Stanford's Rose Bowl blueprint

Four specific strengths that could make the Cardinal Pac-12 champions

Updated: September 17, 2012, 11:43 AM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Stepfan Taylor Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesWhen Stanford gives Stepfan Taylor a hole, he has the running ability to make defenses miss.

The Stanford Cardinal's 21-14 triumph against the USC Trojans last weekend vaulted them from No. 21 in the AP Top 25 to No. 9, but it also could have served as something of a blueprint as to why the Cardinal have a real shot at winning the Pac-12 for the first time since 1999.

That blueprint has four cornerstones.

1. A dominant defensive front seven

This group shut down a Trojans rushing attack manned by two of the best running backs in college football in Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal, as USC managed to tally a meager 26 yards on the ground in 28 carries.

That raw total goes a long way toward showing that Stanford's run defense was overpowering, but the game tape and metric review make it clear just how truly dominant this group was.

To read the full story about Stanford's keys to winning a Pac-12 title, you must be an ESPN Insider.