Today, our Pac-12 Friday miniseries for college football in the Conference of Champions and its Midwest brethren, the B1G, examines the 2004 season today—an inane one, to say the least, based on laughable NCAA retroactive and hypocritical rulings. We haven’t let ourselves stop the flow because of that, however. We just pursue facts.
Once more unto the breach, dear fans and readers!
2004 Pac-10 MVP: Matt Leinart, QB, and Reggie Bush, RB, USC (tie) & Shaun Cody, DL, USC, and Bill Swancutt, DL, Oregon State (tie), (original); J.J. Arrington, RB, Cal (revised)
There was a voted tie for both the offensive and defensive MVPs this year, as USC won the league again with an 8-0 record, followed by California at 7-1. The Trojans dominated the voting with quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush sharing the offensive honors, while defensive lineman Shaun Cody shared the defensive accolades with Oregon State DL Bill Swancutt.
The defensive stats are poorly archived, but for the offensive side, we actually see Golden Bears RB J.J. Arrington as the most valuable. This is why: USC’s offense was loaded with Leinart (top-rated QB), Bush (1,417 scrimmage yards and 13 TDs), RB Lendale White (1,200 scrimmage yards and league-best 17 TDs), and multiple receivers. Cal’s offense was simpler, led by QB Aaron Rodgers (second in QB rating).
But no other Golden Bears player topped 1,000 scrimmage yards, while Arrington topped the league there (2,139), bolstered by a league-high 2,018 rushing yards. He was better than Bush on a team that needed him more in order to succeed. We’re not arguing that Bush wasn’t a great player, of course, but we’re pointing out that Arrington was the most valuable player in the league for this specific season.
2004 B1G MVP: Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan & Erasmus James, DL, Wisconsin (original); Michael Hart, RB, Michigan (revised)
Iowa and Michigan tied atop the league with 7-1 record, even though the Wolverines beat the Hawkeyes at home, head to head. Wisconsin was one game behind the top two teams. Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards (1,391 scrimmage yards and 15 TDs) won the offensive MVP vote, while Badgers DL Erasmus James won the defensive trophy.
Edwards was good, of course, but he was surpassed on his own team in scrimmage yards by RB Michael Hart (1,692 scrimmage yards), and he did have a top QB throwing him the ball, too (Chad Henne, third rated in league). Edwards was a senior, seen as a leader, while Hart and Henne were freshmen, but that’s still a formidable bunch of triplets, so to speak.
However, there’s really no obvious candidates here for an MVP Award, at least from the top teams. We also are of the belief that a good running game makes things easier for a green QB to throw the ball … not the other way around. So, we give our MVP nod to Hart for leading the league in rushing (1,455) and finishing second in scrimmage yards. Without Hart, Henne doesn’t have the space to throw to Edwards.
2005 Orange Bowl MVP: Leinart (original, confirmed)
The B(C)$ messed up our traditional matchup again, as the Orange Bowl was the host of the championship game. No. 1-ranked USC was pegged for that, meaning the Rose Bowl infamously ended up snubbing Cal and choosing Texas instead. The Longhorns beat the Wolverines, 38-37, in the Rose Bowl, while the Trojans famously rolled Oklahoma, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl.
Leinart was named the MVP there: 332 yards passing and 5 TDs. White added 118 yards rushing and 2 TDs on the ground. Overall, the USC offense totaled 525 yards, and the Trojans defense forced 5 Sooners turnovers. USC WR Steve Smith caught 7 passes for 113 yards and 3 TDs, while WR Dwayne Jarrett grabbed 5 passes for 115 yards and 1 TD. See the balance? Impressive.
While he “only” completed 18 of his 35 throws, Leinart did not commit a turnover, and clearly he just picked apart the Oklahoma defense with his patience. That’s good enough for us to confirm his award, again.