November 23, 2013: The Day Everything Went Right.
Stanford beat Cal by 50 points and Arizona deboned Oregon within an hour of each other. The Wildcats became the toast of Palo Alto and the Cardinal is back in business for the Rose Bowl.
The Pac-12 is really something else this year.
Perhaps it's just finally reciprocation for work already done: Stanford beating Oregon the last two years has helped other teams (namely, Alabama and Florida State), and now someone finally beat Oregon to help Stanford out. To have it happen in the middle of the most lopsided Big Game in history was just the icing on the cake.
It was shocking watching the Wildcats make Oregon look like... not Oregon. Suddenly, Oregon looks a lot more fallible than in years past, and the Ducks' poor play in Tucson should have Stanford fans feeling optimistic about the Cardinal's future in the Pac-12 North. But in the short term, it set up a rematch of the Cardinal and the Arizona State Sun Devils in an interesting Pac-12 title game.
Arizona State has probably been playing the best football in the conference since it lost to Stanford way back in September, reeling off six straight wins after what could have been a demoralizing loss to Notre Dame.
[Of course, now would be an appropriate time to discuss in more depth how many drugs the Pac-12 is on this season. Utah's only conference win is over Stanford. Arizona absolutely dominates Oregon right after the Ducks get back on track to win the North. Ed Orgeron has made USC into a force to be reckoned with. UCLA's best player may be a linebacker who was converted to running back two weeks ago.]
Sure, Arizoan State's win streak hasn't always been pretty (a one-point win over Utah and a near-choke against UCLA stand out), but it's got the Sun Devils riding high coming into a matchup with Arizona in a game that will decide the title game's location. Win, and ASU hosts the Cardinal in the biggest game in program history since the 1997 Rose Bowl. No pressure.
There's a big difference between Palo Alto and Tempe in December, and Stanford has been a much better team at home this season, so the most important game for Cardinal fans to watch next week may not even be the Cardinal's matchup with Notre Dame (aka the Lennay Kekua Memorial Bowl). Now we'll just see if the "phone a friend" lifeline the Stanford used last week is still good this week.
One way or another, November 23, 2013 will go down as a good day in Stanford football history. And now we just have to wait and see if that leads to more Roses.