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Pac-12 award favorites: Marcus Mariota player of year, Shaq Thompson on defense, Anu Solomon freshman

Who's looking like they'll win the major Pac-12 awards?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Coach - Sonny Dykes: With the common sentiment that it takes a college coach about four years to build his program, Coach Dykes has taken last year cellar dweller Golden Bears and turned them into a darkhorse PAC-12 North contenders. Bear Raid fever, catch it!

POY- Marcus Mariota: Despite playing behind the shakiest offensive line in the PAC-12, he's improved his completion percentage, passer rating, thrown zero interceptions and oh yeah, mollywhopped UCLA to (sort of) save Oregon's season. #SuckForTheDuck is right.

Defensive POY - Scooby Wright: Scooby Wright wins this trophy, 50% because I like his name and 50% because he's been a tackling machine. He currently leads the PAC-12 in tackles, is fourth in sacks and second in tackles for a loss. The centerpiece of the Wildcat D, they wouldn't be 5-1 without him.

Impact Frosh - Anu Solomon: Walked into the Autzen Zoo with nothing, walked out with a national spotlight and a 2 liter of Oregon tears. 'Nuff said.




Coach of Year: I'm gonna think outside of the box and say Kyle Whittingham of Utah. The loss to Washington State hurts his case, but wins over Michigan in the Big House and a win over UCLA are good wins, even when Michigan isn't good and UCLA has major issues. He's taken Utah from a Mountain West team in over its head to a bona fide contender in the league. That's recruiting and coaching and that's why I nominate him.

Player of Year: Shaq Thompson. I know, I know, I'm a UW guy, but have you seen him play? If he doesn't score a defensive TD that's a bad game for him. He single-handedly turned around the Cal game and kept the Dawgs in the Stanford game. By himself. No one else. Just him. If Washington didn't have Shaq in the defensive backfield they would certainly not be 5-1 and be in trouble.

Defensive Player of Year: Same guy. The Shaq Attack. The Shaq of All Trades. If we talk about Most Valuable Players, Shaq is easily the Most Valuable Player in the Pac-12. I like what Mike Bercovici has done for ASU, and I like Anu Solomon at Arizona, and of course Marcus Mariota is a very good player. But no one means more to their team than Shaq.

Freshman of Year. It's gotta be Anu Solomon. He's come in and taken Arizona to heights not seen there for awhile. When he needed to get the Wildcats yards, he got them yards. It wasn't his fault they missed the field goal. He looks like a veteran out there. In my mind, that's high praise for a freshman in the pass-happy Pac-12.




Coach of the Year: Sonny Dykes or Rich Rodriguez. Dykes has helped to pull a struggling Cal team out of the cellar, and for the most part has their offense firing on all cylinders. I thought it would be another year before the Bear Raid made it to this level of efficiency. With Rich Rod, Arizona has been able to make it to 5-1 so far, and probably should have been 6-0 at this point. The win over Oregon was impressive and gives Arizona even more respect outside of the conference.

Player of the Year is Mariota. Nobody has been on his level efficiency-wise passing. And that's not even mentioning his legs. There's no contest.

Defensive Player of the Year is Shaq Thompson. His defensive touchdowns are piling up, and I get sadder everyday realizing he could have come to Cal. That is UW's gain however, as he has been a boon to the Husky defense in providing points the offense sometimes lacks.

Freshman Player of the Year: After the last quarter of the Cal-UA game, Anu Solomon has my vote. This kid is excellent under pressure and stayed poised up until the Hill-mary




Coach of the Year: This would probably have to go to Rich Rod. Arizona could very easily still be undefeated and he has a young team playing exciting, fearless football. It's just plain fun to watch the Wildcats, and their defense is finally matching up with their offense's skill level.

Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota. This is the easiest answer but, aside from that Arizona debacle which wasn't entirely his fault, he's been playing like a true Heisman candidate. The Michigan State and UCLA games alone are enough to warrant him POY status.

Defensive POY: Shaq Thompson at Washington is my choice here. He has more defensive touchdowns himself (4) than most teams do. He flies around and makes sound tackles. Washington's defense was a bit unheralded until last weekend, but now they'll get a real test against Oregon.

Impact Freshman: I think the most important freshman has been Anu Solomon, clearly. He's played smart, fast football for someone making his first few starts and has shown the arm strength and awareness to keep plays alive and make things happen. Also, I have to give a shout out to my dude Shay Fields at CU. He's come in and become a real threat behind Nelson Spruce, playing like he's been here all along.




Coach of the Year - TBD. Jury is out. Every coach has pulled off a win they probably should not have, and then fallen on their face soon after. Whittingham is a candidate but that Wazzu loss is glaring. Cal is improved, but I think Washington revealed how far they still have to go. Rich Rodriguez would be the front runner, but if it were not for a shuffle pass interception and hail mary, Arizona would be 3-3.
Player of the Year -- Marcus Mariota. There is not a single quarterback that can carry a team with an offensive line that is in shambles. And when he is given something that resemebles the Oregon offensive lines of the last few years, he disects UCLA's defense.
Defensive Player of the Year - Shaq Thompson. The potential of this guy is finally being seen. He always is in the right spot, making the right play, and has that instinctual element of his game that cannot be taught. I would not want to be lined up on the opposite side of him.
Impact Freshman -- Anu Solomon. He has not looked like a freshman, for the most part. He's a great fit for Rich Rod's offense and you can tell he is used to the big game pressure coming from a high school program like Bishop Gorman.