When my editors asked me to put together a ranking of the 10 most valuable players in college football, the question I tried to answer was: What would this team be without this individual player?
There is no perfect method for answering that question, or for ranking the sport's MVPs, but I tried to take into account two factors when sorting through candidates: how essential the player has been to his team's success, and how the player's team has fared so far this season. Obviously, talent plays a big role in this, but this is neither a list of the nation's 10 most talented players nor an evaluation of players' NFL prospects.
Part of the fun of doing this in college football is that the sport's top individual award actually honors the "most outstanding player" each year, not its most valuable. So I saw it as an opportunity to highlight some players at positions who normally don't get as much exposure in the Heisman race but are every bit as valuable to their teams' success as the nation's best QBs, running backs and receivers. You'll see some overlap between this ranking and the latest Heisman lists, but you'll also see some players who aren't getting any Heisman attention.
There were a lot of good players who were tough to leave off this list: Oregon's Dion Jordan, Florida's Matt Elam and Oregon State's Scott Crichton are three defensive players who just missed the cut. I really want to include Alabama guard Chance Warmack on here, as I think he's the best offensive lineman in all of college football, but as good as he is, I still think the Crimson Tide would be really good up front if you took him off their line. Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch has been awesome for the 9-1 Huskies, but he just doesn't face the level of competition that a lot of these other players face, so I had to leave him off the list.
Here is my ranking of the 10 most valuable players in college football so far this season:
1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State Wildcats
I'll start this section out by saying that the Wildcats are having an excellent season because they've been highly efficient in all three phases of the game; it's not all about Klein and the offense. That said, I don't think there's a player in the country who means more to his team than Klein does to K-State.