The Stanford Cardinal are the reigning Pac 12 Champions and proud owners of the Rose Bowl trophy. They have their quarterback of the future, Kevin Hogan, back and ready to lead their offense in 2013 behind one of the best offensive lines in the country. They’ll also have a stout defense returning that should be one of the toughest in the conference. Despite all of that, Stanford wasn’t even picked to win their division next season by the Pac 12 media. And David Shaw wouldn’t have it any other way.
Stanford’s rise to becoming a national football power has been slow, methodical and often done without a lot of attention or fanfare. They’ve developed elite, though not terribly flashy, talent at almost every position and do what it takes to win games. Shaw has instilled a winning culture in Palo Alto and understands that winning is all that really matters. He doesn’t have to win by 20-points to be satisfied with a win, which may be part of the perception problem they suffer from.
When Stanford gets a lead, Shaw knows what it takes to protect that lead and salt away the clock. That often means turning up the conservative play-calling and shortening the game, even if it doesn’t light up the score board. That results in close, “ugly” wins that won’t wow people who aren’t paying attention, but are extremely effective in getting Stanford where they want to be; at the top of the Pac 12.
Shaw isn’t interested in winning popularity or beauty contests. All that matters is winning football games. If that gets his team overlooked in preseason polls then so be it. While the world is mesmerized by the flashier teams around them, Shaw and the Cardinal will be powering their way back to the top in anonymity. Just the way they like it.