Stanford should be considered among the nation’s elite

Is it time to call Stanford a college football power?

In the past three seasons, the Cardinal are 35-5 and played in three BCS bowl games, and amassed a 2-1 record, including Tuesday night’s hard-fought 20-14 win against Wisconsin for the university’s first Rose Bowl win since 1972.

The Cardinal weren’t supposed to be this good.

When All-American quarterback Andrew Luck left to be the first pick in the NFL draft after last season, this program was supposed to take a step back. It was supposed to rebuild, get its bearings, be a force in a couple years.

But Stanford didn’t see it that way.

After shuffling its quarterbacks and deciding on freshman Kevin Hogan, the Cardinal we’re unstoppable. Hogan beat four consecutive ranked teams before the Rose Bowl victory.

So what’s it going to take for this team to be considered among the elite?

It will finish in the Top 5 in the AP poll and probably start in the Top 10 next season. Sure, the program isn’t playing for national championships yet, but with its win over Oregon this year, it will be the best program in the Pac-12 come 2013.

All it needs is an undefeated campaign to make that national championship berth a reality.

Tuesday’s Rose Bowl wasn’t pretty, but Stanford got the job done.

The Cardinal jumped out to a 14-0 lead and then its offense went into hiding for the bulk of the next three quarters. The defense, which has been the team’s strongest side all season, shut down a Wisconsin team that came in with star running back Montee Ball, the Doak Walker Award recipient, and confidence after a 70-point offensive performance against Nebraska in the Big Ten title game.

But Stanford handled the challenge with poise like they have all season. It’s been tough to rattle the Cardinal and that’s the sign of a team that is not only confident, but one that deserves to be among the nation’s best.

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