If I ask you what the definition of an MVP happens to be, how would you answer it? The easy answer is, of course, it's the Most Valuable Player. The key word there is valuable. What makes a player "valuable" — in this case "most valuable" — to his team?
The reason I ask is that I've been thinking hard about this for the last several days, after our flight home from frigid Pullman on Saturday night. After witnessing the diminutive John White run for another huge night and again single-handedly carry the Utah offense, as he has most of this season. Where would the Utes be this season without No. 15? Well the simple answer is that they would be near the bottom of the Pac-12 standings and certainly not in the position they find themselves in today. That is competing for the Pac-12 South title and a chance to play in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game a week from today.
White's numbers are truly astounding, especially when you consider he wasn't considered the No. 1 back until very late in fall camp. The Torrance, Calif. transfer leads the Pac-12 in rushing yards with 1,377, ahead of Oregon's LaMichael James (1,285) and Washington's Chris Polk (1,241). He leads the league in rushing touchdowns with 14 and is tied with 16 total touchdowns with Arizona State's Cameron Marshall. White sits just 131 yards away from setting Utah's single season rushing mark, currently held by the late Carl Monroe at 1,507 yards. When White goes for 100 yards or more, the Utes are 7-0. I'm guessing you can figure out what happens when he doesn't. White has compiled all these numbers without any real help from a passing game and with a huge bullseye squarely on his chest.
So, back to my original thought, Most Valuable Player. I've been racking my brain this week to try to come up with someone playing in the Pac-12 this season who's been more valuable to their team than White has been to the Utes this season. I even asked the question to our listeners on the radio this week. I got various and assorted responses but the most common refrain from non-White voters was quarterbacks Matt Barkley of USC and Andrew Luck of Stanford. There is no doubt in my mind that both Barkley and Luck are the most valuable players to their team's success this season and both are certainly more high-profile guys, who will likely both be playing on Sunday next season. But are either of these guys more valuable to their respective teams, than White is to Utah? I would tell you no.
Both Barkley and Luck have former high school All-American quarterbacks backing them up. Two at USC and one at Stanford, additionally both of those teams have outstanding supporting casts and proven playmakers. Names like Woods, Tyler, Lee, Taylor and Whalen. The Utes are clearly limited at the quarterback spot and what's behind White is an unproven freshman in Harvey Langi, who has a total of 70 yards this year. I surmise that both USC and Stanford would remain ultra-competitive even without their star quarterbacks, but where would Utah be without White? How many games might they have won this season?
He may not be the Pac-12's best player and certainly not the league's most visible or biggest household name. But after 11 games and 12 weeks of college football I am ready to pronounce White as the Most VALUABLE Player in the Conference of Champions this season. I'd like to hear what you have to say about the Pac-12's MVP this season. Post a comment online or email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for today, if Utah follows their blueprint of the last four weeks: smothering defense, a big dose of White and no turnovers, then I like their chances to beat Colorado on Senior Day. Here's hoping for a little help from the state of California today and tomorrow too (Cal and USC) and maybe, just maybe, I'm calling a game from Autzen Stadium next Friday.
Bill Riley can be heard as the radio voice of the University of Utah on game days and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.