We have found our way to 1985 on Pac-12 Friday as we creep closer to the New Year, but this means it was the year when the Conference of Champions and the B1G did not figure into the national championship scene in the end. One team had a shot, perhaps, but … well, you will see below.
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1985 Pac-10 MVP: Rueben Mayes, RB, Washington State (original, confirmed)
The UCLA Bruins won the conference with a 6-2 mark, but 5 other teams finished with 5 wins in league play, too: Arizona, Arizona State, USC, and Washington. This created quite the logjam at the top, and this means the MVP race could be wide open, as Washington State running back Rueben Mayes won the award for the second year in a row—even though his team finished under .500 overall and in the Pac-10.
Mayes wasn’t as dominant as he was the previous season, so we can look at Bruins quarterback David Norrie, perhaps: He topped the conference with a 141.0 QB rating while also leading his peers in yards per attempt (8.5). Yet Norrie tossed just 10 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, making him rather average overall.
No one even came close to Mayes’ numbers, however, as he was the best in rushing yards (1,236) and total yards from scrimmage (1,488). He led both categories by well over 200 yards each, respectively. Mayes was the best player in the conference, and without any real contenders from the top teams, we will confirm his hardware, again.
1985 B1G MVP: Chuck Long, QB, Iowa & Lorenzo White, RB, Michigan State (original, tie); White (revised)
The Iowa Hawkeyes emerged atop the conference with a 7-1 mark, one half game ahead of the Michigan Wolverines (6-1-1), and Iowa beat Michigan head to head, as well. Three other schools finished with 5 wins in league play: Ohio State, Illinois, and Michigan State. The voted co-MVPs at the time were Hawkeyes QB Chuck Long and Spartans RB Lorenzo White.
We gave Long our nod in 1983, of course, so can he win a second one here? Well, he didn’t even lead the B1G in QB rating: Michigan signal caller Jim Harbaugh did. And Long also threw 15 INTs, which tied him for the worst mark in the conference with two other QBs. So, we don’t like his MVP nod at all. Meanwhile, White ran for 2,066 yards and totaled 2,094 yards from scrimmage overall.
Anyone else to consider? Harbaugh had a great season, but he also only topped Long by 4.9 points in QB rating while White almost doubled up the next-best runner in the league (Wisconsin RB Larry Emery and his 1,113 yards). Iowa RB Ronnie Harmon (1,708 total yards) was very good, but he also had Long in his backfield, while White had no one at quarterback to help him out. We will go with White here, easily.
1986 Rose Bowl MVP: Eric Ball, RB, UCLA (original, confirmed)
The Hawkeyes came into the Granddaddy with one loss, a No. 4 ranking, and an outside shot at the mythical national championship. But the Bruins crushed all those hopes with a 45-28 win, that really was not as close as the score suggests. Iowa committed 5 turnovers, including a crazy 4 fumbles by Harmon, which has spawned many conspiracy theories to this day, since he had fumbled only once all season.
The UCLA offense ended up playing without starting QB Norrie (injured, DNP) and starting RB Gaston Green, who went down with an injury early in the game. Freshman RB Eric Ball stepped in and ran for 227 yards while scoring 4 TDs and winning the MVP honors, and it’s hard to pinpoint any other players for the Bruins who deserved the award. We confirm Ball’s trophy here.
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