We’re back on Pac-12 Friday to examine an interesting season for the Conference of Champions and its Midwest brethren, the B1G. The conferences combined to put 5 teams in the Top 20 at the end of the season, although only one team had an outside shot at the mythical national championship, really.
That doesn’t mean the season was not exciting, however, so read on for chills and thrills!
1992 Pac-10 MVP: Drew Bledsoe, QB, Washington State (original); Shaumbe Wright-Fair, RB, WSU (revised)
Five teams finished tightly packed in the conference, with Washington and Stanford (both 6-2 in league play) finishing one game ahead of Washington State and USC (both at 5-3)—with Arizona (4-3-1) just behind. The Wildcats actually finished second in the nation in scoring defense allowing just 9.8 points per game for the full season. You wonder how they ever lost!
Anyway … Cougars quarterback Drew Bledsoe nabbed MVP honors at the time, even though he finished third in passing efficiency. We’re not fans of that! There’s quantity there—not quality. So, who do we like for the real MVP? In truth, WSU running back Shaumbe Wright-Fair brought both quantity and quality to the Cougars offense, topping the league in rushing yards (1,331) and scrimmage yards (1,502).
He also finished second in scrimmage TDs (13); he really was the best and most dominant player from any of our top teams, and with Bledsoe tossing a league-worst 15 interceptions, it’s clear Wright-Fair was more the reason for WSU’s success than Bledsoe was, in terms of quality play. He’s our pick here, strangely enough.
1992 B1G MVP: Tyrone Wheatley, RB, Michigan (original, confirmed)
The Michigan Wolverines posted a 6-0-2 record in B1G play, to easily outdistance the next-best team. The ties were weird—the Wolverines finished 9-0-3 overall, as well—as Michigan started 6-0 in the league before tying both Illinois and Ohio State in its final two games. RB Tyrone Wheatley won the MVP vote, clinching the top spot for rushing yards (1,357), scrimmage yards (1,502), and scrimmage TDs (16).
Yet Wheatley did play with the top-rated QB in the conference, Elvis Grbac (150.1 efficiency rating). We know Michigan was a good team, and in truth, Wheatley finished 336 rushing yards ahead of the next player, and he finished 424 scrimmage yards ahead of the second-place guy, too. With Grbac tossing 12 INTs on the year, we’re sticking with Wheatley as the primary reason that the Wolverines never lost.
1993 Rose Bowl MVP: Wheatley (original, confirmed)
The Huskies had a chance to win three straight Rose Bowls, but they were thwarted by the Wolverines, who won the game, 38-31, to finish undefeated (albeit with the three ties). Washington held a 21-17 lead at halftime and a 31-24 lead in the third quarter before Michigan scored the final two TDs of the game to emerge victorious. Wheatley was named the game’s MVP: 15 carries, 235 yards, 3 TDs.
It’s going to be hard for any player to overcome that performance’s impact. He scored on a 56-yard run, an 88-yard run, and a 24-yard run. Doing the math, the kid was a one-man wrecking ball. Both teams cleared 400 yards of total offense, and the Wolverines ran for 308 yards alone—while the Huskies threw for 308 yards. Washington committed the game’s only turnover, a fumble.
So, we’re confirmed Wheatley’s MVP award here, readily. He also added two receptions on the day, even though he gained only 4 yards on those catches. Doesn’t matter: Wheatley did all the damage he needed to on the ground as Michigan finished No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll.