Our Pac-12 Friday miniseries for college football in the Conference of Champions and its Midwest brethren, the B1G, takes on the 2003 season today—this was the year we all should have realized that corruption in college football was a done deal, really. The B(C)$ somehow didn’t choose the No. 1 team in both polls for its “title” game, making a sham out of the sport … but certainly not for the first or last time.

Now, onto the good stuff: our awards analyses!

2003 Pac-10 MVP: Matt Leinart, QB, USC & Dave Ball, DL, UCLA (original); Leinart (revised)

The USC Trojans posted a 7-1 record to top the conference by 1 game over Washington State. Behind those two, in third place, were California and Oregon at 5-3. USC quarterback Matt Leinart and UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Dave Ball won the MVP votes at the time, and with the Bruins posting just a 4-4 record, we now check to see if anyone can challenge Leinart here for the top honors in our corner.

The only real contender, on paper, would be Oregon State running back Steven Jackson, who won the Triple Crown for the second year in a row, leading the conference in rushing yards (1,545), scrimmage yards (2,015), and scrimmage touchdowns (22). But like UCLA, the Beavers finished just 4-4 in the conference, so we will confirm Leinart’s MVP hardware here.

The Trojans star topped the conference in QB rating (164.5) by almost 19 points over Cal QB Aaron Rodgers (maybe you have heard of him), while also leading his peers in completion percentage (63.4), yards per attempt (8.8), passing TDs (38), and total TDs (39). Leinart threw just 9 interceptions on the year, as well, starting a trend of video-game statistics for QBs in the conference.

2003 B1G MVP: Chris Perry, RB, Michigan & Will Smith, DL, Ohio State (original); Perry (revised)

Michigan won the conference with a 7-1 record, thanks to a regular-season finale victory over Ohio State (6-2). Purdue also finished with a 6-2 record, as Wolverines RB Chris Perry and Buckeyes DL Will Smith won MVP votes. Three other schools finished with 5-3 marks in league play, but that opens this discussion up way too wide. So we will see what shakes down with the top three squads.

We have no official stats for Smith, so that’s a bummer; meanwhile, Perry led the B1G in rushing yards (1,674) and scrimmage yards (2,041)—fueled by his league-high number of touches (382). No wonder he did nothing in the pros after being so overused in college! But we digress: no other player with great stats competed for a contending team, so we can wrap this up quickly and confirm Perry’s MVP nod.

2004 Rose Bowl MVP: Leinart (original, confirmed)

So, the BCS chose No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Oklahoma—which lost its conference title game by 28 points—for the “title” game, leaving the Granddaddy of Them All with a No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchup between USC and Michigan. Not bad, really, for a return to form for the Rose Bowl. The Trojans solidified their grip on the No. 1 spot in the AP poll with a 28-14 victory over the Wolverines that really wasn’t that close.

USC was up 14-0 at halftime and 28-7 after three quarters before giving up a meaningless TD in the final quarter. Leinart was named the game’s MVP after throwing for 327 yards and 3 scores—while also catching a TD pass himself. So he was involved in all four scoring plays for the Trojans, which makes it hard to even consider anyone else for this award.

Michigan’s defense focused on the USC running game, forcing Leinart to beat them, and he did—badly. Trojans wide receiver Keary Colbert caught 6 passes for 149 yards and 2 TDs, but Leinart spread the ball around to 8 different targets. It was easy pickings all day for him against the Wolverines, who had no answer beyond the line of scrimmage for what USC was bringing to the table.

Make sure to always check on the final day of the work week for another exciting installment of Pac-12 Fridays on The Daily McPlay!