Most important player: Stanford

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.

Stanford: FB Ryan Hewitt

2011 production: Hewitt carried the ball 10 times for 35 yards and caught 34 balls for 282 yards and five touchdowns. He was perfect in short-yardage situations and was a primary reason Stepfan Taylor had his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.

Why Hewitt is so important: Spider 2 Y Banana has taken on a life of its own since Andrew Luck appeared on Jon Gruden's quarterback camp. Did you notice who the guy was catching all of those balls in Spider 2 Y Banana? It was Hewitt. Who was the guy that moved over to be a third tight end when Zach Ertz missed time last season? It was Hewitt. Who was a perfect 8-for-8 on conversions when three yards or fewer were needed. Yeah, it was Hewitt. He does so much for Stanford that few people realize his impact. Sure, it would have been easier to pick Taylor, Chase Thomas on defense or budding wide receiver Ty Montgomery, but when Hewitt is on the field, Stanford can run any number of formations with the same personnel because Hewitt is so versatile.

Here's how much Stanford loves to use fullbacks: The Cardinal have four on scholarship. I haven't checked, but there can't be many teams that carry four scholarship fullbacks. And Hewitt is at the top of that depth chart. He won't run for 1,000 yards, but Taylor probably will again -- and Hewitt will be a big reason why. You take him out of the offense, and the Cardinal lose one of their most underappreciated, yet most important, weapons.