First of all, there's the obvious way. With a 4-1 record and games remaining against the two teams ahead of them, the Cardinal is in the driver's seat. All they have to do is win out, including a win in the Pac-12 Championship game, and they'll be smelling roses.
But that murmur you hear is the voice of reality explaining that the Oregon Ducks are simply too good. That's fine, though, because it fits right along with Plan B.
In this plan the Ducks run the table and finish undefeated at 12-0, which is nice. At the conclusion of the regular season they'd advance to the Pac-12 Championship game, where they'd run roughshod over USC or whichever lamb is sent up from the Pac-12 South to Eugene for the slaughter.
All the BCS experts predict that Oregon will have built up enough Strength of Schedule by the end of the season for them to jump into the coveted #2 position and a slot in the National Championship Game, freeing up a spot in the Rose Bowl. Technically, the Rose Bowl could select a power team from outside the conference, but don't worry about that. The Tournament of Roses committee has made it clear that they'd like to preserve the Big10-Pac12 rivalry in their game.
I know what you're thinking. How can Stanford get to the Rose Bowl if it can't even get to the Pac-12 Championship game? Well, the way the conference is looking, Stanford could finish the season as the second-highest ranked conference team, and that would get them there. Let's take a look at the contenders in the South.
USC is currently 6-2, with one of the losses to the Cardinal. The Trojans can also expect a big loss this weekend to Oregon and probably another at the hands of Notre Dame to close out their regular season with four losses. UCLA is also 6-2, but they have several potential losses, the most likely being Stanford and USC. Arizona State is 5-3, but they've got three ranked teams (Oregon State, USC, and Arizona) left on their schedule. Arizona is also 5-3, and while they've got the easiest schedule left amongst the contenders, they've got a tough game at UCLA this weekend, and they've already lost to the Cardinal.
All of that seems to indicate that the Pac-12's Rose Bowl representative will come out of the North, and if that's the case the only true options are Oregon State and Stanford. The Beavers' schedule looks pretty straight forward -- a win at home over Arizona State this weekend, a big home win over Cal on November 17th, and a loss to Oregon on November 24th. (Remember, Oregon has to win out in this scenario.)
Which leaves the November 10th game, Oregon State at Stanford, as the likely Rose Bowl play-in game. Sure, other things have to happen, but I'm saying it here first -- if Stanford beats Oregon State (and ends the season ranked in the top 14 of the BCS, which would be likely if this scenario plays out), the Mighty Card will play in the Rose Bowl, their third straight BCS game.
Not bad for a rebuilding year.