The ugly loss to Northwestern to start the season is all but forgotten by the Stanford football team, which climbed to No. 3 in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll on Monday night.
It was the Cardinal's highest finish since the poll has been conducting post-bowls (1968) and the second-highest in program history to the No. 2 mark achieved in 1940 by Clark Shaughnessy's 10-0 squad.
While Jim Harbaugh's 2010 Stanford team finished 12-1 for the best 12-win season in program history, the Cardinal finished No. 4 in the final AP Top 25 that year. Thus, this season's 12-2 finish and No. 3 national ranking is the perhaps the third best only to the national titles won in 1926 and 1940 when Stanford went 10-0-1 under Pop Warner and 10-0 under Shaughnessy.
There was no AP rankings in 1926, though, and Minnesota was named No. 1 in 1940 by AP while Stanford was regarded as No. 1 by three other polls.
Bottom line, 2015 was historic for Stanford football as head coach David Shaw guided the Cardinal to its third 12-win season, the second time he has done so. He also was 12-2 in 2012 when Stanford finished No. 7 according to AP.
Shaw now ranks ahead of such coaches as Harbaugh, Chuck Taylor (No. 7 in 1951), John Ralston (No. 8 in 1970) and Bill Walsh (No. 9 in 1992).
The only thing missing from Shaw's resume is an undefeated season and a national championship.
Alabama, meanwhile, has won four national crowns in the past seven years after defeating Clemson, 45-40, in Monday's national championship game. The Crimson Tide (14-1) vaulted from No. 2 to No. 1 while knocking previous No. 1 Clemson (14-1) to No. 3.
Following Stanford at No. 3 is Ohio State (12-1) and Oklahoma (11-2) to round out the top five.
This is the 10th time Alabama has finished the year ranked No. 1 in the AP top 25 Poll. The Crimson Tide started the year at No. 3 in the preseason poll and were never ranked higher than No. 2 before ending the year at No. 1. They have finished the year in the AP Top 10 in eight straight seasons.
Clemson's No. 2 ranking is the highest the Tigers have finished in the final AP Poll since they finished No. 1 in 1981. The Tigers spent much of the season ranked No. 1 and finished the regular season undefeated. Although they were runners-up this season, they will be a popular pick to be No. 1 in the preseason poll next season.
Stanford jumped up from No. 5 after an impressive showing in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State finishes the year at No. 4 after opening as the preseason No. 1. TCU at No. 7, Houston at No. 8 and Ole Miss at No. 10 all jumped into the Top 10 after bowl wins.
Meanwhile, the final pass of Kevin Hogan's Stanford career -- a 42-yarder to Michael Rector to cap a 45-16 win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl Game, was Hogan's 75th career TD pass. That moved him ahead of Steve Stenstrom as third-best in Stanford history. Hogan also finished with 9,385 career passing yards to move ahead of John Elway for third place. Hogan's 171.0 passing efficiency this season was also a Stanford record, surpassing Andrew Luck's 2010 season (170.2).