Most important player: Stanford

All players are equal, but some players are more equal than others. That's the basis of our Most Important Players series.

First off, quarterbacks are excluded to make things more interesting. It goes without saying, for example, that Marcus Mariota is Oregon's most important player.

And most important doesn't necessarily have to be "best." An All-American's backup can be pretty darn good, too. USC’s Leonard Williams might be the best defensive lineman in the nation, but is he the Trojans' most important player considering the talent and depth on their D-line?

Our most important guys are players who could swing a win total one way or the other, based on them living up to expectations. Or their absence.

Stanford: WR Ty Montgomery

2013 production: 61 catches, 958 yards and 10 touchdowns, plus 36 kick returns for 1,091 yards and two touchdowns.

Why Montgomery is important: Montgomery is the rare player who can impact multiple phases of the game. We could have gone with an offensive lineman or defensive player. But the fact that Montgomery is prolific as a wide receiver and a kick returner means teams always have to be wary when he’s on the field. Just ask Washington.

He quickly became Kevin Hogan’s favorite target last season, posting the most receptions, yards and touchdowns by a Stanford wide receiver since Troy Walters in 1999. For his efforts, he was awarded first-team all-conference as a kick returner and second-team all-conference as a wide receiver.

With a talented group of young tight ends on the rise, it’s likely the Cardinal will try to incorporate multiple-tight end sets like they did in the day of the Tree Amigos. But that doesn’t mean Montgomery will take a backseat. Offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren and head coach David Shaw know they have a bona fide playmaker in Montgomery.

To have a speedy, downfield threat like Montgomery at their disposal, the Cardinal brass knows it can open things up in the running game -- Stanford’s pain et beurre -- while also forcing safeties to play single coverage on the big tight ends. Those are matchups the coaching staff will take all day.

Other Most Important Players: