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2014 Rose Bowl Opponent Q&A: Rule of Tree

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The game isn't a for a few weeks, but we figured we'd check in on MSU's opponent in the Rose Bowl: Stanford. Jack Blanchat from SB Nation's Stanford blog, Rule of Tree, was kind enough to answer some questions. You can see my answers to his questions here.

1. Fourth BCS game in a row. Fourth 11-win season in a row. Second straight Rose Bowl. Getting bored at all?

Never. Keep in mind that Stanford was 1-11 a couple years ago, so this stuff isn't going to get old for Stanford fans. There have been things to nitpick about these last couple of seasons, but there's no way not to call this the golden era of Stanford football.

2. Jim Harbaugh did an incredible job of building the program. Just as impressive has been David Shaw maintaining it, even without Andrew Luck. How has he done that?

He's mostly done it through recruiting and creating an excellent defense. The year after Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL, Shaw brought in the nation's 5th-best recruiting class and he's in line to bring in another top 25 class this season. The offense has been a bit up and down these two years, but DC Derek Mason has built a rugged D that makes the Cardinal an incredibly tough team to beat week in and week out.

3. What in the world happened at Utah?

It was a classic trap game for Stanford. The Cardinal had to go on the road a week after playing one of the most physically taxing games of the year (vs Washington) and the Cardinal looked gassed most of the game. Meanwhile, Utah had 10 days to prepare for Stanford and had perfectly scouted the Cardinal's weakness on D. Utah looked like the more aggressive team for about 55 minutes of that game and built a lead that Stanford couldn't overcome. I also think how different every road environment is an underrated part of the Pac-12 schedule - there's a big change between Utah and Washington and USC and Arizona State.

4. What does Stanford need to improve/fix during bowl practices?

I think there needs to be a continued emphasis on getting the ball to Stanford's best playmakers. The Arizona State gameplan perfectly reflected what Stanford needs to do on offense to be successful, but there have been problems with offensive consistency all season long. Ideally, the Cardinal coaching staff focus on keeping Kevin Hogan upright and able to find Ty Montgomery, Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector.

5. What are your early thoughts on the game?

I think it's going to be a physical battle, and it's going to come down to which defense breaks first. Right now, I think I like the matchup for the Cardinal, but I'm looking forward to doing scouting work on Michigan State.