Planning for success: Stanford

As far as the bowl picture is concerned, Stanford's win against Oregon didn't do a whole lot for the Cardinal. Going in, Oregon was earmarked for the National Championship, which would have left the door open for a second straight Rose Bowl appearance for the Cardinal.

And while the win brought the Pac-12 title back in play, it also added an additional hurdle for Stanford to get back to Pasadena in the form of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

No one is complaining on The Farm, but as attention shifts to surging USC it's hard not to revisit the loss to Utah. The 27-21 defeat looks even worse now that the Utes, still without a second Pac-12 win, have dropped three straight and Stanford got through Oregon.

Stanford coach David Shaw, as coaches tend to do, looks at it in another way. He noted the similarities between it and the loss to Notre Dame a year ago, which preceded eight straight wins to close the season.

"Thankfully we have the leadership on the team that doesn't sulk and to say, 'Let's learn our lesson and move forward,'" he said. "I think we've played with a better sense of urgency every week since then.

We've done better closing games, finishing games out."

It's a trait, based on recent history, that could be vital Saturday in Los Angeles. Stanford has squeaked out wins the last three years against the Trojans and Shaw is expecting something similar unfolds this time.

"The crowd will be into it; they're going to be into it," he said. "It's a big game for both teams in respect to where we are in the conference. I'm expecting it to be wild and crazy and come down to the end of the game."

With what's at stake, Stanford shouldn't have any trouble finding motivation, but among the goals the team sets every year is to be the best in California.

Senior guard Kevin Danser, one of Stanford's few Northern California native, worded it differently.

"We want to be the kings of California and sweep out all the other California teams," he said.

Asked if he felt the same way, linebacker Shayne Skov treaded lightly.

"Got to be careful with bulletin board material with that one. We want to be the best team in the Pac-12, and part of that means being the best team in the state," he said. "We take pride in dominance of the state. I'm not saying we do (dominate the state), but at the end of the season, if we do, we take pride in that."