For Pac-12 Friday today, we take on the 1995 season of college football for the Conference of Champions and its Midwest brethren, the B1G. Neither league really had a legitimate chip in the pot for the mythical national championship this season, but we know that doesn’t matter. It’s always fun to explore the Rose Bowl and its traditional adversaries!
Fight on, faithful football fans …
1995 Pac-10 MVP: Keyshawn Johnson, WR, USC (original); Ricky Whittle, RB, Oregon (revised)
USC and Washington finished atop the conference standings with 6-1-1 records, and Oregon was right behind at 6-2. That’s quite a logjam, considering Stanford came in fourth with a 5-3 mark. Trojans wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson won the MVP vote at the time, for posting 1,434 receiving yards, but we’re not entirely sold on this vote.
USC’s offense had the second-best quarterback and the second-best running back in the conference, so we don’t think any one of those “triplets” could really be the MVP. As for the Huskies, they had the No. 1 QB, the No. 4 RB, and the No. 6 WR. That makes Washington QB Damon Huard a possible MVP candidate, more so than Keyshawn.
Yet we also like Ducks RB Ricky Whittle, who was third in scrimmage yards (1,458) and second in scrimmage TDs (13), while playing with the eighth-best QB in the conference. That’s a lot of value right there. The fact Oregon finished just a half game out of the top spot without a quality QB is impressive, and a lot of that weight fell on Whittle, so he’s going to be our MVP pick.
1995 B1G MVP: Eddie George, RB, Ohio State (original); Darnell Autry, RB, Northwestern (revised)
The Northwestern Wildcats emerged unscathed through the conference slate with an 8-0 record, much to the surprise of everyone. Ohio State finished second with a 7-1 record, although the two teams did not play each other. The Buckeyes lost their regular-season finale to Michigan, of course, costing Ohio State a shot at the national championship—and handing the league title outright to NU in the process.
Buckeyes RB Eddie George won the MVP vote (and the Heisman), but Ohio State boasted the top QB and top WR, as well, so none of them were truly valuable, individually. George’s 2,344 scrimmage yards and 25 scrimmage TDs were incredible, but that is easier to do when you have such talented teammates around you at all the skill positions.
So does Northwestern have any candidates, in truth? The QB was eighth in the conference for efficiency rating, but RB Darnell Autry finished second to George in both scrimmage yards (1,953) and TDs (18), while topping the league in total touches (414). There’s no doubt in our minds he was more valuable than George, even if George was the better player, statistically. This won’t be popular, but we stand by it.
1996 Rose Bowl MVP: Johnson (original, confirmed)
The Trojans won the tiebreak over the Huskies, even though the two teams tied each other, on the basis of non-conference victories, and USC ended up beating Northwestern, 41-32, in a very exciting bowl game. The Trojans were up 24-10 at halftime and held on in the second half to win the game, despite the Wildcats taking a 32-31 lead in the fourth quarter.
Johnson got the MVP nod at the time, for catching 12 passes and gaining a then-record 216 yards through the air. Other players had great games—Autry ran for 3 TDs as Northwestern fought until the end—but Johnson did dominate the game as USC escaped with the upset win. We will confirm his award.