We have reached 1987 this week on Pac-12 Friday as we find ourselves celebrating New Year’s Eve. Sadly, once again, the Conference of Champions and the B1G did not figure strongly into the mythical national championship chase. However, we know that the two groups always provide the highest levels of student-athlete accomplishments, no matter what!
Off to a year we remember well as it was a formative one in our teens: We watched the New Year’s Day bowl games with the first hangover of our lives! Oh, what a memory …
1987 Pac-10 MVP: Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA (original); Steven Webster, RB, USC (revised)
The UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans tied atop the league with 7-1 conference marks, followed by … the Washington Huskies (4-3-1). No other team finished above .500 in league action, so our MVP analysis is simplified there. Bruins quarterback Troy Aikman won the MVP vote at the time, and he certainly was the best QB. Another main contender is USC running back Steven Webster, so this comes down to support.
Webster topped the conference in rushing (1,109) and total scrimmage yards (1,241), while Aikman led his peers in QB efficiency (157.6) and completion percentage (65.2). Both had good teammates: UCLA RB Gaston Green (1,204 scrimmage yards and league-best 12 TDs) and Trojans QB Rodney Peete (Pac-10 high 21 passing TDs) were very capable.
The difference maker here? Bruins wide receiver Flipper Anderson: He was the best pass catcher in the conference with 903 yards, and no USC receiver topped 700 yards. That gives a slight edge to Webster here, and there’s also this tidbit: The Trojans beat the Bruins, 17-13, to claim the tiebreak in the standings. UCLA was the better overall team, on paper, but head-to-head results matter. Webster wins.
1987 B1G MVP: Ernie Jones, WR, Indiana & Lorenzo White, RB, Michigan State (original, tie); Chuck Hartlieb, QB, Iowa (revised)
There was a unique collection of surprising teams atop the league this year, with Michigan State posting a 7-0-1 conference mark, followed by Indiana and Iowa (both finishing 6-2). Two players tied for the MVP vote: Hoosiers WR Ernie Jones and Spartans RB Lorenzo White. But we also want to consider Hawkeyes QB Chuck Hartlieb, who dominated the passing statistics across the board.
Here’s a look at what these three “triplets” did in terms of leading the B1G in various categories:
- Hartlieb: completions, attempts, completion percentage, yards, yards per attempt, TDs, QB rating
- Jones: receptions, receiving yards, receiving TDs
- White: rushing attempts, scrimmage TDs
White benefitted from MSU’s great season in the voters’ minds, but he really has no business being in this discussion. He was all volume, while Jones won the Triple Crown for his position, so to speak, and Hartlieb was merely the most dominant player in the conference. So, which team won the head-to-head matchup between Indiana and Iowa? The Hawkeyes did, so we lean toward Hartlieb here, surprisingly.
1988 Rose Bowl MVP: Percy Snow, LB, MSU (original, confirmed)
The Spartans upset the Trojans in the Granddaddy, 20-17, for their second victory over USC during the season, as the two teams had played in East Lansing to start the season. MSU linebacker Percy Snow was named the game MVP, for making 17 tackles and helping the Spartans force 5 Trojan turnovers. On offense, no MSU player was really dominant.
The Spartans ran the ball 60 times for only 148 yards, and MSU passed for just 128 yards on only 7 attempts. That’s an ugly offense, so we will just confirm the MVP vote of Snow, because that’s a lot of tackles, and the Spartan defense ruled the day.