With a spectacular performance from sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey, Stanford took the Pac-12 Championship Game, 41-22, over USC.
McCaffrey proved to be too much for the Trojans, accounting for 207 rushing yards and 105 receiving. His return yardage gave him 461 all-purpose yards to break Barry Sanders' NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a single season. He added an 11-yard touchdown pass.
For USC, a tumultuous season that saw its former head coach Steve Sarkisian fired mid-year for violating terms of a school-mandated alcohol treatment plan came to a disappointing end. Quarterback Cody Kessler completed 22 of 37 passes but struggled to make big plays in the passing game in throwing for only 187 yards. USC sophomore JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a game-high 11 passes for 87 yards.
Stanford needed either North Carolina to upset Clemson or Florida to upset Alabama in order to have a chance to qualify for the playoff as a two-loss team. Neither game went Stanford's way, leaving the Cardinal to take a bid to the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 champion.