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Stanford and Arizona State stole the spotlight out west in 2013.
The 2013 season will be an extremely memorable one for Pac-12 fans. New coaches Sonny Dykes and Mark Helfrich had very different debuts out West. The Pac-12 North turned out to be one of, if not the, best divisions in college football and first place was handled like a hot potato for the better part of a month. A group of second-year coaches lit up the night sky in the Pac-12 South each weekend. And the coach of the most powerful football program west of Austin, Texas, was fired after just one month of action.
The ousting of Lane Kiffin stole the headlines early in the season but fans in Los Angeles were given new life when the affable Ed Orgeron rallied the troops and circled the wagons in Heritage Hall. Then gaudy numbers took center stage in October as names like Sean Mannion, Marcus Mariota, Brandin Cooks, Marion Grice and Ka’Deem Carey all seemed to be leading the nation in something important.
Finally, the month of November rolled around and the division championships took center stage. Stanford and Oregon ran the zone read to perfection, handing off first place in the Pac-12 North three times in three weeks. Eventually, Oregon’s loss to Arizona in the desert awarded the crown to David Shaw and the Cardinal for the second consecutive season.
Speaking of the desert, while USC and UCLA got the national attention for most of the year, Arizona State quietly went about its business and posted the best record in the conference. But even getting to host the Pac-12 Championship Game couldn’t help Todd Graham break the Sun Devils' two decades-long Rose Bowl drought in Tempe.
But he did win Athlon Sports' Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors.
Pac-12 2013 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State
Arizona State winning the Pac-12 South didn’t come as a big surprise to Athlon Sports — we picked ASU to win the division back in the summer. But to post the best record in the league at 8-1? To host the conference championship game? And to win 10 games? No, all of that came as a bit of a surprise. Arizona State was one win away from its first Rose Bowl since 1996 and won 10 games in a season for just the third time since 1986. Arizona State led the league in turnover margin, sacks and fewest penalties while finishing second in scoring to only Oregon at 41.0 points per game. Todd Graham is one of 10 finalists for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year nationally.
Offensive Player of the Year: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
This is a remarkably talented offensive conference so there are a number of deserving candidates for Offensive Player of the Year but none played bigger and more consistently in brighter moments than Stanford’s Gaffney. No one in the Pac-12 scored more rushing touchdowns than the Cardinal ball-carrier (20), as Gaffney scored at least once in 12 of 13 games. He scored five times in two wins over the “best” team in the league, Arizona State, and set the single-game attempts record with 45 carries against Oregon in the biggest game of the year. His 307 carries were third nationally, his 1,626 yards are sixth nationally and he helped carry his team to a second consecutive Rose Bowl berth by rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns on the road in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
The Cardinal defense has more than one MVP with outside linebacker Trent Murphy and safety Ed Reynolds also certainly worthy of consideration. But Skov is the heart and soul of a unit that might be the most physical in the nation. The Stanford middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and leading tackler on the Pac-12’s top defense. He collected 100 total tackles, 10.0 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks but, like Gaffney, played his best in the biggest moments. Skov had 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks in a three-point win over Washington. He forced two fumbles and posted nine tackles in a fabulous showing against Oregon. He leapt over the ASU line of scrimmage in true LaVarr Arrington fashion on a critical Pac-12 title-clinching goal-line stand in the title game. When it comes to toughness, leadership and production, few nationally can match the two-time conference champion’s resume.
Newcomer of the Year: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
While Player of the Year honors were difficult to narrow down, the Newcomer of the Year award is a pretty simple debate. Myles Jack is the only correct answer. In a bizarre maneuver by the Pac-12, Jack was awarded both the Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. He posted 70 tackles (third among all Pac-12 freshmen), 5.0 for a loss, a forced fumble and an interception as a starting linebacker on defense. The two-way star, however, also added 267 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on an impressive 7.2 yards per carry on offense as a running back. He only played offense for four games but played a huge role in wins over Arizona, Washington and USC late in the year. The Paul Hornung Award finalist is the clear-cut newcomer of the year out West.
