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Stanford's Christian McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders' yardage record. Now he's ready for a Rose Bowl encore

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The Heisman runner-up wants to show he had a case for the award.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When your regular season ended with a record that was thought to be unbreakable, what do you do for an encore in the Rose Bowl?

We'll find out Friday afternoon when No. 6 Stanford's Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey has his chance against the fifth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes.

McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders' 27-year-old record for all-purpose yards with 3,496 yards. Sanders had 3,249 total yards in his 1988 Heisman Trophy season. And sure, McCaffrey had two extra games compared to Sanders in 1988, but he still managed to break the record in six fewer plays -- the record-breaking play came on his 388th touch of the season, compared to 394 for Sanders.

Player

All-purpose yards

Rushing yards

Receiving yards

Kickoff Return yards

Punt return yards

Christian McCaffrey

3,496 (8.5 per play)

1,847 (5.8 per rush)

540 (13.2 per reception)

1,042 (28.9 per return)

67 (4.8 per return)

Barry Sanders

3,249 (8.2 per play)

2,628 (7.6 per rush)

106 (5.6 per reception)

421 (20 per return)

94 (9.4 per return)

Should the Stanford sophomore have won the same award Sanders took home for his record-breaking season? There were arguments for it. McCaffrey was certainly more versatile -- Derrick Henry led the country with 339 rushing attempts this season, but he only caught 10 passes for 97 yards compared to McCaffrey's 41 for 540 this season, to say nothing of punt and kick returns (McCaffrey also passed for 39 yards and a pair of touchdowns).

McCaffrey was also the more consistent big-play threat, with 24 plays of 20 yards or longer to Henry's 17. Henry did out-pace McCaffrey with 25 touchdowns compared to 13, however.

Still, the Rose Bowl has been the showcase of many a superstar before -- Charles Woodson, Ron Dayne, Reggie Bush and Vince Young come to mind. Iowa's defense checks in at 26 in S&P+ and fifth in isoPPP, so the Hawkeyes may be good enough to slow down Stanford on the ground.

But stop the run, and Stanford will split him out in the slot or throw it to him out of the backfield. And then there's special teams, where Iowa allows 9.8 yards per punt return and 23.6 yards per kickoff return. So it's hard to imagine they can bottle up McCaffrey on all of the fronts Stanford will deploy him on. Offense won't be enough.

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