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 living up to expectations. Or based on their absence.
Washington State: WR Marquess Wilson
2011 production: No other wide receiver in the Pac-12 averaged more yards per game last season than Wilson. That's saying a lot considering the company he's in. He caught 82 balls for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 115.7 yards per game.
Why Wilson is so important: For starters, he's really, really good. When you plug him into Mike Leach's system, he can be really, really great. No other non-quarterback on the Washington State roster will likely benefit more from the scheme change than Wilson, who has outstanding hands attached to his 6-foot-4 frame. Don't be surprised to see him up for some preseason All-America considerations. And if he's not, he should be. Consider what he did during WSU's spring game over the weekend -- four catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. Spread that out over 12 -- dare we say 13 -- games and you're looking at one of the top five wide receivers in the country. Plus, he was the only Cougar to earn offensive all-conference recognition last season (second-team).
There were other options for most important player. Consideration was given to Travis Long, a veteran defender who quietly is one of the best defensive players in the conference. He had 12 tackles for a loss last year and four sacks. A case could be made for either one. But when teams start scheming for Washington State, the first thing opposing coaches are going to ask is "How do we take No. 86 out of the equation?" Chances are they won't be able to. As Brian Floyd of CougCenter points out, the only real question mark with Wilson is that sometimes he relies too much on his raw talent and isn't always 100 percent focused mentally. This is another way Wilson will benefit by being paired with Leach. With a new staff, new playbook and renewed confidence on the Palouse, the Cougars need Wilson to be at his best. If he is, Wilson is the clear choice for most important player.