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Unsung hero for each Top 25 team

We know the star names, but which players, coaches and position units are not getting their fair share of the credit? Here are the unsung heroes for each Top 25 team:


1. Alabama: DL Da'Ron Payne

This defensive line hasn't been the most disruptive under coach Nick Saban, but Payne has been one of the SEC's best. He doesn't have flashy numbers, but he clogs holes up front and his activity drives plays to his teammates. -- Edward Aschoff


2. Penn State: WR DaeSean Hamilton

Running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley have deservedly garnered a ton of attention for Penn State. But Hamilton has made a big impact this season as well. Hamilton is fourth in the Big Ten in receiving yards and has four receiving touchdowns on the season. -- Tom VanHaaren


3. Georgia: OT Isaiah Wynn

Georgia's offensive line was a major question mark heading into this season, but the veteran Wynn has established himself as one of the league's top tackles and has helped anchor an ever-improving group for the 7-0 Bulldogs. -- Aschoff


4. TCU: Defensive line

The Horned Frogs' defensive line has been stellar this season and is a big reason why TCU leads the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing a mere 2.59 yards per tote and 83.4 rushing yards per game. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Ross Blacklock has been a big part of that, plugging up the middle of the line of scrimmage with his 6-foot-4, 326-pound frame. -- Sam Khan Jr.


5. Wisconsin: WR Quintez Cephus

Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor is getting a ton of national attention, rushing for 1,125 yards through seven games. While he deserves the attention, Cephus should also receive some praise. The Badgers have dealt with injuries at receiver and Cephus, only a sophomore, has stepped up, hauling in five touchdowns and 446 yards. -- VanHaaren


6. Ohio State: WR Johnnie Dixon

Dixon almost quit football and has dealt with injuries throughout his career at Ohio State. He is now tied for the most receiving touchdowns on the season for the Buckeyes with four. He has only 10 receptions, but he's averaging 27.6 yards per catch. -- VanHaaren


7. Clemson: Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott

The Tigers don't have many stars floating beneath the radar. That's how it goes when you win a national title. But if there's one hero who doesn't get his due, it might be Elliott. While coordinator Brent Venables enjoys star status on defense, and Dabo Swinney is one of the most recognizable coaches in the country, Elliott largely goes unnoticed, despite leading an offense that has gone to the national championship game two years in a row, developing countless stars and now, after the departure of quarterback Deshaun Watson & Co., reinventing his game plan to suit a new core of starters. -- David M. Hale


8. Miami: WR Darrell Langham

Without Langham, it is quite possible the Hurricanes are staring at a 4-2 record and a slim chance to win the ACC. But thanks to his game-winning touchdown reception against Florida State, and a miraculous fourth-down catch to keep the game-winning drive alive against Georgia Tech, Miami is undefeated and still aiming for its first-ever appearance in an ACC title game. -- Andrea Adelson


9. Notre Dame: C Sam Mustipher

Notre Dame's offensive line has received a lot of attention this season, with offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson getting most of the praise. But Mustipher has been a big part of an offense averaging 317.9 rush yards per game for a team off to a 6-1 start. -- VanHaaren


10. Oklahoma: FB Dimitri Flowers

Flowers has touched the ball only 28 times for the Sooners this season. Yet from those touches, Flowers has produced six touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He's an integral piece in the OU offense alongside quarterback Baker Mayfield. -- Jake Trotter


11. Oklahoma State: S Tre Flowers

The senior made the move from strong safety to free safety this season but has still been impactful. He's leading the Cowboys in tackles with 38 (he's the team's career leader as well), and he's tied for second in the Big 12 with eight passes defended in 2017 (six breakups, two interceptions). -- Khan


12. Washington: CB Myles Bryant

The NFL draft coupled with injuries this season has left the Huskies' secondary depleted. But Bryant, a sophomore, has been a joy to watch. He has one interception but is second on the team with 35 tackles (four for loss), and he has defended five passes. -- Aschoff


13. Virginia Tech: DT Ricky Walker

When last season's bowl game ended, coach Justin Fuente pulled Walker aside and told him the 2017 Hokies would be his defense to lead. Walker relished the role. Throughout the offseason, he was the driving force for the Hokies inside the locker room, with defensive coordinator Bud Foster calling Walker his "bell cow" on D. And while other Hokies defenders have garnered more acclaim, Walker's 26 tackles, six QB hurries and 5.5 TFLs show why Foster loves him. -- Hale


