This Pac-12 Friday miniseries has caught up to the present day for the Conference of (real NCAA) Champions and its B1G brethren—the cornerstones of NCAA football history. What a crazy season it was, too, even though none of the teams below truly competed for the mythical national championship. It was a nice recovery from the Covid fiasco of 2020, for sure.
2021 Pac-12 MVP: Drake London, WR, USC & Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (original); Lloyd (revised)
Utah and Oregon faced each other for the conference title, with the Utes emerging victorious. There were three other teams finishing just behind those two in the standings: UCLA, Arizona State, and Washington State. Quite the unique group, for sure. London played for a losing squad, so Lloyd (111 tackles, 22 TFLs, 7 sacks, 6 PDs, 4 INTs, 2 TDs) becomes our leader in the MVP conversation.
With Lloyd the dominant defensive presence in the league, by far, what offensive player(s) can match him? Really, it comes down to Ducks running back Travis Dye: 1,673 scrimmage yards and 18 touchdowns. That is a very good season, but it’s not a great one, per se. And considering Utah beat Oregon twice, by a combined 76-17 score, we’re sticking with Lloyd here as our MVP.
2021 B1G MVP: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State & Aidan Hutchinson, DL, Michigan (original); Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State (revised)
The top four teams were Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Iowa—with the Wolverines breaking through for their first B1G championship since 2004. Stroud (186.6 QB rating) and Hutchinson (66 tackles, 22 TFLs, 14 sacks, 3 PDs, 2 FFs) were both Heisman finalists, and Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III won both the Walter Camp and Doak Walker awards despite finishing sixth for the Hypesman.
That’s a lot of top-shelf talent to choose from here, of course. Throw in Hawkeyes LB Jack Campbell (140 tackles, 6 PDs, 2 INTs), and we have a lot of choices here. Amusement is that MSU beat Michigan; the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes; and Ohio State beat Michigan State. Iowa is almost an afterthought here, as the Hawkeyes faded in the end, but Campbell’s season is better than Hutchinson’s, for sure.
Either way, Michigan and Iowa finished 4th and 5th in scoring defense, respectively, among conference teams, so neither of those guys deserves an MVP trophy. Walker led the conference in rushing and scrimmage yards while playing with the 5th-rated QB, and Stroud topped the QB list with support from two position players that finished 2nd and 3rd behind Walker in scrimmage yards. So, Walker it has to be.
2022 Rose Bowl MVP: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State (original, confirmed)
The CFP selected Michigan, so Ohio State was invited to the Rose Bowl to face Utah, and we got a classic shootout in the Granddaddy of Them All: Buckeyes 48, Utes 45. With almost 1,150 combined yards of offense, there was just one MVP vote winner with 15 catches, 347 receiving yards, and 3 TDs. That kind of performance cannot be ignored, although Stroud tossed 6 TDs and 1 INT, overall.
Stroud was outstanding, but we will confirm the incredible receiving performance of Jaxon Smith-Njigba for its record-breaking awesomeness. He set school, all-bowl, and FBS receiving records with those 347 yards and 15 receptions. How can we not reward that effort with an MVP nod?