Our Pac-12 Friday miniseries for college football in the Conference of Champions and its Midwest brethren, the B1G, takes on the 2002 season today. This was a big BCS year, where we really first starting hearing rumbles about the need for a tournament—not just two teams playing for the title. All conference champs featured today were worthy of a shot at the MNC, really. Welcome to inanity!
Now, onto the good stuff: the awards …
2002 Pac-10 MVP: Carson Palmer, QB, USC & Terrell Suggs, DL, Arizona State (original); Palmer (revised)
Both USC and Washington State tied for the conference lead with 7-1 record, although the Cougars beat the Trojans head-to-head to win the tiebreak. USC quarterback Carson Palmer won the MVP vote, as did Arizona State defensive lineman Terrell Suggs. With the Sun Devils finishing two games behind the leaders, we’re starting with Palmer as a default launching point for this discussion.
Palmer topped the league with a 149.1 QB rating, as well as leading his peers in completion percentage (63.2) and passing touchdowns (33). Oh, and he won the Heisman vote as well. Is there anyone who can touch him in this convo? Oregon State running back Steven Jackson had a great year, topping the conference in rushing yards (1,690), scrimmage yards (1,855), and scrimmage TDs (17).
However, the Beavers finished just 4-4 in the conference, so we’re just going to go with Palmer here, although he probably had more support than Jackson did. But that 3-game gap in the standings is too much for Jackson to overcome in this debate.
2002 B1G MVP: Brad Banks, QB, Iowa & Michael Haynes, DL, Penn State (original); Banks (revised)
Iowa and Ohio State tied for the conference lead with perfect 8-0 marks, as the two schools did not play each other. Michigan came in third with a 6-2 record. Hawkeyes QB Brad Banks shared MVP honors with Penn State DL Michael Haynes, as the Nittany Lions came in fourth with a 5-3 league mark. Banks was best in the league with a 157.1 QB rating and 26 passing TDs, so he will be tough to top.
Penn State RB Larry Johnson had an insane season with 2,436 scrimmage yards, but the overall team performance lags, of course. The Buckeyes did not have individual, standout stars as they marched their way to the national championship, although the team did have some very good players on it, obviously. Banks did lead the B1G in total yards (2,996) and total TDs (31) as well, so he appears solid.
We will go with that sentiment, then. Banks finished second in the Heisman voting; Johnson finished third. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, as your team has to be somewhat good in order to actually win the darn hardware, usually.
2003 Orange Bowl MVP: Palmer (original, confirmed)
So, we go with the Orange Bowl here, for a few reasons. First, WSU won the tiebreak over USC and got the Rose Bowl bid, but with Ohio State being picked for the BCS Championship Game against Miami-FL, the Rose Bowl then “lost” its autobid team from the B1G. The subsequent selection process was convoluted, and it gave everyone an Oklahoma-WSU Rose Bowl, which the Sooners won.
In the meantime, USC and Iowa somehow ended up in the Orange Bowl with the more “traditional” matchup, so we’re looking at that game, which the Trojans won, 38-17. For the MVP vote, it was all Palmer, who threw for 303 yards and 1 TD without a turnover. Banks had a rough game, as overall, USC outgained Iowa, 550-323, while winning the penalties and turnover-margin battles.
The game was tied 10-10 at halftime, but then the Trojans scored 28 straight points in the second half to put the game away. USC RB Justin Fargas managed 131 scrimmage yards and 2 TDs himself as the only real rival to Palmer for the MVP nod here. Overall, the Trojans ran for 4 scores, and it’s the timing of them that are important here.
Fargas scored the first USC TD in the first quarter, in direct response to Iowa’s special-teams TD that opened the scoring. So that was huge. And his second TD, a 50-yard run in the third quarter, put the Trojans up 24-10—and all but broke the back of the Hawkeyes. Our only issue is that the USC offense averaged 5.0 ypc in this game, so every one of their backs was having a good day.
We have to accept that Palmer—and the mere threat of his passing abilities—opened the lanes for Fargas, Sultan McCullough (76 yards, 1 TD), and others to run at will. So we will confirm, after careful, close, and thorough consideration, Palmer’s MVP vote. If it had just been Fargas alone with the rushing stats, we’d have leaned his way, in truth.