The College Football Notebook

December 10, 2010 7:36 AM

Pac-10 Player of the Year: Luck Or LaMichael?

Pac10POY.jpgThe last stop on our individual conference awards tour is today with the Pac-10. (Check the archives for reports on the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC). The Player of the Year debate is a classic two-man race between players operating at the highest level, and that's Oregon running back LaMichael James and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Both were on great teams. Both were the focal point of their respective offenses. Both had reasonable support around them, James with quarterback Darron Thomas and receiver Jeff Maehl, while Luck had a running game led by Stephan Taylor. There weren't any really strong candidates out of the middle-class teams that I generally like to look at. It's all about Luck vs. LaMichael.

Luck had outstanding games against USC, a team the Cardinal needed every last bit of his production to win and ultimately make a BCS game. He was also top-shelf against Cal and Oregon State. There was no game he was truly substandard in, including his team's 52-31 loss to Oregon. The only weakness is that a lot of his good games saw teams keep the passing game underneath, where he was high-percentage, with the YPP not as high, even though he didn't make mistakes in executing this. If this sounds like I'm picking nits, I really am, but that's what happens when you draw distinctions between elite players.

James was dominant all season long, going over 100 yards in eight of his team's nine conference games--and the one he missed the century mark on was a 91-yard game against Cal. He had huge games against Stanford and USC, the most important games on the schedule, in terms of this year's standings and the recent history of the league. It's for that reason I am choosing James as the Pac-10 Player of the Year.

Honorable mention goes out to Washington running back Chris Polk, who was second to James in rushing and didn't get the kind of air support that was expected from Jake Locker, who had a disappointing year and watched his NFL draft status plummet. Polk disappeared in three games against Arizona, Oregon and Stanford, so I can't get him the top nod, but he still helped Washington make a bowl game. And a nod to Arizona defensive end Ricky Elmore, who recorded 11 sacks.

For Coach of the Year, I'm staying in Eugene and voting for Chip Kelly. There were high expectations for this team, and Kelly had to deal with losing quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to disciplinary issues right out of the gate. Not exactly the way you want to begin, but Kelly made it work and produced the best team in his school's history.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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