In putting together this ranking of the 10 most valuable players in college football, I took into account three key factors for each player:
• Skill set (as a college player, not as a pro prospect)
• Value to his team (statistical production and otherwise)
• Team success
Each of these factors matters in determining a player's value, so what follows is a mix of players with gaudy statistics and ones whose impacts are harder to quantify, including a pair of outstanding defensive players on BCS title contenders.
I had a really tough time winnowing this down to 10 players, particularly with regard to Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Auburn QB Nick Marshall. Bridgewater is one of the top talents in college football today, and the Cardinals are 8-1, but considering the marginal competition they've faced and that they're on the outside looking in on the BCS picture, it was hard to put him ahead of the others on this list. In Marshall's case, he's been key to Auburn's success and productive as a runner, but he's just not there yet as a passer, and you could make the argument that running back Tre Mason has been just as valuable for the Tigers.
Here is my ranking of the 10 most valuable players in the nation:
It's rare to see a redshirt freshman, or any first-year starter, change the culture at a program the way Winston has at Florida State. The Seminoles are 9-0 and in position to earn a spot in the BCS title game for several reasons, including an outstanding defense, a receiving corps that is one of the best in the country, and an offensive line that continues to improve. But Winston is the biggest reason why.