Most important player: Arizona

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, for example, that Oregon's Marcus Mariota is the Ducks' most important player.

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.

Arizona: RB Ka'Deem Carey

2012 production: Carey rushed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also caught 36 balls for 303 yards and a touchdown.

Why Carey is so important: The Wildcats had three A-list offensive players last year: Carey, QB Matt Scott and WR Austin Hill. Scott is off to the NFL and Hill suffered a knee injury this spring that will, at least, keep him sidelined for a significant portion of the 2013 season.

Carey, of course, was the consensus All-American and the nation's leading rusher in 2012. He ranked fifth on our list of the top-25 Pac-12 players. He might be the best running back in the nation this fall, and that would almost automatically make him a leading Heisman Trophy candidate.

Carey is an obvious choice here, of course, because he's certain to be the first offensive option for a team breaking in a new quarterback -- who is still to be determined -- that also has a suspect defense. Carey needs to be even more of a force this season, and he also needs to be a leadership force.

But his importance has been magnified for two reasons: 1. Hill's injury; 2. Carey's own poor offseason.

Carey needs to do everything he can to resolve some embarrassing off-field issues, including a July 12 court date concerning misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges from a domestic dispute with his pregnant ex-girlfriend, and get back in the good graces of his coaches and team.

Learning some humility along the way would also help.

The pressure and scrutiny on Carey, who hasn't given interviews this spring, will be significant this fall, due to his fame and newfound infamy. He likely will find road games particularly taxing, as he will be singled out for abuse.

He needs to step up and deal with it without flinching or making excuses. This team needs Carey -- a productive and mature one.