<
>

Some staggering numbers behind Christian McCaffrey's Heisman push

On Saturday, Stanford's Christian McCaffrey broke Reggie Bush's Pac-12 record for all-purpose yards in a single season. He also became the third player in NCAA history to crack the 3,000-yard mark in that category. Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan stole the spotlight from Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey during the Cardinal's 38-36 win against Notre Dame this past Saturday. Still, McCaffrey managed to do something remarkable: He racked up 228 all-purpose yards and flew under the radar while doing so.

That speaks volumes about just how special McCaffrey has been this season. The accumulation of 200 all-purpose yards in a single game would be the season highlight for most college football players. But McCaffrey has already broken that barrier nine times this season. So when 228 more critical yards rolled in against the Irish, the response was a collective shrug.

Put simply, McCaffrey has desensitized the public to prolific statistical production.

Opponents, though, have noticed: Notre Dame took the unusual step of inserting defensive starters into their special teams unit to combat McCaffrey's dynamic return abilities. Like other teams, the Irish zeroed in on him when he was in the backfield, daring Hogan to beat single coverage in the pass game.

McCaffrey has reached the point where he has begun to pass legendary names in the record book, and each subsequent milestone serves as a public service announcement as to just how absurd his season has been.

During the Notre Dame game, McCaffrey broke Reggie Bush's Pac-12 record for all-purpose yards in a single season. He also became only the third player in NCAA history to crack the 3,000-yard mark in that category. McCaffrey is now 215 yards shy of Barry Sanders' NCAA record -- though it should be noted that the Hall of Famer set that mark while playing in only 11 games, and McCaffrey is about to play his 13th.

Still, comparisons with the past provide perspective for the show that we're seeing this season. Comparing McCaffrey's production to that of Bush in his 2005 campaign is particularly interesting: Both players' rushing and receiving per-game averages are about the same, but McCaffrey's kick return tally is nearly 30 yards higher.

Bush, of course, went on to win the Heisman in that 2005 season.

McCaffrey's versatility is his greatest calling card. He's fourth nationally in kick return yardage -- just 62 yards off the pace -- and maintaining his status as one of the nation's premier runners. Opponents frequently commit extra defenders to stop Stanford's powerful run game, and McCaffrey hasn't blinked an eye: According to ESPN Stats and Info, he has 22 rushes this season of 10-plus yards with eight or more defenders in the box, six more than any other Power 5 player.

"No one can tell me there's a more dynamic player in college football," Stanford coach David Shaw said this past weekend.

Based on the adaptability we've seen from McCaffrey this season, it's tough to argue with the coach's claim. The numbers certainly support it: Though the speedster has surpassed that 3,000 all-purpose yard mark, only two other players nationally have even eclipsed 2,000 so far -- and they are both more than 600 yards behind McCaffrey.

The sophomore has created huge space between himself and others on the season stat sheet, just like he does every Saturday. It's important to appreciate the sheer size of the difference, because McCaffrey's consistency is making it easy for us to take it for granted.