If you are looking for your 2016 Heisman Trophy frontrunner, look west. Christian McCaffrey set a Rose Bowl record with 361 all-purpose yards as No. 6 Stanford pounded No. 5 Iowa, 45-16, in the Rose Bowl on New Years Day. McCaffrey got things going on the first play of the game with a 75-yard touchdown reception from Kevin Hogan. It was the longest play from scrimmage of the year and his career for McCaffrey, and he was just getting warmed up.
McCaffrey had a busy afternoon. By the end of the game, McCaffrey became the first player in Rose Bowl history to record 100 rushing and 100 receiving yards in the Rose Bowl. He ended his season with 2,019 rushing yards to become Stanford’s first 2,000-yard rusher in school history. McCaffrey reached these marks by rushing for 172 yards and leading all players with 105 receiving yards in the lopsided victory over the Hawkeyes. If Iowa spent any time focusing on McCaffrey’s and Stanford film, it sure did not show, but that may be just how good McCaffrey and Stanford were. McCaffrey’s performance was definitely worthy of high praise, but he did not do it all alone, if you can believe that.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan turned in an admirable performance as well, passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another score. Stanford’s defense held Iowa to 5-of-17 on third down and allowed just 51 rushing yards. Iowa managed just 290 yards of offense and they needed three fourth-down conversions to help get there. Stanford head coach David Shaw is now 3-2 in bowl games as head coach of the Cardinal, and that now includes two Rose Bowl victories. This Stanford program is not going to be going anywhere any time soon in the Pac-12, it continues to be the gold standard college football program in the same state that is home to USC and UCLA.
Stanford was left out of the College Football Playoff, but by halftime the Cardinal had Twitter blazing about reasons why the College Football Playoff selection committee either got the top four teams wrong or why the playoff should be expanded. Given how Alabama and Clemson seemed to handle Michigan State and Oklahoma, respectively, it was pretty easy to make a case that Stanford should have been in the mix. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and the Cardinal lost two games this season. Many will point to Stanford’s season-opening loss at Northwestern as the main reason why Stanford was left out, but a later loss to Oregon may have been more damaging in a “what have you done for me lately” sport.
This loss should not take away too much from the overall success of the season Iowa experienced. Though the Hawkeyes ended the year with two straight losses, Iowa put together some memorable moments en route to an undefeated regular season, which saw them come up just shy of a likely spot in the College Football Playoff. Kirk Ferentz may not have a program locked and loaded for a repeat performance in 2016, which makes a season like this as special as it coudl be.
McCaffrey was this season’s best all-around player in college football, and he accomplished something no other player had done since the 2010 season by scoring a touchdown with a pass, a run, a reception, a punt return and a kickoff return. Troy’s Jerrel Jernigan was the last player to accomplish the rare feat. LSU running back Leonard Fournette ended his 2015 season on a high note as well with a big showing in LSU’s bowl victory over Texas Tech. McCaffrey and Fournette will be the top two Heisman Trophy candidates in the running over the summer months and as the preseason plays out leading up to the start of the 2016 season. Next year, McCaffrey will no longer be in hiding out west, and nobody will be late to picking up who he is. McCaffrey was not as hidden in the west coast late kickoffs as many believe he was, but he did not have his biggest games when most people were watching (Notre Dame, for example).