CFB's most valuable players

Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o and Braxton Miller rank among the nation's most valuable players for 2012. USA Today Sports

The Heisman Trophy will be awarded on Saturday to the player voted to be the "most outstanding" of the 2012 season. But for this ranking, just as I did back in November, I'm asking a different question: Who has been the nation's most valuable player in 2012?

The two questions I found to be the most helpful when going through the process were as follows:

• What did the team accomplish because of this player?
• What do I believe the team would have accomplished with an average starter in this player's role?

This isn't a list of college football's most talented players (if it were, Marqise Lee and Jadeveon Clowney would probably top the list), or a ranking of the ones with the most pro potential; instead, it's a look at the players who have provided the most value this season.

This is just one man's opinion, and to be honest, it turned out to be a much more challenging exercise than I originally anticipated. So feel free to let me know on Twitter (@McShay13) what you think of my list and criteria. This is the first season we've done this, and I'm certainly open to suggestions.

Here are my MVP rankings for 2012:

1. Manti Te'o, LB, Sr., Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Stephon Tuitt is probably the most talented and disruptive player on this defense, which ranks No. 1 in the nation in points allowed per game and has fueled Notre Dame's undefeated run to the BCS national championship game, but Te'o is the one who drives the whole ship. He is the complete package -- an elite talent who has been incredibly productive this season against both the run and the pass, especially in the Irish's biggest games (a combined 47 total tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack and four interceptions against Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC). But his impact and value go far beyond that.