While Stanford's chances of reaching a BCS bowl game are largely out of the team's control, the No. 7 Cardinal need to remain focused as they head to a place that's been treacherous for them in the past.
They'll look to win in Tempe for the first time in five tries when they take on snake-bitten Arizona State on Saturday night.
Stanford (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) is the fifth-highest scoring team in the country at 42.3 points per game, but has little chance of catching top-ranked Oregon for the conference crown. The Cardinal have lost to the Ducks, giving Oregon the tiebreaker.
"I'm not a guy who concerns himself with the polls and things like that," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Speaking on behalf of my guys and Stanford football, this is a one-loss team that only lost to the No. 1-ranked team in the country. Probably about time they get recognition."
Normally, Stanford would be in excellent shape to reach the Rose Bowl with a second-place finish if Oregon plays for the national title. The Cardinal are one of the nation's elite teams and have Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck at quarterback.
The Rose Bowl, however, is obligated to take a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference if one earns its way into the BCS but does not make the title game. So the Cardinal likely need No. 3 TCU or No. 4 Boise State to lose once down the stretch and miss the BCS, or for one of those teams to play Oregon in the title game.
"The BCS, we can't control it," defensive back Michael Thomas said. "If we take care of our business and win the rest of our games and go 11-1, we'll end up in a better bowl. We're just doing the best we can."
This matchup could be tricky for the Cardinal, who have not won in Tempe since a 50-30 victory Nov. 13, 1999.
The Sun Devils (4-5, 2-4) have lost 14 straight to Top 25 opponents, but have been competitive against the best teams on their schedule this year. They fell 20-19 at then-No. 11 Wisconsin on Sept. 18 and 42-31 to the Ducks a week later.
Arizona State is smarting after another heartbreaking high-profile loss, 34-33 to USC on Saturday. The Sun Devils rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half and took a four-point lead, but had an extra point blocked and returned for two points and allowed a late field goal.
"We gave ourselves an opportunity at the end of the football game to win it," coach Dennis Erickson said. "It's been the story of our year. We have had those opportunities a number of times. We haven't won one of those games and hopefully we can do that here shortly."
Michigan transfer Steven Threet continues to produce mixed results in his first season with Arizona State. He threw three touchdowns for the fourth time, but had multiple interceptions for the fifth time.
"Just too much up and down," Threet said. "I just need to play more consistent and help the team more."
Luck has had no such problems. His 22 touchdown passes tie him for second in the conference and his 67.8 completion percentage is also second best.
Luck is doing his part to help the Cardinal avoid talk of their bowl destination. Stanford also faces a challenge in not looking ahead to next week's "Big Game" against California.
"We understand this has the opportunity to be a very special season for Stanford," Luck said. "I know there's many different situations about bowl games and what not. That all doesn't really matter unless we win. So we're taking it like that."
Stanford defeated Arizona State 33-14 at home last Oct. 24 as Luck completed 17 of 28 passes for 236 yards and no touchdowns. He didn't need to produce more because the Cardinal offense was powered by Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart, who ran for 125 yards and one score.
Top 25 Overview
After routing Arizona last week, Stanford looks to complete the state sweep by taking out Arizona State. But the Cardinal have had trouble in Tempe, a place they haven't won since 1999. The Sun Devils have lost 14 straight to Top 25 opponents.