While Tech brings plenty of momentum into the Orange Bowl, so does Stanford. The Cardinal blew an early 18-point lead in a loss to unbeaten Oregon in early October, then swept the final seven games to earn their first BCS bowl berth. Quarterback Andrew Luck finished second in the Heisman Trophy race, and the defense posted three shutouts.
Now Stanford seeks its first bowl win since the 1996 season. A victory would cap the four-year climb from the Pac-10 cellar to the sport's elite level.
"I was here during the dark days when the team was 1-11," says nose tackle Sione Fua, part of a senior class that led the turnaround. "To be where we are now has been great. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication, but it has paid off.
"We tell the freshmen and sophomores all the time, 'Man, you guys are here during the good times. When we were freshmen, football stunk, and we didn't want to be here. You guys are spoiled, going to a BCS game and staying at the Fountainbleau.'"
Stanford won four games in 2007, five in 2008 and eight in 2009, when the Cardinal earned a berth in the Sun Bowl, their first postseason game since 2001. This season's 11 wins overall and eight in the Pac-10 are school records.
Such success dispelled the notion Stanford's academic standards are too high to field a winning team.
"You do have that reputation — 'It's smart kids, can we play football?'" Keiser says. "This year we showed we can."
- Why one Mormon man left Hollywood to be a...
- Best and worst of the BYU, Utah and USU...
- High school football: 5A All-State teams
- High school football: 4A all-state teams
- Utah Jazz: Jazz forward Richard Jefferson...
- High school football: East's Ula Tolutau...
- High school football: 2013 Deseret News MVPs...
- BYU fan reflects: 6 lessons I learned at...
- BYU football: Cougars to play... 105
- Crystal ball commentary: National... 97
- Utah football: Utah coach Kyle... 79
- Utah basketball: Utes rally to defeat... 64
- Florida St-Auburn title game to usher... 50
- Dick Harmon: How would BYU's Taysom... 49
- Best and worst of the BYU, Utah and USU... 47
- Utah basketball: Runnin' Utes bounce... 43