The Pac-12 Conference's year of the redshirt quarterback has a new contestant.
Kevin Hogan hasn't earned the reputation of Oregon's Marcus Mariota or UCLA's Brett Hundley — Hogan wasn't even in Stanford's quarterback competition back in August — but his resume already has an eye-catcher.
He beat the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
Hogan, who ascended to the starting spot only three weeks ago, guided the Cardinal past Oregon, 17-14, last week, throwing the touchdown pass that sent the game into overtime.
So, turns out the Cardinal may not be out of luck at quarterback. "Things are only going to get bigger from here," Hogan said.
Stanford can lock down a spot in the Pac-12 championship game — and with it, a shot at a Rose Bowl berth — with a victory over UCLA on Saturday. That could make Hogan some kind of hero around Palo Alto.
The Cardinal (9-2 overall, 7-1 in Pac-12 play) needs a victory against the Bruins, or an Oregon loss to Oregon State, to get a rematch with UCLA in the conference title game on Nov. 30. The next step would be the Rose Bowl, which would put Stanford in a Bowl Championship Series game for a third consecutive season.
That was an unlikely scenario a month ago. The Cardinal had a formidable running game, a bully of a defense, a decent 6-2 record and was No. 15 in the Associated Press media poll.
"Usually you're in those positions because your quarterback is playing well," Stanford Coach David Shaw said.
But that wasn't really the case. Josh Nunes had struggled with the unenviable task of replacing quarterback Andrew Luck, the top pick in the NFL draft. Those struggles were especially apparent during a 17-13 loss to Washington and again when the Cardinal labored to defeat woeful Washington State, 24-17, on Oct. 27.
Hogan, who had attempted only one pass previously, was given an opportunity the next week against Colorado, and he responded by passing for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
Hogan was named the starter the next week and led Stanford to a 27-23 victory over then-No-13 Oregon State, passing for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
"Early on, in spring and early in training camp, he was not necessarily involved in the quarterback battle," Shaw said. "But he showed such athletic ability and such arm strength that he played his way into the situation."
Hogan has moved almost seamlessly into the job.
Former "Coach (Jim) Harbaugh used to say, 'Don't get emotionally hijacked,'" center Sam Schwartzstein said before the Oregon game. Hogan is "the king of that. He won't take his helmet off on the sideline. He's an unbelievably fierce competitor."
Hogan's plan against UCLA: "Don't force anything, just lead the team."
That is a little easier with the Cardinal's running game. Stepfan Taylor has rushed for 1,222 yards this season, which allows Hogan breathing room.
"He's a smart kid and makes good decisions," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said of Hogan. "They do a really good job with their scheme, putting him in position to make the throws that he makes well."
UCLA's plan to thwart the Cardinal is to make it a one-dimensional throwing team.
"If you make them one-dimensional running and they are just burying you, that's a bad thing," Mora said. "If you make it one-dimensional forcing them to throw, it works to the defense's advantage. You can turn loose guys who are good pass rushers."