Biggest Disappointment of 2013 (team): Oregon
Normally, a 10-win season and No. 10-postseason ranking in the AP Poll would be things programs would call successful. Especially, a team with a first-year head coach. But the Ducks were preseason No. 3 in the nation and picked by almost all to win the Pac-12 championship this summer. Instead, Oregon will be playing in the Alamo Bowl. Oregon was in control of its own Pac-12 North destiny not once but twice and lost both times in ugly fashion to Stanford and subsequently Arizona. It handed the division crown to Stanford after laying an egg in the desert late in November and needed a touchdown with less than 30 seconds to play against Oregon State to salvage the 10-win season. It was a solid year for Oregon but not the one most anticipated and in a league in which almost every team overachieved, the Ducks get the nod as biggest disappointment.
Biggest Disappointment (individual): Lane Kiffin, USC
While Oregon gets the nod as the most disappointing team, the most disappointing aspect of the ’13 Pac-12 season has to be Lane Kiffin. The Trojans were loaded with talent but clearly had no desire to play for the embattled head coach. So after a wildly disappointing first month, Pat Haden didn’t even give Kiffin a chance to return to his office, firing the young head coach at Los Angeles International Airport before the team buses could even depart for campus following a lackluster showing in a 62-41 loss at Arizona State. What makes Kiffin even more disappointing is that his old team fought valiantly under interim head coach Ed Orgeron and has a chance to finish the season with 10 wins.
Biggest Surprise of 2013: Washington State
The Pac-12 preseason predictions were pretty accurate across the board in 2013. Did Oregon State and Cal lose a few extra games this fall? Sure. Did Arizona State surprise by winning a few extra this season? Certainly. But the job Mike Leach did at Washington State to take a 3-9 squad to a bowl game this fall after being picked to finish last in the conference has to be considered a minor upset. This team hasn’t had a winning record or been to a bowl game since 2003 and both of those could be checked off the list this month in just Leach’s second season. The Cougars improved on offense from 359.5 to 423.2 yards per game and pulled multiple road upsets over quality opponents like USC and Arizona. Leach won as many league games (4) in 2013 as Wazzu had won in the previous four seasons combined (4).
Athlon's 2013 All-Pac-12 Team
|First-Team Offense||Second-Team Offense|
|QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon||QB Taylor Kelly, Arizona St|
|RB Tyler Gaffney, Stanford||RB Bishop Sankey, Washington|
|RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona||RB Marion Grice, Arizona St|
|WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon St||WR Ty Montgomery, Stanford|
|WR Paul Richardson, Colorado||WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona St|
|TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Wash.||TE Chris Coyle, Arizona St|
|C Hroniss Grasu, Oregon||C Isaac Seumalo, Oregon St|
|G David Yankey, Stanford||G Jamil Douglas, Arizona St|
|G Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA||G Marcus Martin, USC|
|T Evan Finkenberg, Arizona St||T Cameron Fleming, Stanford|
|T Andrus Peat, Stanford||T Tyler Johnstone, Oregon|
|AP Myles Jack, UCLA||AP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon|
|First-Team Defense||Second-Team Defense|
|DE Leonard Williams, USC||DE Scott Crichton, Oregon St|
|DE Trevor Reilly, Utah||DE Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington|
|DT Will Sutton, Arizona St||DT Taylor Hart, Oregon|
|DT Tenny Palepoi, Utah||DT Devon Coleman, Arizona St|
|LB Anthony Barr, UCLA||LB Devon Kennard, USC|
|LB Shayne Skov, Stanford||LB Chris Young, Arizona St|
|LB Trent Murphy, Stanford||LB Carl Bradford, Arizona St|
|CB Robert Nelson, Arizona St||CB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon St|
|CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon||CB Marcus Peters, Washington|
|S Ed Reynolds, Stanford||S Alden Darby, Arizona St|
|S Deone Bucannon, Washington St||S Dion Bailey, USC|
|First-Team Specialists||Second-Team Specialists|
|K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona St||K Vincenzo D'Amato, Cal|
|P Tom Hackett, Utah||P Travis Coons, Washington|
|KR Ty Montgomery, Stanford||KR Victor Bolden, Oregon St|
|PR Nelson Agholor, USC||PR Bralon Addison, Oregon|