Our Pac-12 Friday miniseries enters the corrupt BCS Era, as we examine the 1998 season of college football for the Conference of Champions and its Midwest brethren, the B1G. The mythical national championship this season would be a unique one, and although one West Coast team got wronged by fate, the nation itself would never be the same in celebrating this sport.
Have fun with these award analyses!
1998 Pac-10 MVP: Cade McNown, QB, UCLA & Akili Smith, QB, Oregon & Chris Claiborne, LB, USC (original); Trung Canidate, RB, Arizona (revised)
The UCLA Bruins went through the conference season undefeated to take the league title, and the Arizona Wildcats came in second with a 7-1 record. No other school was within two games of these top teams, so when two players from non-contending teams were voted MVPs—Oregon Ducks quarterback Akili Smith and USC Trojans linebacker Chris Claiborne—we know something was wrong there. Right?
UCLA QB Cade McNown (our pick last year) was the remaining MVP vote winner, and we will start with him: Can anyone from the Arizona roster topple him here? We think so, as McNown finished more than 10 points behind Smith in the QB rating list for the conference. Wildcats running back Trung Canidate topped his peers in rushing yards and scrimmage yards while scoring double-digit touchdowns (10).
He did all that, too, without a QB even good enough to qualify for the efficiency rating list: That’s 1,220 rushing yards and 1,411 scrimmage yards with the likes of Ortege Jenkins playing QB for his team. He should have been the real MVP of the Pac-10 in 1998.
1998 B1G MVP: Drew Brees, QB, Purdue & Tom Burke, DL, Wisconsin (original); Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin (revised)
There was a three-way tie atop the league for the title: Michigan (7-1), Ohio State (7-1), and Wisconsin (7-1) all found themselves there, after the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines, and the Wolverines beat the Badgers. Ohio State and Wisconsin did not play each other, as the Buckeyes’ only loss came against Michigan State. Purdue Boilermakers QB Drew Brees won the offensive MVP vote, by the way.
But Purdue’s fourth-place finish won’t rate there, and Badgers defensive lineman Tom Burke can’t really win our MVP nod since we have so little metrics to evaluate him. So, do we have an offensive candidate from one of the top three teams? Sure! Ohio State QB Joe Germaine led the conference in passing efficiency, while Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne won the Triple Crown without a real QB playing next to him.
Dayne led the league in rushing yards (1,525), scrimmage yards (1,570), and scrimmage TDs (15)—while Ohio State had a very good set of triplets in Germaine (150.6 rating), wide receiver David Boston (1,435 receiving yards), and RB Michael Wiley (1,235 rushing yards). Dayne carried the load for the Badgers while the team shuffled two QBs in and out of the lineup around him. He was the workhorse MVP here.
1999 Rose Bowl MVP: Dayne (original, confirmed)
The Bruins would have been playing in the BCS title game, if not for a hurricane that changed its schedule around. UCLA was riding a 20-game winning streak when it had to go to play a road game in Miami after the conference schedule ended, and needless to say, the Bruins were poorly treated by fate. Thus, they had to settle for the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, which got to go to Pasadena on a tiebreak.
The Badgers won the game, 38-31, and Dayne was the MVP after running for 246 yards and 4 TDs. The first stat missed tying the record by 1 yards, and the second stat tied the record. Wisconsin managed just 17 passing attempts, so you can see the only reason it won was because of Dayne—and a defense that forced two turnovers in an offensive shootout.
The teams combined for 1,035 yards and 16 penalties, as Wisconsin led 24-21 at halftime. Dayne scored all three Badgers TDs before halftime, and then he scored again to open the second-half fireworks, giving his team a 10-point lead that it was able to hold on to through the fourth quarter (which featured no offensive TDs). In fact, no other Wisconsin offensive player found the end zone on this day.