14. NC State: TE Cole Cook

If the Wolfpack's offensive line is underrated, its adopted brother Cook is downright ignored. Still, Cook has been a critical part of NC State's success. With just one catch for 29 yards, Cook isn't one of college football's new breed of hybrid tight ends. He's a blocker, first and foremost, and has helped the Wolfpack offense blossom into one of the most effective running teams in the country. More importantly, perhaps, while the O-line is lauded for allowing just two sacks in its past five games, Cook has been a critical addition to that success. -- Hale


15. Washington State: RB Jamal Morrow

We are always going to talk about coach Mike Leach and the quarterback when it comes to Wazzu. But you can't overlook how important Morrow has been to the Cougars' offense. He leads WSU with 412 rushing yards, but he has also caught 29 passes for 251 yards (8.7 yards per catch) and is second on the team with five receiving touchdowns. -- Aschoff


16. Michigan State: LB Joe Bachie

Bachie is only a sophomore, but has helped the Michigan State defense tremendously. The Spartans are No. 4 in total defense, moving ahead of Michigan by two yards per game, which is a complete turnaround from last season. Bachie was recently named the Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after a career-high 13 tackles and a forced fumble in Michigan State's win over Indiana. If he keeps on the path he's on, Bachie won't qualify as unsung for much longer. -- VanHaaren


17. USF: CB Mazzi Wilkins

The Bulls have seen vast improvement in their secondary this season, and a big reason why has been the emergence of Wilkins. In his first year as a starter, Wilkins is tied for fourth in the nation with 1.6 passes defended per game. Wilkins also has three interceptions on a team that leads the nation with 16 total interceptions. -- Adelson


18. UCF: LB Pat Jasinski

McKenzie Milton has blossomed at quarterback, but count Jasinski as one of the unsung heroes this season. The Knights' defense already returned Shaquem Griffin as a player to watch, but Jasinski has emerged alongside him as a standout in his own right, leading the team with 47 tackles. -- Adelson


19. Auburn: LB Jeff Holland

The junior edge rusher is having quite the breakout season for the Tigers. Through eight games, he has 10 TFLs and leads the SEC with eight sacks. Against Arkansas, Holland forced two fumbles, recovered one and had 1.5 sacks. -- Aschoff


20. Stanford: S Justin Reid

Pretty much everyone doing well for Stanford is an unsung hero because of the numbers running back Bryce Love is putting up. Reid entered the season with just one career interception, but he already has five interceptions and 46 tackles for the Cardinal in 2017. -- Aschoff


21. USC: TE Tyler Petite

When it comes to needing a safety net in the passing game, Petite has been quarterback Sam Darnold's guy. He's averaging 14.4 yards per catch and has three touchdowns on the season. All five of his third-down receptions have resulted in first downs. -- Aschoff


22. West Virginia: LB Al-Rasheed Benton

Quarterback Will Grier and wideout David Sills V rightfully get all the headlines, but Benton is quietly having a huge season for a young West Virginia defense. Benton is third in the Big 12 with 11.5 tackles for loss and sixth in tackles (60). -- Trotter


23. LSU: QB Danny Etling

Hey, when your offense is actually clicking like it has been in Baton Rouge lately, your quarterback deserves a little credit. Etling made some gritty plays in the win over Ole Miss, and in LSU's past two wins he has thrown for 406 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. -- Aschoff


24. Memphis: RB Patrick Taylor Jr.

Taylor earned some acclaim last week against Houston, racking up four touchdowns, but even that spotlight didn't showcase his real effort. That happened when quarterback Riley Ferguson tossed an interception that looked like a sure pick-six that would've given the Cougars a 21-0 lead. Instead, Taylor chased down Houston safety Garrett Davis, pushing him out of bounds before he could score. The Memphis defense held, the Tigers' offense finally clicked in the second half -- thanks in large part to Taylor's running -- and a huge come-from-behind win was the result. With Ferguson the star of the offense, Taylor isn't likely to capture too much of the limelight, but plays like that have earned him ample respect inside the locker room. -- Hale


25. Iowa State: Nose guard Ray Lima

Lima has been a big reason why the Cyclones are ranked for the first time in 12 years. With only 13 tackles, Lima doesn't put up big numbers. But his command of double-teams has allowed those behind him, like Big 12 leading tackler Joel Lanning, to make plays. -- Trotter