Monday, October 13, 2008

Can't live without you: The 20 most indispensable college football players

Most of these guys aren't on Heisman voters' radars, but what do they need with a trophy, anyway? You say valuable, Sporting News college football expert Matt Hayes says indispensable. The players most essential to their teams, ranked in order of importance in relation to national title and conference championship races:

1. Max Hall, QB, BYU. Another strange season like 2007 (did you watch USC-Oregon State and Ole Miss-Florida?) and unbeaten BYU -- with a stout resume and hot quarterback -- could play for it all.

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2. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma. He's physically stronger than he was in '07 and more poised and accurate. The concussion he suffered last season in a loss to Texas Tech kept the Sooners from playing for it all.

3. Terrence Cody, NT, Alabama. Mount Cody, all 365 pounds of him, demands double-teams in the middle. He's the best junior college transfer in more than a decade.

4. Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri. No one is more comfortable and efficient running an offense, and the Tigers will have to put up a lot of points to keep winning.

5. Charles Scott, RB, LSU. The Tigers still have quarterback problems, and that means the offense will lean on Scott's powerful, dependable running.

6. Daryll Clark, QB, Penn State. Never underestimate an accurate, confident thrower or the power of limiting turnovers (see: Anthony Morelli, 2007).

7. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State. Six games into his college career, Pryor -- not tailback Chris Wells -- clearly is the player who makes the Buckeyes' offense go.

8. Paul Kruger, DE, Utah. He's a quick pass rusher and a microcosm (undersized and aggressive) of the best non-BCS defensive line in the country. Utah's unbeaten season rests on an underrated defense.

9. Joe McKnight, RB, USC. The Trojans' implosion at Oregon State included their best player touching the ball a measly 12 times. More uninvolved games for McKnight will mean more USC losses.

10. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. Sophomore slump no more: McCoy is throwing with confidence and running the zone read play with efficiency. But can he do it all against Oklahoma?

11. Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia. The most dominant defensive player in the game, he fills holes in the running game and is too quick and strong to block in pass-rush situations.

12. Brandon James, KR/PR, Florida. His ability to change momentum forces opponents into a dilemma: kick away and lose field position or take chances on returns.

13. Matt Grothe, QB, South Florida. Don't be confused by his ordinary statistics; he makes more plays and has more impact in the Big East than any player this side of Pat White.

14. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech. Isn't it obvious? Week 1, he's redshirting and Tech loses. Week 2, he's back, and Tech hasn't lost since.

15. Javon Ringer, RB, Michigan State. At some point, he has to wear down, right? Who can handle 40 carries a game?

16. Jahvid Best, RB, California. He was the fastest player in the nation as a true freshman last season, but now he has developed into a complete tailback and gives the Bears the oomph on offense to scare USC.

17. Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut. He's a deceptively fast, dependable bruiser who moves the pile ... blah, blah, blah. Bottom line: You can't bring him down with one player.

18. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame. Check out the schedule: If Clausen can steer clear of turnovers, the Irish could go from three wins in '07 to -- horror of horrors! -- BCS bowl in '08.

19. Armanti Edwards, QB, Appalachian State. We've seen what I-AA's version of Tim Tebow can do; don't let those two early losses deceive you.

20. Rodney Landers, QB, James Madison. A terrific dual-threat talent, Landers has elevated his team to I-AA favorite with Edwards-like ability -- and a win over Appalachian State.

Matt Hayes is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at

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