- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Stanford's 40-12 whipping of Virginia Tech in the Discover Orange Bowl was meaningful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it made what happened in Autzen Stadium on Oct. 2 the best victory of the 2011 regular season.
Stanford, which finished 12-1, is almost certain to finish ranked in the top-four in the nation in the final polls. But that day at Oregon, the Cardinal got overwhelmed 52-31, despite taking an early 21-3 lead. Stanford, a big, physical team, couldn't keep up with the Ducks' across-the-board speed and offensive tempo.
Auburn has played a tougher overall schedule than Oregon, but the Tigers haven't beaten a team that will finish ranked as highly as Stanford will, particularly after Arkansas was exposed by Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. No Tigers foe will finish with fewer than two defeats.
And, yes, the Ducks were watching the Orange Bowl. And, yes, they were rooting hard for their Pac-10 rival.
"I was a Cardinal that night," linebacker Spencer Paysinger said.
Paysinger said his sentiments had added depth because he's friends with Stanford O-linemen Derek Hall and Johnathan Martin.
"For them to go all the way to Florida and rep the Pac-10 like that speaks volumes for them," Paysinger said.
In fact, there was no gloating from Oregon players about beating Stanford in Oct. 2. Instead, there seemed to be a lot of respect.
"Stanford, they have been playing as good as anyone lately," linebacker Casey Matthews said. "I mean, obviously people are going to say we beat them by 21, [but] it doesn't really carry over into other games. It's all about matchups and how teams perform and just their simple fundamentals. Last year, [Ohio State, which beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl] lost to USC and Purdue and we beat both of them. We can't really compare scores. Obviously seeing Stanford be that dominant is definitely exciting to see and for the Pac-10 as well. Hopefully we get a little more respect."