Jake Browning, Sam Darnold lead best of 2016 Pac-12 season

It should be viewed as a good thing that picking the Pac-12's players and coach of the year was difficult and highly debatable. Even within the close-knit family of your West Coast-based college football writers, there was disagreement.

But you know what they say: The person who ends up with the typewriter last gets to, er, type things.


Washington QB Jake Browning: Browning's most notable accomplishment was accounting for 46 touchdowns: 42 passing, four rushing. That and leading the Huskies to their first conference title since 2000. Browning, a sophomore, completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 3,280 yards with just seven interceptions, topping the conference in passing efficiency. Sure, he had an outstanding supporting cast, and his receivers in particular made him look good at times. Still, it's indisputable that he was the biggest difference-maker on the Pac-12's best team. His understated demeanor seems to fit perfectly with coach Chris Petersen's way of doing business, and it's tough to argue with the fruits of their collaboration.


Utah DE Hunter Dimick: Dimick leads the Pac-12 and is tied for third in the nation in sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (20.5). A four-year starter, he has a school-record 29.5 career sacks and his 44.5 career tackles for loss is third all-time at Utah. Also, he is currently tied for the Utes team lead in pass breakups with six and ranks fourth in tackles with 53. The coaches chose Adoree’ Jackson as their Player of the Year, and that's a great choice, too. Within the ESPN.com discussion, there was a not unjustifiable advocacy for UCLA DE Takkarist McKinley, who might have a brighter NFL future. But if Pac-12 folks wanted a different defensive player of the year, they should have blocked Dimick better. Finally, while it's not a football thing, we will also admit that Dimick earning Pac-12 All-Academic honors all four years -- including first-team status in 2015 and 2016 -- didn't hurt his candidacy. A communications major, he carries a 3.33 grade point average.


USC QB Sam Darnold: You could make a case that Darnold, a redshirt freshman, became the most consequential player in the Pac-12. USC was a disaster at 1-2 when he took over the starting job from Max Browne. Then it went 8-1 with Darnold behind center, inspiring some to conjecture that the Trojans were, by regular season's end, among the nation's best teams and merited playoff consideration. That, by the way, is unfair to Browne, who got stiffed with the opener against Alabama and a team that seemed unsure of itself. Still, Darnold's ascension coincided with the dramatic USC turnaround, including an ongoing eight-game winning streak. He completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,633 yards with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 230 yards and two scores, his mobility being an attribute that consistently frustrated opposing defenses. Darnold is the only USC quarterback to have back-to-back games with five touchdown passes and he has thrown multiple TD passes in eight straight games, the first Trojan to do so since Matt Leinart in 2004. Darnold also is the likely reason USC will be highly rated in the 2017 preseason.


Colorado's Mike MacIntyre: MacIntyre has done such a great job this year, he even won the news conference after his team was drubbed by Washington in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday. He was feisty in defending his team, honest about his disappointment, accurate in his analysis and struck the right notes of despondency and optimism. He also opted to say "I'm not going to Baylor" afterward instead of offering up the ambiguous statements many coaches adopt, such as, "I'm happy where I am." Fact is, in his fourth year in Boulder -- hooray, that one of the nation's best college towns is back in football circulation -- he orchestrated one of the great turnarounds in college football history, as a team at the bottom of the Pac-12 since expansion in 2011 pushed as high as No. 8 in the CFP rankings. The Buffaloes head into the bowl season at 10-3 after winning the South Division. Their 8-1 record in conference play is a reversal of their 1-8 record a year ago, which rates as the all-time biggest overall improvement in conference play from one season to the next. So, yeah, despite impressive coaching jobs by Washington's Chris Petersen and USC's Clay Helton, there's no question who merits Coach of the Year honors.