Our Pac-12 Friday weekly column takes on another season, the last of the “official” Athletic Association of Western Universities, in fact. The Pac-8 would make its debut in 1968, so the hangover from the breakup of the Pacific Coast Conference was just about over for the Conference of Champions, as its champion claimed a mythical national title.
Now, to the fun stuff for 1967!
1967 AAWU MVP: O.J. Simpson, USC
A crazy finish to the season left the USC Trojans (6-1) atop the conference standings, ahead of the Oregon State Beavers (4-1-1) and the UCLA Bruins (4-1-1). Oregon State and UCLA tied, 16-16, and then the Trojans lost, 3-0, to the Beavers, but then USC beat the Bruins, 21-20, to claim the league title. The AAWU MVP could come from any of these three teams.
But two names dominate the statistical charts: UCLA quarterback Gary Beban and USC running back O.J. Simpson. Beban won the Heisman two years after he should have won it, and Simpson finished second in the voting, preventing him from being the first player to win it twice (as he would win it in 1968). This, again, was stupid voting, as Beban’s season was not impressive, and he won it as more of a career achievement award.
To wit: Simpson led the conference in yards from scrimmage (1,652) and finished second in total yards (1,576), just 10 yards behind Beban. The UCLA QB only tossed one more touchdown (8) than interceptions (7) while running for a career-low 220 yards. Plainly stated, Simpson topped the conference in yards from scrimmage by 762 yards over the next player, and Beban was arguable at his worst in his college career.
1967 B1G MVP: Leroy Keyes, Purdue
There was a three-way tie at 6-1 for the B1G title, between Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue—with Ohio State right behind at 5-2 in conference play. The Hoosiers lost to the Golden Gophers, while Minnesota lost to the Boilermakers—who lost the regular-season finale to Indiana, to miss their chance to finish undefeated in league play. We naturally look to the top trio for the league MVP here.
And it’s easy to isolate Boilermakers RB Leroy Keyes: He was second in the conference, by just 19 yards, in rushing (986 yards), and he led the league with 758 receiving yards. No one else even comes close to matching his production, in truth. He scored 19 TDs from scrimmage and totaled 22 TDs overall. He finished third in the Heisman voting, and in truth, he could have easily won it. He would finish second in the 1968 vote, too.
We’re not here to evaluate Heismans (yet … look for that series in the future), but this looks like another case of a player not winning a vote, because he hadn’t paid his dues yet, or some nonsense like that. There will be a time to look at the bad voting for the Heisman later, but Keyes may be the most underrated player we’ve seen yet in this column/series.
1968 Rose Bowl MVP: O.J. Simpson (original, confirmed)
Indiana got the bowl bid since Minnesota and Purdue had both been to the Rose Bowl much more recently—in this decade, in fact—and the Hoosiers never had been to Pasadena. Once there, Indiana played valiantly in losing to USC, 14-3. Simpson scored both Trojans TDs, and he won the MVP vote at the time.
Overall, the Juice ran for 128 yards, and even though it was a low-scoring affair, no one else really had anywhere near the same impact on the game as Simpson, so we confirm this award, readily, without much more to say.