Christian McCaffrey is doing the right thing by sitting out the Sun Bowl to begin preparing for the NFL draft.
Make no mistake about it: McCaffrey has nothing to gain and everything to lose if he were to play in this contest. Even with a monster game against North Carolina, his NFL draft stock couldn’t be any higher than it is right now. After all, he set an NCAA record for all-purpose yards in 2015, and led the nation in that category again this year. He also finished in the top five in rushing in each of the past two seasons.
How could an NFL scout not be impressed with those numbers?
I realize that some of you will not agree with this decision. You might feel like McCaffrey is hurting the team by not playing.
While his absence from the lineup doesn’t make the Cardinal any better, it also doesn’t harm them, either. The simple fact of the matter is that Stanford doesn’t need McCaffrey in order to beat North Carolina in the Sun Bowl.
A closer look at the stat sheet will bear this out. Although the Tar Heel run defense has shown signs of improvement this season, it’s still one of the worst units in the country, ranking 116th in rushing yards per game. They struggled mightily over the final month of the season, giving up an average of 301 yards per game over the last four games, including 344 yards against the Citadel. Not surprisingly, North Carolina dropped its final two conference games of the year because it simply couldn’t stop Duke and NC State from running the ball.
There’s no reason to think that Stanford won’t do the same. Remember, the Cardinal offensive line is one of the best units in the country, allowing their backs to run for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. They should have no trouble opening up huge holes for Bryce Love, who has played well when given the opportunity this season, rushing for 664 yards on 90 carries (7.38 ypc). That includes a 23-carry, 129-yard effort in a hard-fought win over Notre Dame.
After reading the last paragraph, does it really look like Stanford is going to struggle in the ground game?
Of course not, which is why it only makes sense for McCaffrey to sit this one out. Sure, just about every college football fan would love to see him suit up one more time. However, since playing in the game could only hurt his draft stock, and the Cardinal don’t need him to earn a “W” in this contest, it only makes sense for him to step aside.