It’s 1983 on Pac-12 Friday this week, as the Conference of Champions extended the misery of the B1G in the Rose Bowl for another season. Neither league really figured into the national scene in any significant way in the end, so the Granddaddy of Them All was the focus of both the Midwest and the Best Coast—as it always should be, in truth. Let the others have their myths.
Once more into the fray, dear readers … once more!
1983 Pac-10 MVP: Steve Pelluer, QB, Washington (original); Rick Neuheisel, QB, UCLA (revised)
The league started giving out both Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards this season, but with a lack of defensive statistics available, we will stick to the offensive side (for now). With a 6-1-1 conference mark, the UCLA Bruins outlasted the Washington Huskies (5-2)—and uneven scheduling. The Washington State Cougars finished third at 5-3 in Pac-10 play.
Huskies quarterback Steve Pelluer won the vote for offensive MVP, despite not leading the conference in any major passing categories. In fact, UCLA QB Rick Neuheisel topped his peers in four major passing statistical measures, including passing efficiency rating (148.5), while Cougars running back Kerry Porter led the league in rushing yards (1,000).
All things considered, this should have been Neuheisel’s hardware: UCLA started the season 0-3-1 and recovered to win seven of its final eight games to claim the Pac-10 crown and win the Rose Bowl (spoiler), and Neuheisel was the reason for it, in truth, as the Bruins averaged 29 points per game in their season recovery and ultimate triumph.
1983 B1G MVP: Don Thorp, DL, Illinois (original); Chuck Long, QB, Iowa (revised)
Illinois finished a perfect 9-0 in conference play, and Fightin’ Illini defensive lineman Don Thorp was voted the MVP. Again, we don’t have defensive statistics to use here, so we will have to re-assign the award. We have a perfect pyramid of teams here, too: Michigan (8-1), Iowa (7-2), Ohio State (6-3), and Wisconsin (5-4) all lost to the teams above them in the conference standings. We love symmetry!
So who was the MVP? Well, it’s either Hawkeyes QB Chuck Long (topped B1G in yards per attempt and efficiency rating) or Buckeyes RB Keith Byars (led league in rushing, scrimmage yards, and total TDs). And with Iowa winning the head-to-head matchup at home, 20-14, we will go with Long—even though we do think Byars was the “better” player.
Yet Long threw for 2,434 yards, finishing only 12 yards behind the B1G leader, and his 14 TDs easily outpaced his 8 interceptions. A 61.0-percent completion rate contributed to the 160.4 QB rating, which was the best in the B1G by a full 24 points. Only a sophomore, Long had a bright future ahead of him.
1984 Rose Bowl MVP: Rick Neuheisel, QB, UCLA (original, confirmed)
Somehow, the No. 4-ranked Fightin’ Illini were only a 4.5-point favorite over the unranked Bruins, probably due to UCLA’s home-field advantage, the recent trend of B1G failures in Pasadena, and … a lack of faith in Illinois’ upstart success during the regular season. Of course, the Bruins crushed the Illini, 45-9, to win the game, and a lot of people probably were head-scratching at the time.
It was 28-3 at halftime, and Neuheisel was named the MVP at the time for his 298 passing yards and four TD passes—three of which came in the first half. The Bruins defense held Illinois to just 205 total yards, including zero rushing yards on 17 attempts, and UCLA picked off Illini QB Jack Trudeau three times. We confirm Neuheisel’s award in the absence of any decent defensive context.
Make sure to always check on the final day of the work week for another exciting installment of Pac-12 Fridays on The Daily McPlay!