The trophy may have already been hoisted and the confetti may have already covered the field of the Rose Bowl, but the Stanford football team has another reason to celebrate nearly two weeks after its victory in The Granddaddy of Them All.
Following the national title game between Alabama and Clemson, the Associated Press released its final top 25 rankings of the season, featuring Stanford in the No. 3 spot, the program’s highest ranking in the final poll since 1940.
The Cardinal jumped two spots following their 45-16 Rose Bowl victory on New Year’s Day over then-No. 6 Iowa, while previously-No. 3 Michigan State’s and No. 4 Oklahoma’s losses to No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson in their respective national semifinal games also paved the way for a strong Cardinal finish.
The Hawkeyes, which finished their season 12-2, ended up at No. 9 in the poll.
The previous highest ranking that Stanford received from the AP came 75 years ago, in 1940: In the final AP poll of the year, which came out prior to the bowl games, an undefeated Stanford finished in second place behind Minnesota, effectively recognizing the latter as the national champions. The then-Stanford Indians, under the helm of head coach Clark Shaughnessy, would go on to defeat Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. Three national champion selectors recognized by the NCAA — the Billingsley Report, Helms Athletic Foundation and Polling Systems — would later declare Stanford, instead of Minnesota, as national champions, marking the most recent of the two national titles that Stanford claims.
While Stanford may not have walked away with a national title this year, its third Pac-12 Championship appearance and second Rose Bowl Game victory in four years signified continued historic strides for the program as of late. The next-best result in recent history came in 2010, when the Cardinal finished at No. 4 in the AP Poll.
The only other Pac-12 teams featured in this season’s final AP rankings were Oregon and Utah. While the Ducks gave up a 31-point lead in their triple-overtime loss to TCU in the Alamo Bowl, causing them to drop from No. 15 to No. 19, Utah rose three spots in the rankings to No. 17 despite nearly giving up a 35-point lead of its own to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. Out of the Power Five, the Pac-12 was tied with the ACC for fewest teams ranked in the final top 25, with the Big Ten leading with six, followed by the SEC (5) and Big 12 (4).
Two other of Stanford’s opponents from this season also finished ranked: Northwestern came it at No. 23 despite being crushed by Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, while the Notre Dame Irish dropped out of the top 10 to No. 11 after losing to recently-crowned No. 4 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Stanford will finish the season 2-2 against ranked teams and 2-0 against teams in the top 15.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.