Published Saturday, December 1, 2012 AT 9:43 AM / Updated at 9:43 AM
Stanford awaits Big Ten title game winner
Jon Nyatawa Omaha World-Herald

One Rose Bowl spot has been solidified. Stanford hung on for a 27-24 win over UCLA Friday night, securing its first conference title since 1999.

As is tradition, The Cardinal (Pac-12 champs) will play the Big Ten’s best on Jan. 1. Nebraska and Wisconsin will slug it out Saturday — and the winner will have its hands full with a Stanford team that EVERYONE underrated three months ago.

Well, everyone except those in the Cardinal locker room. Stanford lost QB Andrew Luck, yet reached a BCS bowl game for the third-straight season. It finished the year with seven consecutive wins — including a 17-14 overtime victory at Oregon and two in a row over UCLA.

How’d this happen? Coach David Shaw, who seems like a master motivator (in addition to being a fantastic strategist), put it this way: “We recruit tough, smart kids that play well, that make plays.” Simple as that.

Shaw and his players aren’t surprised, but they celebrated accordingly with roses Friday night. As did this Stanford fan (thanks to USA Today for capturing that moment).

Now, the Cardinal will wait for its next opponent. As you might assume, the players don’t care who that is.

Said running back Stepfan Taylor: “We know whoever we play were going to be needing to prepare for them like we prepare for every game. It’s going to be a big game. It’s the Granddaddy of Them All, so we better be ready.”

About Jon Nyatawa

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008. He and his laptop, cell phone, tape recorder, pen and notebook all live in Lincoln. Follow him on Twitter: @JonNyatawa. Email him here: jon.nyatawa@owh.com. He welcomes feedback.