Three months after they met in the season opener, Stanford and San Jose State were together again, in a figurative sense, on selection Sunday -- headed to bowl games after seasons that topped all but the most optimistic forecasts.

San Jose State accepted an invitation to the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C., late last week. The Spartans (10-2) learned Sunday that they'll face Bowling Green of the Mid-American Conference -- the same league that produced Bowl Championship Series-buster Northern Illinois.

Stanford (11-2) is bound for the Rose Bowl for the first time in 13 years and will play Wisconsin, the same team the Cardinal faced the last time it reached the Granddaddy.

But for both Stanford and SJSU, the opponents are inconsequential. What matters is where they're going, how they got there and what that says about the future.

Two years removed from a 1-12 season and picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference, the Spartans zoomed past expectations. They won 10 games, including six in a row to end the season, and are No. 24 in the BCS standings.

Not only are the Spartans ready to enter the Mountain West Conference next year, they're ready to compete for the MWC title.

Stanford struggled to repel SJSU in the opener but got better as the season unfolded -- a lot better.


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Projected to finish a distant second to Oregon in the Pac-12 North after the departure of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Cardinal beat four ranked opponents in the final month (including Oregon) and is headed to Pasadena as one of the hottest teams in the country.

Stanford's streak of three consecutive BCS appearances is bettered only by the Ducks, who are in a major bowl for the fourth year in a row.

The Cardinal's opponent has a streak of its own: Wisconsin is the first Big Ten team in 33 years to make three consecutive appearances in Pasadena. Then again, the Badgers are also the first five-loss team to participate in the Rose Bowl. Ever.

Other selection day news and notes:

  • The Pac-12 is sending two teams to the BCS, Stanford and Oregon, for the third year in a row.

    The Cardinal and Ducks have secured several hefty paychecks for the conference. A second BCS berth is worth approximately $6 million to the conference, with the windfall distributed among all members.

  • The Bay Area's only bowl has nothing to complain about. The San Francisco-based Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will match Navy (7-4) against Arizona State (7-5).

    Navy gives the Dec. 29 game a national audience, while ASU was one of the biggest surprises in the Pac-12 under rookie coach Todd Graham.

  • Last year, Kansas State got left out of the BCS when the Sugar Bowl shamefully opted for Virginia Tech.

    This year, another Big 12 team got the squeeze: Oklahoma looked to be headed to the Sugar until Northern Illinois, champion of the MAC, climbed into the top 16 of the BCS standings and received a guaranteed at-large berth.

    The Sooners were the odd team out and will play former Big 12 member Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl -- arguably the best of the non-BCS matchups.

  • Letdown Bowl: USC, which began the season with designs on the national title, will spend New Year's Eve in El Paso, Texas.

    The Trojans' opponent in the Sun Bowl, Georgia Tech (6-7), needed a waiver from the NCAA to participate.

    Over/under on the number of tickets purchased by USC fans: 37.

  • The strangest development on selection day -- this or any other year -- was Louisiana Tech (9-3) being left home.

    The school was invited to the Independence Bowl but asked for more time to weigh its options. And was passed over.

    Bulldogs coach Sonny Dykes is a top candidate for the Cal vacancy -- perhaps the top candidate.

  • Best BCS matchup? That's easy: Notre Dame vs. Alabama for all the crystal.

    The traditional powers own 17 modern-era national titles (nine for Alabama, eight for UND), but they haven't collided since 1987.

    The Crimson Tide is attempting to become the first team in the BCS era to win back-to-back titles.

    The Irish would be the first team since BYU in 1984 to win the title after starting the season unranked.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.

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