Thearon W. Henderson
The Cardinal punched their ticket to a Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000 with a win in the Pac-12 Championship.
Back and forth went the Pac-12 Championship with the Stanford Cardinal emerging victorious in an emotional 27-24 win over the UCLA Bruins on Friday night. The Cardinal are headed to Pasadena for the second time this season but won't be facing UCLA; they'll play the Big Ten Champion Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers are a familiar opponent for the Cardinal; that's who they faced last time they went to the Granddaddy of 'Em All in 2000 when they lost to Wisconsin 17-9.
This time though, Stanford holds a distinct advantage. They moved to No. 6 in the latest BCS rankings while Wisconsin isn't even sniffing the top-25. In fact, the Badgers are only playing in the Rose Bowl because the two teams that finished ahead of them in the Leaders division of the Big Ten, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions, are ineligible for postseason play.
Avinash Kunnath at Pacific Takes writes the Cardinal earned their way to a Rose Bowl without doing anything too spectacular, they just played good football.
There aren't any clutch stats for football, but it's hard to describe Stanford as anything but that. They didn't need a great quarterback or even a great coach, but just a philosophy that has defined the best football teams from beginning to end. Tough, smart, clutch football play. Nothing spectacular, nothing brilliant, just great execution on both sides of the ball. If someone makes a mistake, someone else picks up the slack. It's all about the team.
The Rose Bowl game takes place on New Years Day at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.