Most important player: California

All players are equal, but some players are more equal than others. That's the basis of our Most Important Player series.

First off, quarterbacks are excluded to make things more interesting. It goes without saying that Arizona's Matt Scott, USC's Matt Barkley and Washington's Keith Price are their teams' most important players. Their losses would be catastrophic.

And most important doesn't necessarily have to be "best." An All-American's backup can be pretty darn good, too.

Our most important guys are players who could swing a win total one way or the other, based on their living up to expectations. Or their absence.

California: WR Keenan Allen

2011 production: Allen caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards with six touchdowns. He averaged 13. 7 yards per reception.

Why Allen is so important: There are two things here. First, Allen is not only Cal's best receiver -- and one of the best receivers in the nation -- he is, second, Cal's only receiver at present. Seriously. A first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2011 and No. 15 player on our postseason list of the conference's top-25 players, he is the only -- and unquestionably -- irreplaceable player on the Bears roster. Are we overstating this? No. The Bears lose their Nos. 2, 3 and 4 receivers from 2011. Their No. 5 receiver, tight end Spencer Hagan, is back. He caught 12 passes. So who is their second-leading returning pass-catcher who actually played receiver? That would be Jackson Bouza, a walk-on who caught three passes. Coach Jeff Tedford has candidly admitted that he needs three of his five incoming freshmen receivers to be ready to contribute next fall. While redshirt freshman Maurice Harris, who has great hands but has been inconsistent this spring, and converted defensive back Joel Willis, have a chance to be in the mix, you shouldn't be surprised if Bryce Treggs and Darius Powe end up as Nos. 2 and 3 receivers in 2012. Bottom line: If QB Zach Maynard doesn't have Allen, who is sitting out this spring as he recovers from an ankle injury, the Bears passing game would be crippled.