Most important player: Arizona State

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 loss 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.

Arizona State: Linebacker Brandon Magee

2011 production: Unfortunately for Magee and the Sun Devils, he tore his Achilles tendon last August and missed the entire season. Had he been there, things might have gone much differently for ASU, which ended the season on a five-game losing streak and dropped six of its final seven. In 2010, he was second on the team in tackles with 73 (48 solo), and had five tackles for a loss.

Why Magee is so important: He's a leader. That simple. He talks, the team listens. He says do something, the team does it. A locker room guy like Magee is critical to a team in transition. And right now, the Sun Devils are all about transition. Head coach Todd Graham -- a self-described old-school guy -- is trying to instill discipline and accountability in a program that appeared to be lacking it. Much of that falls on the departed Vontaze Burfict, who created concussion-level headaches for teammates and coaches with his freestyle attitude. Graham needs guys like Magee, who are productive on and off the field. Example: Magee recently started volunteering at a grammar school in a low-income part of town. He goes every Wednesday. Teammates have started tagging along. Magee has the charismatic personality that makes guys around him want to be better in everything they do. His return not only gives the defense a significant boost and a reliable replacement for Burfict, but he brings the on and off-field leadership that was sorely missing.

You can check out the rest of the "Most Important Player" series here.