Most important player: Colorado

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.

Colorado: OL David Bakhtiari

2011 production: As always, tough to quantify what an offensive lineman means to a team. Colorado was ninth in the Pac-12 last season in rushing offense, averaging almost 109 yards per game. Departed running back Rodney Stewart rushed for 854 yards and four touchdowns.

Why Bakhtiari is so important: Two days ago I would have said wide receiver Paul Richardson -- and it would have been tough to find a dissenting opinion. But injuries happen. It's a major bummer. But you move on. Bakhtiari is the kind of guy that can help the Buffaloes move on. In times of crisis, you look to a rock -- and at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, he's that literally and figuratively. He's the only Colorado player with All-Pac-12 credentials, earning second-team offense last season, and coach Jon Embree called him the leader of the offensive line last year, which included Ryan Miller -- a projected middle round draft pick. Bakhtiari is currently slated at left tackle. He'll be protecting the blindside of whoever wins the starting quarterback job. But he's versatile enough to play either tackle or guard spot and will probably see some spot duty somewhere else at some point during the season. He has good bloodlines -- his older brother Eric has been off and on in the NFL -- and he's the kind of guy players will look to for stability as they transition to a new quarterback without a No. 1 target to throw to.