Most important player: Colorado

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 their living up to expectations. Or their absence.

Colorado: WR Nelson Spruce

2013 production: 55 catches, 650 yards, 4 touchdowns

Why Spruce is so important: The Buffs need someone to step up in the receiving game and replace at least some of what Paul Richardson did last season. At this point, Spruce looks to be that guy.

Richardson accounted for more than a third of Colorado’s catches (83 of 235), almost half of its touchdowns (10 of 21) and led the team with 19 catches of 20-plus yards. Spruce was second in most of those categories, but it wasn’t exactly a close second.

Spruce won’t have to do it alone. He’ll have help in D.D. Goodson and Bryce Bobo. Goodson had a good sophomore season for Colorado last season, recording 22 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns. And Bobo, who the Pac-12 blog named as Colorado’s spring breakout player in May, had a strong enough spring that we think he could be a big factor this fall.

With the Buffs' top three running backs returning for 2014 -- Christian Powell, Michael Adkins II and Tony Jones -- Colorado should be able to get it going on the ground. But if they want to improve on last year, they’ll need to find some balance and the key part in that is how much Spruce is going to be able to contribute.

Can he have a Richardson-like season? Maybe. Maybe not. But he’ll be just as crucial to the success of this team. He’s the most battled tested receiver and the player that quarterback Sefo Liufau is going to go to in tough situations, so he needs to come up big.

Other Most Important Players: