Turns out, not EVERY rose has its thorn. Not the cardinal-colored one. It simply blooms uncontrollably.
Stanford silenced an ever-shrinking cadre of naysayers by doing exactly what it should've done, winning its first Rose Bowl since the Nixon administration. Never mind the misguided expectation of a 20-point bludgeoning; Wisconsin might be a six-loss team, but it doesn't get blown out. The Badgers have played 47 straight football games without losing one by more than 10 points.
No, this one went as scripted between two teams that, to a large extent, are mirror images of each other. Stanford simply out-Stanforded and out-Wisconsined its erstwhile opponent, an opponent that put up a valiant fight despite playing with its third quarterback of the season and a lame-duck coaching staff. (You might argue the Cardinal won BOTH of its biggest games this season feasting on lame Duck).
Stanford has now gone to three-straight BCS Bowl games, winning two and losing the other in overtime. Its overall record in those three seasons: 35-5. Only Alabama, Oregon, and Boise State have fewer loses during that stretch.
And the flower on top? This team is not going away. Not anytime soon. It continued to win without Gerhart, without Harbaugh, without (gasp) Luck. It will continue to win without Zach Ertz and Chase Thomas - though oddly enough as the star power of the departees diminishes, the task gets more daunting. The essence of this team's motivation has long been proving that it's not a fluke. Better find some new motivation.
As for the inevitable defections, there are five impact players who now find themselves at the "should I stay or should I go" crossroads. My educated guess: Ertz and Levine Toilolo will leave, while Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov, and Ben Gardner will return.
Ertz is conflicted, he loves school and understands the limitless Cardinal ceiling of next season. But as the likely top tight end in the upcoming draft, his stock can't get any higher. Toilolo is far from NFL ready and would be a mid-round selection on potential alone, but he will graduate this June and did miss a full season in 2010 after blowing out his knee. The injury risk - and any truth to rumblings I hear that he's not thrilled with campus life - will likely sway his decision.
Skov can resurrect his NFL stock with an inevitable (barring injury) return to collegiate stardom, now that his knee is finally close to 100%. Gardner has turned into a great college player but he's undersized for the league. Murphy might have the toughest decision of all of them. He's played himself into a legit prospect and would likely be off the board by the third round. Just a gut feeling there that he will be back on the Farm.
Regardless, Stanford remains talented and shockingly deep. The names will change, though some will be familiar. Future stars include Sanders (son of Barry), Whitfield (son of Bob), and Owusu (brother of Chris). Oh, and an offensive line that might well be the nation's best by sometime next season. And that's to say nothing of a coach and two coordinators who are superstars among their peers.
So to the non-believers I say, get on board. We're no longer seeing this team through rose-colored glasses, we've had rose-colored LASIK. Stanford football is here to stay.
Scott Reiss is a reporter and news anchor for Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area.