|Second-year coach David Shaw has Stanford headed to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 11 years. (US Presswire)|
In his first year as head coach at Stanford, David Shaw led the Cardinal to an 11-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl berth. Actually, lets rewrite that sentence: Andrew Luck led the Cardinal to an 11-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl berth.
Whether it was fair to Shaw or not, that's how most college football fans viewed Stanford's 2011 season. Shaw did win the 2011 Pac-12 coach of the year award, but many viewed his success as a product of Luck. So the question for 2012 became: could Shaw and Stanford win without Luck?
The short answer: yes.
The long answer: also yes.
If you look at Stanford's season as a whole, you'll realize how well Shaw actually coached this year. He dealt with two quarterback "situations." First, in fall camp, he picked Josh Nunes over Brett Nottingham to replace Luck. Then when Nunes wasn't cutting it, Shaw had no problem switching starting quarterbacks in the middle of the season. And the wild part: Shaw didn't even switch to Nottingham, he had an ace up his sleeve.
Shaw handed the keys to the Stanford offense to a young driver -- sophomore Kevin Hogan -- and we all know how scary young drivers can be. Instead of playing like a first-year starter though, Hogan came out and made Shaw look brilliant. In four starts, the sophomore QB went 4-0 going up against four ranked teams, including a Nov. 17 win over then-No. 1 Oregon.
That Oregon win meant that for the first time in school history, Stanford beat the AP No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same season -- USC was ranked No. 2 when the Cardinal beat them on Sept. 15.
Wins over the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country are nice, but if you're a Pac-12 coach, your fans only care about one thing: Rose Bowls.
And that's how Shaw will be remembered. Without Luck, he led the 2012 Cardinal to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 11 years. If you don't think Stanford fans are excited about the Rose Bowl, just take one look at the ticket sales: the school sold out its allotment of 31,000 tickets in less than 24 hours.
Even with two BCS berths under his belt in two seasons on the job, don't look for Shaw to exit Palo Alto any time soon. He went to school at Stanford (1991-94), he took a class with Stanford-grad Tiger Woods and he's coached at the school since 2007.
If anyone seems like a Stanford-lifer, it's David Shaw, the CBSSports.com's Pac-12 Coach of the Year.