Christian McCaffrey is only one of several viable answers to the question of which college football player is the best in the country, along with Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, Myles Garrett and others.
But to UCLA coach Jim Mora, McCaffrey is the right answer.
Mora said Monday at a news conference that he believes the Stanford running back has been the best player in the game since the beginning of last season. Stanford visits UCLA on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
"He has to be a tremendous (defensive) focus, but he can't be all of our focus. But he has to be the main focus. In my opinion, it's not even arguable that he's the top player in college football. I think he was last year, and I think thus far this year, he has been as well," Mora said. "Although the young man from Louisville (Jackson) would probably have something to say about that. But we're not playing them. We're playing Christian McCaffrey, and he can do so many things so well."
It's only natural that Mora would give the edge to the player on the Bruins upcoming schedule over Jackson -- college coaches tend to be effusive with praise of upcoming opponents, sometimes excessively so -- but Jackson has certainly made a brow-raising statistical case. Through three weeks of the season, Louisville's dual-threat quarterback has amassed 1,377 total yards and 18 touchdowns (10 rushing, eight passing) in the Cardinals' 3-0 start.
McCaffrey's numbers, however, can't be judged alongside Jackson's at this point in the season. McCaffrey has played one fewer game, for one thing, and hasn't had the luxury of blistering overmatched opponents such as Charlotte and Syracuse, as Jackson has. Still, in two games against Kansas State and USC, the junior is averaging 149 rushing yards per game and another 53 per game receiving.
"Carrying the ball inside or outside, catching the ball out of the backfield, they split him out and use him at receiver, as a return guy, he's dynamic, he's elusive, he's tough to tackle," Mora said. "He's got great physical and mental toughness, he's intelligent. But the thing I appreciate the most about him is the way he competes. He's a great competitor."
McCaffrey could be available in the 2017 NFL Draft if he applies for early draft eligibility after the season. Judging from Mora's comments, it seems the coach would like nothing more than to see the Stanford star call it a career at the college level.