Well, here we are. The end of a Pac-12 season. After all the upsets and rides on the coaching carousel, one thing remains. Stanford’s still on the throne.
I predicted they’d win the Pac-12 in my season preview but blame a crazy November for me losing faith in the Cardinal. Saturday’s performance reminded me of what I wrote four months ago. Don’t bet against Stanford or David Shaw and his coaching staff.
It’s hard to beat a team twice but they made it look easy against Arizona State. It was 34-7 midway through the second quarter and Tyler Gaffney was running through one of the conference’s best run defense like they were nothing.
Stanford put up 240 rushing yards in total and the Cardinal athletic department could’ve started printing up Rose Bowl tickets at halftime. Another year, another Pac-12 championship, another reminder why they’re not just smarter than you, but more physical and better prepared.
Offensive Player of the Year
Here’s a short list of players who stood out to me. Ka’Deem Carey, Marcus Mariota, Bishop Sankey, Marion Grice, Connor Halliday, Sean Mannion, Brandin Cooks, Paul Richardson and Brett Hundley.
If you’ve followed my posts, you know I’ve touted most of their virtues. So saying that Carey is my Player of the Year isn’t a surprise. Carey missed a game due to suspension and still put up rushing numbers that ranked among the Pac-12 and national leaders. He also gets the edge for lighting up Oregon in the upset win that shook up the conference for the last time.
Honestly I think an NFL team will be happy to have Carey or Sankey. Both of them are strong, durable tailbacks with good to decent speed. And if a team “settles” for Grice, he’s a great pass catcher in addition to a strong runner. Despite the quarterbacks getting love, I think running back is where the conference has the most depth.
Defensive Player of the Year
Anthony Barr will probably be a Top-10 pick in the NFL Draft and he earned it this year. But my pick is going to another linebacker who had a monster season.
Trent Murphy was a terror for the Cardinal and with most of the attention on teammate Shayne Skov, he put up better numbers than Barr and was the lynchpin of the Pac-12’s nastiest defense. At 6-6, 281 lbs, he’ll probably be better suited as a defensive end in the NFL but he knows how to get to the quarterback. Of his 58 tackles, 21 were for a loss, including 14 sacks.
Other defensive guys I saw that I loved. Myles Jack, Will Sutton, Robert Nelson, Leonard Williams, Trevor Reilly, Alden Darby, Skov.
Coach of the Year
All respect to Todd Graham giving ASU their best year since 1996 when Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman led them to the Rose Bowl. But this award goes to Ed Orgeron, who took USC from the depth of irrelevancy and gave them hope again.
Wins against Stanford and Oregon State were the biggest since Pete Carroll left four years ago. He discovered hidden talent buried by Lane Kiffin. Maybe he didn’t beat UCLA or Notre Dame but it was a great sugar rush that made USC one of the most improved teams in the Pac-12.
Time will tell if he was merely the setup man for Steve Sarkisian keeping the party going for good but while Orgeron was there, he did as great as a substitute is supposed to do.