That might make Notre Dame the choice for the Rose Bowl, in a history-making event. Otherwise, Rose Bowl organizers likely would remain loyal to the Pac-12.
Oregon still has some work to do to win the Pac-12 North championship, hosting Stanford next week and then visiting Oregon State. But let's concede the North title, a victory in the conference championship game and the No. 2 BCS spot to the Ducks. That makes Stanford the most interesting Rose Bowl contender new quarterback and all.
Stanford hosts Oregon State this week, then travels to Oregon and UCLA. By beating OSU and UCLA, Stanford likely would stay in the top 14. USC would move up by defeating Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame, but would probably not overtake Stanford considering the Cardinal beat USC in September.
Just to add more intrigue this week, Stanford is facing an Oregon State team that also made a quarterback change recently. This could be the first time in college football history that two highly ranked teams are meeting after having promoted new QBs by coach's decision.
"Both teams have to do what's necessary," said Stanford coach David Shaw.
Whether the biggest factor was the Colorado defense or the move to sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan, the Cardinal offense came to life last weekend. Shaw's plan was to give starter Josh Nunes and Hogan two possessions each, then re-evaluate. Hogan responded by leading six consecutive scoring drives. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 148 yards and ran for 48 yards in a 48-0 victory.
Hogan was not really involved in the initial competition to replace Andrew Luck, but his athletic ability led the Cardinal staff to create a specialty package for him. He's grown into the full-time job with a better understanding of the offense.
At Oregon State, Sean Mannion was restored to No. 1 after missing two games with a knee injury. But he struggled in a loss to Washington and was again replaced by Cody Vaz, who beat Arizona State last week.
Vaz will go against a Stanford defense that leads the Pac-12 and ranks No. 21 nationally in total defense, allowing 326.1 yards. In the last three games, the Cardinal held Cal, Washington State and Colorado to a total of minus-36 rushing yards.
Asked what stands out about Stanford's defense, OSU coach Mike Riley said, "Oh, man, everything does. It's impressive to watch, if you weren't playing against them."