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.