Pac-12 Friday has reached the end of the turbulent 1970s, and we find the Conference of Champions doing just fine, with the B1G just trying to keep up. After all, since the 1968 season, the struggling adversaries from the Midwest have won just a single Rose Bowl through this moment in time. That’s pretty ugly!
So what happened in 1979? Well, you guessed it … more of the same, although the storyline always was different.
1979 Pac-10 MVP: Charles White, RB, USC (original, confirmed)
The USC Trojans topped the conference with a 6-0-1 record, the tie coming against John Elway and Stanford. Meanwhile, the Washington Huskies were the closest contenders (5-2). USC running back Charles White took the MVP vote at the time, his second in a row. Remember, though, we gave him the nod for 1977, too, not to mention the Rose Bowl MVP for the 1976 season.
Did he deserve this one? Well, yeah. He ran for 2,050 yards, and overall, he posted 2,195 scrimmage yards and 19 scrimmage touchdowns. He won the Heisman Trophy, too. This is an open-and-shut case for White as the Trojans rolled to another Rose Bowl berth. No one else in the conference comes close to having this kind of impact on the league standings.
1979 B1G MVP: Art Schlichter, QB, Ohio State
Ohio State ran the table in the conference, finishing one game ahead of Purdue; the two teams did not play each other, sadly. Michigan finished in third, losing to both the Buckeyes and the Boilermakers. So, who was the MVP? We have to say Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter. He topped the conference in QB efficiency rating (145.9), throwing for 14 TDs and just 6 interceptions, and in a year with no dominant RBs, he gets the nod from us, readily.
His total-yards mark (2,246) also led the B1G, as did his 23 total TDs. Schlichter ran for 430 yards and 9 TDs, too, while completing 52.5 percent of his passing attempts. The efficiency mark was fueled by a legitimate number of attempts and that completion percentage, some factors which separate his season from prior QBs in similar situations among B1G performers.
1980 Rose Bowl MVP: White (original, confirmed)
USC won the Granddaddy of Them All, 17-16, over Ohio State, costing the Buckeyes the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll. After the Trojans took a 10-0 lead, Schlichter rallied his team to a 16-10 fourth quarter edge, throwing for 297 yards overall. But it was White who carried the day—literally—for USC, hauling the rock 39 times for 247 yards and the game-winning touchdown with just about a minute left in the game.
The Trojans’ final drive is legendary: With about 2:50 left in the game and down by 6, White carried the ball twice for a whopping 60 yards to put USC down in scoring range right away. That mentally defeated the Buckeyes, as the Trojans, led by White, ended up pounding the ball in the end zone to secure the victory.
Ironically, Schlichter and White both would have personal problems that led to disappointing NFL careers, but on this day, they were both something special to watch in the Rose Bowl under the Southern California sun.