With the Rose Bowl now a pipe dream and any BCS bowl a reach, there has to be a feeling of frustration at Stanford. It's only natural.
There is no punching bag for the Cardinal to take it out on, but what it does have might be better: rival Cal. Losers of 13 straight Pac-12 games, the hapless Bears head to Stanford Stadium on Saturday for the schools' 116th meeting and what, on paper, has potential to be one of the series' most lopsided games.
Stanford coach David Shaw said his players got Sunday off following their 20-17 loss to USC to "get their school work done, mope around and throw stuff," but they were right back to work Monday.
"Big Game week always helps getting the guys fired up, but our guys have been great," Shaw said. "Our guys are unbelievably resilient. They always bounce back."
And the coaching staff has to make sure the rare losses don't steer the team off course.
"We're not going to change," Shaw said. "We're not going to lose confidence, we've won as many games in the last three years as anyone in the nation. We're going to keep doing what we do."
Earlier this year, the Cardinal turned the page on a loss at Utah and returned to Stanford with a resounding win over then-No. 9 UCLA the following week. Both losses a year ago were followed by wins, including the first October version of the Big Game, which was preceded by a loss at Notre Dame.
Not since October of 2009 has the Cardinal lost consecutive games and barring an unforeseen set of circumstances, that doesn't figure to change.
There's no argument there from the Cal camp.
"Stanford is obviously a very good football team," Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. "We're kind of different with our programs right now, but our guys will play as hard as they can Saturday."
Which, translated from Coach Speak, means: "It could be a long day for us."
Stanford will carry the nation's second-longest home winning streak (14 games) into an atmosphere that figures to be decisively pro-Stanford. Cal did not sell its allotment of tickets and returned an unspecified amount to Stanford.
"The energy before the game is pretty incredible regardless of where each team is at with their record," Stanford defensive tackle David Parry said. "Last year, going to Berkeley … pretty hostile crowd.
"Even just driving through on the bus we got our fair share of middle fingers and things like that. That's actually pretty fun to see before the game to get you into it."
Despite Cal's struggles, Shaw said he was confident Dykes and his staff, which includes former Stanford co-defensive coordinator Andy Buh, will turn things around. Buh spent three years on staff with Shaw under Jim Harbaugh, including two as the co-defensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009.