It’s 1986 this week on Pac-12 Friday as we creep even closer to the New Year, as once again, the Conference of Champions and the B1G did not figure into the national championship scene in the end. However, we know that the two leagues always provide the best in student-athlete accomplishment, no matter what the year or sport.
Now, enjoy this week’s review of a fun season …
1986 Pac-10 MVP: Brad Muster, RB, Stanford (original); Gaston Green, RB, UCLA (revised)
Six teams won 5 games each in conference play, but it was Arizona State that came out on top for the first time ever, thanks to its 5-1-1 mark in Pac-10 games. UCLA and Washington were close behind with 5-2-1 records, while Arizona, Stanford, and USC posted 5-3 marks. What a clusterfuck, right? Uneven scheduling has to be the stupidest thing ever.
Anyway, Cardinal running back Brad Muster won the MVP vote at the time: Will he retain the hardware? Muster did lead the Pac-10 in scrimmage yards (1,741), but UCLA RB Gaston Green topped him in rushing yards (1,405) by over 280 yards, and Green also scored one more TD than Muster did—as the Bruins finished higher than Stanford in league play.
No quarterback really dominated the league this season, so it’s between these two: Muster had 61 more touches than Green did, as the latter led the conference in yards per carry (5.6) while Muster (4.3) was way down the list. Muster was a workhorse, but Green was the better player on the better team—although the Bruins did lose to Stanford, head to head. But that’s irrelevant here: Green is the man.
1986 B1G MVP: Jim Harbaugh, QB, Michigan (original); Darrell Thompson, RB, Minnesota (revised)
Well, it was back to the Big Two as Michigan and Ohio State tied for the conference lead at 7-1 in B1G play—with the Wolverines winning on the road in Columbus, 26-24. Both Iowa and Minnesota finished tied for third with 5-3 league marks, so the MVP pool should be thin. Michigan QB Jim Harbaugh was voted the MVP at the time. Will he keep the honor here?
He did top the B1G in passing efficiency (151.7), but Harbaugh only did so by 1 point over Michigan State QB Dave Yarema. That doesn’t impress us. Who else is a candidate? Minnesota freshman RB Darrell Thompson pulled off the Triple Crown, in truth, leading the conference in rushing yards (1,240), scrimmage yards (1,438), and scrimmage TDs (11). And the Golden Gophers beat the Wolverines!
Imagine where Minnesota would have been without Thompson; Harbaugh had help in the backfield (RB Jamie Morris was second in the conference for scrimmage yards), while Golden Gophers QB Rickey Foggle posted a mere 107.7 QB rating. Yikes! Thompson has a lot more value here than Harbaugh does, in truth, even if he played for a third-place team.
1987 Rose Bowl MVP: Jeff Van Raaphorst, QB, Arizona State (original, confirmed)
The Sun Devils beat the Wolverines, 22-15, to claim their first Rose Bowl title, and ASU QB Jeff Van Raaphorst was voted the game’s MVP. Michigan held a 15-13 halftime lead, but Arizona State outscored its opponent in the second half to win the game. In fact, the Wolverines had led 15-3, so the Sun Devils really turned a corner in the second quarter to dominate Michigan after that.
Van Raaphorst threw for 193 yards and two TDs, one in the second quarter and one in the third. The TD pass in the second quarter came with just 29 seconds left on the clock, so it was a huge momentum shifter. He did have help, though: ASU RB Darryl Harris ran for 109 yards in 23 carries, while Sun Devils WR Aaron Cox had 101 yards on 6 catches.
The key to the game, though, were those two TD drives: one to close out the first half and one to open the second half. That changed the game, and even though Van Raaphorst threw both TDs to Bruce Hill, it was the ASU QB who was responsible for making the Sun Devils offense click so well in stealing the momentum away from the Wolverines as Harbaugh was intercepted three times on the day.