This is a big day for Pac-12 Friday, because the real college football season has started officially. Not that we care that much about the modern sport, but it’s still fun to watch peripherally. Strangely, the B1G started giving out a Coach of the Year Award this season—but no MVP nods for the players until 1982. The Conference of Champions would start doing both in 1975, incidentally.
So, for now, we are still on our own with these awards. Enjoy!
1972 Pac-8 MVP: Anthony Davis, USC
The USC Trojans went 7-0 in conference on their way to a mythical national title. The UCLA Bruins finished 5-2 to come in second place among the Pacific-8 teams. There is one obvious candidate for the league MVP: Trojans running back Anthony Davis. Considering USC’s starting quarterback threw 12 interceptions to go along with just 5 touchdown passes, Davis carried a big burden.
Davis, famous for his later exploits, topped the conference in rushing yards (1,191), scrimmage yards (1,323), and total TDs from scrimmage (17). Just a sophomore, he didn’t garner any Heisman Trophy votes, which is ridiculous—but totally in line with the demented voting process we’ve seen from this time period in the sport’s history.
He topped both yardage categories by more than 200 yards each, as the Trojans won each of their seven conference games by an average of almost 27 points every time out. USC was a very dominant team, and Davis was at the heart of its offensive prowess (38.9 points per game overall, third best in the nation).
1972 B1G MVP: Otis Armstrong, Purdue
Michigan and Ohio State tied atop the standings with matching 7-1 conference records, but the Buckeyes won the head-to-head matchup, 14-11, to earn the tiebreak. Purdue came in third with a 6-2 mark, followed by Michigan State with a 5-2-1 record. The Spartans were the only team to beat Ohio State in league play.
Purdue didn’t play the Buckeyes, but the Boilermakers only lost to the Wolverines by 3 points and the Spartans by 10 points. They did this thanks to running back Otis Armstrong: His 1,361 rushing yards and 1,416 scrimmage yards topped the league by significant margins, respectively, and he scored 9 TDs as well.
Ohio State RB Champ Henson scored a ridiculous 20 TDs from scrimmage, but he seemed to get a lot of goal-line duty despite gaining just 4.1 yards per carry on the ground as he gained only 801 yards total from scrimmage. Armstrong definitely earned this award in helping his team overcome an 0-3 start to the season and finish third in the conference nonetheless—and just 3 points away from second.
1973 Rose Bowl MVP: Sam Cunningham, USC (original), Anthony Davis (revised)
The Trojans torched the Buckeyes in the Granddaddy of Them All, winning 42-17 in a game that wasn’t even that close. After being tied 7-7 at halftime, USC outscore Ohio State, 35-10, in the second half, with the final Buckeyes TD coming very late. Trojans fullback Sam Cunningham scored four short rushing TDs—three from one yard, one from two yards—to claim the MVP vote.
Davis scored only once—a 20-yard run in the third quarter that put the Trojans up, 21-10—but overall, he put up 157 rushing yards as USC gained 207 overall on the ground. It’s clear that Davis did most of the hard work, and Cunningham just got to clean it up each time at the goal line.
Is that fair? Heck, no. Overall, Cunningham had 11 carries for just 38 yards. It would be one thing if Sam Bam had run for four TDs from a ways out, but Davis was the machine in this game, really. Therefore, we are overturning this award and giving it to Davis. His 23 carries—plus 3 receptions for 17 more yards—were the driving force behind USC’s ability to march up and down the field all day against a proud Ohio State defense.
[Editor’s Note: We realize Cunningham passed away this week at age 71, so the timing of this decision feels like it is in poor taste. It is not; it is just coincidental. Our heartfelt condolences to the USC family and Cunningham’s family as well.]