This is the first edition of this Pac-12 Friday miniseries that the Conference of Champions had 12 teams, with the additions of the Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes—and it’s the first time the B1G moved to play a conference title game, too, as both leagues began divisional play to get more “modern”! If that’s what some want to call it, that is fine. We call it just the beginning of the end now, sadly.
Until the dust settles on all this realignment talk (the Big XII and the Pac-12 merging?), here we go …
2011 Pac-12 MVP: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford & Mychal Kendricks, LB, California (original); LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (revised)
Three teams finished in the AP Poll’s Top 7 for the season: Oregon, Stanford, and USC. The Ducks won the conference title game over UCLA, so that’s our pool for MVP candidates, really. The vote winners were Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck again (169.7 QB rating) and California Golden Bears linebacker Mychal Kendricks (14.5 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 INTs). Anyone else?
Ducks running back LaMichael James (2,015 total yards and 19 touchdowns) is here to challenge Luck one more time, and that’s about it. Our analysis last season was close between Luck and James, and it is again this year, too. The reason we’re going with James is that Oregon beat Stanford on the road by 23 points, and in that game, Luck tossed two INTs while James scored 3 times for the Ducks. Enough said.
James topped the conference in rushing yards (1,805) in addition to the above stats that also led the Pac-12 Conference, so he’s deserving of the award this time around, for sure.
2011 B1G MVP: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin & Devon Still, DL, Penn State (original); Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State (revised)
The top teams in the two divisions were Michigan State (7-1), Wisconsin (6-2), Penn State (6-2), and Michigan (6-2), with the Badgers beating the Spartans in the conference title game. Badgers RB Montee Ball (2,239 total yards and 39 TDs) and Nittany Lions defensive lineman Devon Still (17 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, 1 FF) won the MVP votes, but is there anyone else to consider?
Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson posted a 191.8 QB rating, which is insane, and it’s arguable that Ball owed his success to Russell’s arm. Of course, the opposite could be true as well; either way, they basically cancel each other out as MVP candidates. Offensively, the only other possible candidate is Wolverines QB Denard Robinson (3,349 total yards with 36 TDs), since he had so little help on his roster.
Defensively, however, Spartans LB Denicos Allen (18.5 TFLs, 11 sacks, 3 PDs) is a better candidate than Still, and when we look at head-to-head results, it was MSU shutting down Michigan, 28-14, with Allen (7 tackles, 1.5 sacks) dominating Robinson (9-for-24, 1 INT, 42 rushing yards on 18 carries). So, this is a surprise, for sure. We’re going with Allen as the MVP for the season.
2012 Rose Bowl MVP: Lavasier Tuinei, WR, Oregon & Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon (original); De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (revised)
The B(C)$ was rigged again, of course, so the Ducks and the Badgers ended up in a traditional Rose Bowl matchup, where Oregon emerged victorious, 45-38. The Ducks came from behind, scoring the only 10 points of the fourth quarter to win, with wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei (158 yards, 2 TDs, including the game winner) and LB Kiko Alonso (2.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 PD) sharing MVP honors.
In truth, we’re not sure why Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas wasn’t the MVP: He had just six touches from scrimmage, but he averaged 31.5 yards per play, and he scored two long, back-breaking TDs for the Ducks—one to tie the game and the other to go ahead. He was the scrimmage yards leader for an Oregon offense that racked up 621 total yards.
With the Badgers gaining over 500 yards themselves, we’re not going with any Ducks defender, so we like Thomas’ breakout performance here, as the “Black Mamba” nickname was secured in Rose Bowl lore in this game. He also added 125 yards on 5 kickoff returns, so it was a very good day for Thomas that the voters really just didn’t recognize at the time, for some reason.