When Stanford dropped a 16-6 decision to Northwestern in Week 1, it seemed like the Cardinal were headed back to pre-Harbaugh irrelevance. But, as the season went on, the Wildcats showed themselves to be a quality football team, taking away the sting of the loss, and Stanford won their next five.Thanks to Oregon's meltdown, however, the national attention for the Pac-12 shifted from the more recent powers in the North (the Ducks and Cardinal) to the surprise standout from the South, No. 3 Utah.
Despite the lack of national attention, Stanford kept grinding out wins, moving up the polls and quietly securing the North.
Thanks to some Thursday night spotlight, a nothing-short-of-magical catch and a career day for a certain Cardinal tail back, Stanford found itself back in the AP Top Ten.
Stanford welcomed then-No. 18 UCLA to Palo Alto Thursday night, but, as soon as the clock started rolling, all hospitality went out of the window. Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey racked up 369 total yards and four touchdowns; meanwhile, Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan added three more touchdowns through the air, including a deep pass to Francis Owusu that the wide receiver inexplicable was able to pin against the defenders back for the completion. When all was said and done, Stanford won the shootout 56-35.
That stellar showing was enough to get some respect from the pollsters, but it may not have been enough to shift national attention to Palo Alto.
Regardless, if Stanford keeps doing what they've been doing, quietly winning week-after-week, the spotlight will come. The Cardinal will have a tough final stretch, but they wont have a challenge until then. And, it definitely would be presumptious to think that Stanford will beat No. 20 Cal, No. 11 Notre Dame and No. 3 Utah, in the last two weeks and the Pac-12 Championship respectively.
Then again, it would've been presumptious to think that Stanford would win five straight and be ranked 10th after the week one loss to Northwestern.
So, perhaps, it pays off to be presumptious in Palo Alto.
In that case, start booking your flight to Glendale, Cardinal fans.