Our Pac-12 Friday weekly column takes on a famous college football season, which featured one “Game of the Century” scenario between Notre Dame and the B1G champion—that didn’t get to go to the Rose Bowl. Go figure, for the Conference of Champions did not have the same chance to disrupt the national narrative like often happened.
On with the awards show for 1966 …
1966 AAWU MVP: Pete Pifer, Oregon State
Three teams finished atop the conference standings: USC (4-1), UCLA (3-1), and Oregon State (3-1). The Trojans beat the Beavers while losing to the Bruins, and UCLA did not play Oregon State. The uneven scheduling basically sent USC to the Rose Bowl as the league champ since the Bruins had gone in 1965 and the Beavers went in 1964.
UCLA quarterback Gary Beban led his team to a 9-1 mark and a No. 5 ranking, and again, he was one of the best players in the conference, this time as a junior. Beban led his peers in passing yards (1,245), efficiency rating (116.2), total yards (1,699), and total touchdowns (16), as he ran for 454 yards on the ground as well. But he did toss 10 interceptions to just 6 TD passes, as an ankle injury slowed him down a bit.
Is that wriggle room for another player to sneak in for the MVP nod? Beavers running back Pete Pifer topped the conference in rushing yards (1,088), yards from scrimmage (1,088), and scrimmage TDs (12), after all, and he did it without much help from his quarterback—while Beban had the support of a talented RB at his side (Mel Farr).
We can’t give this award to Beban with that INT total, especially when Pifer is deserving. It is what it is.
1966 B1G MVP: Bob Griese, Purdue
Michigan State ran the table in the conference again (7-0), with only Purdue nearby (6-1) in the standings. The Spartans beat the Boilermakers by three TDs, as well, in their head-to-head matchup. So the Big Ten was all about MSU in 1966, even though they couldn’t go to the Rose Bowl two seasons in a row under the rules at the time.
Purdue QB Bob Griese was the best at his position, though, topping the league in passing yards (1,749), passing TDs (12), efficiency rating (137.0), total yards (1,964), and total TDs (18). He also “only” tossed 11 INTs. The real issue for the Spartans is that they were so balanced, no single player dominated for them—and no single player made a difference between first and second place.
MSU RB Clinton Jones was good, as was wide receiver Gene Washington—but they didn’t play enough in blowouts to pile up the stats. Remember, the Spartans placed four players in the top 8 picks of the 1967 NFL Draft, a record that probably will never be broken. Thus, Griese walks away with the hardware here, because MSU was a dominant team without a singularly dominant player.
1967 Rose Bowl MVP: John Charles, Purdue (original), Perry Williams, Purdue (revised)
The Boilermakers beat the Trojans, 14-13, when USC went for a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter and failed. Purdue defensive back John Charles won the MVP vote, even though it was George Catavolos who made the big interception on the conversion attempt.
Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, fullback Perry Williams scored both Boilermakers TDs, giving them a short-lived lead in the second quarter and the permanent lead in the third. Griese kicked the extra point both times for Purdue.
With the Boilermakers favored by a whopping 14 points, it was perhaps surprising to see USC play so well against them and have a chance to win at the end. So no defensive player for Purdue deserves this award in our minds. Hence, we give the award to Williams, for being in the right places at the right times—if nothing else.