The Pac-10's Best

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Woods was one of the few bright spots for USC this fall.

Woods was one of the few bright spots for USC this fall.

Athlon will be awarding postseason honors to each BCS conference in the country. Today we look at the Pac-10’s best for 2010.

For the sake of this exercise, the Heisman and Bednarik will function as MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards. The Outland will be given to the offensive lineman of the year while the Lombardi will be given to the defensive lineman of the year. Two fictitious awards, the Adrian Peterson Freshman of the Year honor and the Desmond Howard return specialist of the year award, will be given as well.

Heisman Trophy (MVP/POY): Andrew Luck, Stanford
A huge case can be made for Oregon tailback LaMichael James, but the quarterback position is dramatically more important and influential. And Luck was the league’s best by far. He completed 70-percent of his passes and led the league in passer efficiency (166.1). He also led the league in total offense at 290.75 yards per game. He was the only quarterback to top the 3,000-yard mark in the Pac-10 and proved to be a sneaky good athlete, finishing in 17th in rushing (51 att., 438 yards, 3 TDs). Luck could be the first pick in the NFL draft next spring and could be the single best football player on the planet not getting an official paycheck.

Chuck Bednarik Award (Def. POY): Stephen Paea, Oregon State
The big Beaver led the conference in forced fumbles with four while posting 10 tackles for loss and six solo sacks from his tackle position. His disruptive ability led to 32.5 total tackles and was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise underachieving defense.

Davey O’Brien Award (QB): Andrew Luck, Stanford
See Heisman Trophy award.

Doak Walker Award (RB): LaMichael James, Oregon
James led the league in rushing per game (152.9 ypg) — which also led the nation. His 1,682 yards also led the league and the nation. His 12 points per game topped Stanford kicker Nate Whitaker in scoring by a full 3.0 ppg. James also showed up in a big way for the big-time games: 134-2 against Oregon State, 239-3 against USC, 257-3 against Stanford and 134-1 against Tennessee.

Fred Biletnikoff Award (WR): Juron Criner, Arizona
No one caught more passes for more yards than Criner. His 73 receptions and 1,186 yards led the league and his 10 receiving touchdowns were third. His five 100-yard efforts came in big spots against the likes of Oregon State, Washington, UCLA and Oregon.

John Mackey Award (TE): Joe Halahuni, Oregon State
The Beaver led the league in receptions per game by a tight end (2.5) and yards (390). He scored six touchdowns — another conference best at his position.

Outland Trophy (O-Lineman): Tyron Smith, USC
Pete Carroll once called him the best offensive lineman he had ever coached. And he has coached some good ones. Was the Stanford O-line better this year? Yes, but three first-teamers make everyone’s job easier. Smith did it with (I can’t believe I am saying this) less around him than the Cardinal trio of Chase Beeler, David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin.

Dick Butkus Award (LB): Casey Matthews, Oregon
The Ducks defensive leader finished eighth in the conference in interceptions (3), led Oregon in tackles (56.5), posted 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. This position was virtually impossible to select as Akeem Ayers, Mike Mohamed and Mason Foster all deserved serious consideration. With Oregon headed to the national title game, Matthews got the edge.

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Athlon looks back at the year that was in the Pac-10.

Jim Thorpe Award (DB): Cliff Harris, Oregon
It’s tough to give an award to a guy who, at times, found himself on the bench. However, Harris led the league in passes defensed with 15 and interceptions with five (one of which he returned for a TD). He also returned four punts for scores. How many defensive backs have five total touchdowns this year? Harris finished with 25.5 total tackles. Much like linebacker, safeties Rahim Moore and T.J. McDonald both could have easily been selected here, but a guy pushing his team to the national title game gets the edge.

Lombardi Award (D-Lineman): Stephen Paea, Oregon State
See Bednarik Award above.

Adrian Peterson Award (freshman): Robert Woods, USC
The Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year as a senior now has another award for his mantle. The do-everything receiver led the Trojans in receptions (5.0) and yards (60.9) while also returning kicks admirably (38 for 971 yards and a TD). Woods finished sixth in the league in receiving yards (792) and third in receptions (65).

Lou Groza Award (K): Nate Whitaker, Stanford
No one made more field goals than the Cardinal kicker (17 of 19). James was the only Pac-10 player who scored more points this season than Whitaker.

Ray Guy Award (P): Jeff Locke, UCLA
This Bruin led the league in punting (45.8) — good for fifth nationally.

Desmond Howard Award (KR/PR): Cliff Harris, Oregon
How about 28 punt returns for 545 yards — which offers a league-leading 19.5 yards per return, good for second nationally — and four touchdowns? Four.

Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (HC): Chip Kelly, Oregon
The Oregon Ducks finished the regular season unbeaten, with a conference championship and a berth in the national title game. His Ducks led the league in rushing, scoring, total offense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense, punt returns and tackles for loss. They scored more points (49.3 ppg) than any other team in the nation.

Broyles Award (Asst Coach): Chip Kelly, Oregon
I guess if this were to go to an actual assistant coach, Stanford’s associate head coach/assistant head coach of the offense/tight ends/offensive line coach Greg Roman might get the nod. But since Jim Harbaugh still has the biggest impact on that side of the ball, the edge goes to boy wonder Kelly. It’s his offense that was the best unit in the league this fall (no offense, Scott Frost).