Stanford rode halfback Christian McCaffrey’s 461 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns to a 41-22 victory over Southern Cal in the Pac-12 championship game Saturday, but it will not be enough to get the Cardinal into the NCAA championship playoffs.
McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA season record for all-purpose yards with 3,496 while rushing for 207 yards and a touchdown, and he also caught a touchdown pass and threw for another score as the No. 7 Cardinal (11-2) beat the Trojans for the second time this season.
Yet Stanford needed an upset or two to have a chance at the Final Four, and with favorites No. 1 Clemson winning and No. 2 Alabama defeating Florida in their championship games and No. 3 Oklahoma benefitted from a day off, the window closed on a team that beat Notre Dame last week to create a glimmer of hope.
The Big Ten champion, either No. 5 Michigan State or No. 4 Iowa, will be the fourth team in the playoffs.
Stanford will participate in the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12 champion, facing either Ohio State or the Michigan State-Iowa loser.
McCaffrey threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Kevin Hogan for a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, and he caught a 28-yard pass from Hogan for a 34-22 lead with 6:33 remaining in the game.
Sophomore McCaffrey had 105 yards on four receptions, 120 yards on five kickoff returns and 29 yards on two punt returns.
Hogan completed 9-of-12 passes for 144 yards, and he had a 7-yard touchdown run for 20-16 lead in the third quarter. Cardinal defensive end Solomon Thomas returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown nine plays later to make it 27-16.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler completed 22-of-37 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran for a score. Halfback Justin Davis rushed for 99 yards.