After this week's performance by Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey, the Heisman Trophy may be headed to Palo Alto.
McCaffrey, setting the all-time single-season yardage mark previously held by legendary running back Barry Sanders for his 3,250-yard season in 1987, garnered a sensational 461 all-purpose yards on Saturday night in Santa Clara, Ca., leading No. 9 Stanford to a 41-22 defeat of the 20th-ranked USC Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Helping the Cardinal clinch their 15th Rose Bowl berth, McCaffrey tarnished the USC defense to the tune of 207 rushing yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, 105 receiving yards and a touchdown on four receptions, 11 passing yards and a touchdown on one attempt, 120 yards on five separate kick returns and 29 yards on two punt returns, setting Levi's Stadium ablaze with his dynamic performance.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, clinching his team's third Pac-12 championship in his four years at the helm of the Cardinal offense, was steady as per usual, completing nine of his 12 pass attempts for 144 yards and a touchdown, the majority of his yardage coming from McCaffrey.
On the other side of the docket, USC senior quarterback Cody Kessler went 22-of-37 passing the ball for 187 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster lead the team with 87 receiving yards on 11 catches while running back Justin Davis rushed 17 times for 99 yards.
Stanford jumped out to an early advantage over the Trojans, driving 55 yards in 12 plays to set up a 30-yard field goal by kicker Conrad Ukropina with 9:08 left in the first quarter, marching 78 yards in 13 plays in a drive which culminated in an 11-yard touchdown pass from McCaffrey to Hogan to begin the second quarter before driving 59 yards in eight plays to create space for a 23-yarder by Ukropina, giving the Cardinal a 13-0 lead with 8:32 remaining in the second quarter.
However, a 71-yard drive which amassed 15 plays for the Trojans led to a 40-yard field goal by kicker Alex Wood with 10 seconds left in the half, cutting the Stanford lead to 13-3 and providing USC with some much-needed momentum entering the halftime break.
The Trojans received the opening possession of the second half and capitalized, driving 65 yards in seven plays for a one-yard touchdown connection between Kessler and Jaheel Pinner to slice the deficit to 13-9.
Following a Stanford punt, USC went right back to business, moving the ball 75 yards in seven plays to set up a 27-yard touchdown run by Ronald Jones II with 5:28 remaining in the quarter, giving them a 16-13 edge and instituting fear in the hearts of the "Fear the Tree" rally cryers.
However, the Cardinal could not be stopped from then on. A 67-yard completion to McCaffrey on a 3rd-and-6 at the Stanford 26-yard line set the Cardinal up inside the USC 10-yard line, where Hogan promplty lowered his shoulder and bullied his way inside the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown rush, putting Stanford up 20-16 with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter.
USC was able to approach midfield on their ensuing drive, however, a strip sack of Kessler by Stanford's Blake Martinez created a loose ball which Soloman Thomas recovered and returned 34 yards for a crucial Cardinal touchdown, creating a 27-16 gap with four seconds left in the third quarter.
The Trojans responded with a 65-yard, seven-play touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 27-22 after a 12-yard touchdown scamper by Kessler, however, McCaffrey sealed Stanford's fate as Pac-12 champions in the remainder of the fourth quarter.
His 28-yard touchdown reception concluded a 10-play, 75-yard Stanford drive on their subsequent possession, giving the Cardinal a 34-22 lead with 6:28 left, and not to leave any doubt concerning his dominance, he capped off his performance with a 10-yard rushing touchdown with 1:28 remaining, providing his team with an insurmountable 41-22 advantage.