national title game. [Edit: Okay, it just went final and the Irish hung on, but my point remains. Why isn't a one-loss Oregon in the national title mix? Why is it necessarily an SEC team? Maybe it's regionalism, but I would pick Oregon over Georgia or Florida.]
It feels weird typing this sentence, but Stanford is stacked in the defensive backfield, now and for years to come. Meanwhile, with Jamal Rashad Patterson and Ty Montgomery inconsistent at times, the Cardinal are busily looking for answers at receiver.
Jordan Richards had the nicest catch of the day on a Brett Hundley ball, and we have speed and athleticism in spades in the backfield. Could we move Richards or, better yet, some second- and third-string DBs to the other side of the ball? After all, Stanford loved making moves like this in recent years under Jim Harbaugh, and they usually worked out quite well. Owen Marecic is one example, and likely future NFL All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, a converted receiver, is another.
Imagine you're an opposing DC. Now tell me that going against Wayne Lyons and Alex Carter doesn't scare you more than the current setup. If there's not time to pull this off by Friday, it would be a nice wrinkle for the bowl game, at which point, the coaching staff could assess and make more permanent moves to shore up the receiving corps for next season. Speaking of…
At Army, vs. Notre Dame and vs. San Jose State is the out-of-conference schedule. Oregon, USC and UCLA will be at home, and Arizona's off the slate. Basically, look at this schedule and replace Duke, Arizona and Colorado with Army, Utah and Arizona State. With USC stumbling and Oregon and Notre Dame seemingly have to take a step back next year (after all, they can't be much better), that looks tailor-made for a national title run.
More importantly, check out the two-deep. Stanford is guaranteed to lose only Drew Terrell, Sam Schwartzstein, Stepfan Taylor, and Jamal Rashad Patterson on offense, and of those guys, only Taylor has been a program-changer, no offense to the others. On defense, only Terrence Stephens and Chase Thomas are done with their five years of eligibility. Both are big losses, but the linebacking corps is ridiculously deep and David Parry held up well in his first start today.
Put differently, Stanford could return 16 starters next year, or let's make it 14 if Zach Ertz and one of his teammates go pro. And, of course, with recruiting improving by the year, the younger classes are (argubably) the most physically talented. No matter how you slice it, if Stanford wins out this year, they should not only finish in the top five, but be starting August in the same position. Watch out, world.
That's our take. Here are takes from around the country.
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