Most important player: Oregon 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 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.

Oregon State: CB Jordan Poyer

2011 production: Was named second team All-Pac-12 defense after breaking up 12 passes and logging four interceptions -- including a 51-yard return for a touchdown against BYU and a two-interception game against Arizona State. Had 57 total tackles, returned 30 kicks for an average of 22.7 yards per returned 10 punts for an average of 14.1 yards.

Why Poyer is so important: For starters, he's one of the best players at his position in the country. Mel Kiper ranks him as the No. 2 senior defensive back in the nationInsider and in a conference where offense rules, elite cornerbacks are tough to come by. And Poyer is elite. He's the most versatile athlete on the Beavers roster -- so much so that head coach Mike Riley has talked about installing a wildcat package just to get Poyer on the field as much as he can. He can take away half of the field on defense. And when he is challenged, more often than not the result is in his favor. Oregon State is a very young team with a lot of players who saw field time last season, but need a centralized voice on the field that isn't a coach. Poyer is that guy for the defense. He tied for the conference lead last season in interceptions and passes defended and said he's improved the cerebral portion of his game. That's a scary prospect for opposing quarterbacks.