In football, there is always one person who stands out as the most capable, most talented and/or the most enthusiastic of the whole bunch. This guy is your team leader, and you build the team around him.
While some teams can choose from among the best recruits in the nation, others are simply choosing the best available person at the time. Sometimes, they end up with a Jordan Lynch.
Each team has an offensive MVP and an offensive centerpiece. Those are two different things. The offensive centerpiece is usually given a responsibility that cannot be duplicated. If the centerpiece fails, the whole Thanksgiving dinner is ruined.
The following 124 slides contain the offensive centerpiece of each FBS team, along with his 2012 stats.
*Slideshow presented in reverse alphabetical order by team.
**Stats are from ESPN.com
Centerpiece: Brett Smith, quarterback
Notable Stats: 205 completions for 27 touchdowns
Regardless of the final win-loss total, Brett Smith has done his best for the Cowboys from the quarterback position. He threw only six interceptions on the season, and he averaged over one touchdown for every 10 passes.
Smith was clearly the Wyoming centerpiece, and the coaches should have been able to build a much more successful offense around him.
Centerpiece: Montee Ball, running back
Notable Stats: 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns
Montee Ball returned for his senior season, but he got off to a bit of a slow start in 2012. He bounced back big and became the centerpiece once again for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Ball's 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns were what kept the Badgers fighting for a possible Rose Bowl position. He led the Badgers to a blowout victory in the Big Ten Championship to seal the Rose Bowl berth for the third year in a row.
Centerpiece: Dareyon Chance, running back
Notable Stats: 176 carries for 947 yards
Dareyon Chance ran the ball 176 times this season, and that's more carries than the quarterback had completions (at 159). You can forget about a bread-and-butter play, Western Michigan's bread-and-butter player was Chance.
Chance's closest competition from the tailback position was Brian Fields, who had only 68 carries.
Centerpiece: Antonio Andrews, running back
Notable Stats: 277 carries for 1,609 yards
Antonio Andrews competed with the quarterback for the centerpiece position, and he won by almost 100 touches. Andrews gouged defenses via 277 carries, and Kawaun Jakes came up short to the tune of 186 completions.
Western Kentucky is in a bowl game this year, and Andrews is the largest single contributor to that accomplishment.
Centerpiece: Geno Smith, quarterback
Notable Stats: 40 touchdowns to six interceptions
Geno Smith would be the centerpiece of almost any offense in the nation, although his receivers certainly gave him a run for his money. Smith did an awesome job of getting a Big East team to finish well in the Big 12. After a 5-0 start, the Mountaineers even found themselves in some championship discussions.
His touchdown-to-interception ratio was one of the brightest spots on his record. Even when facing teams who were shutting him down, he made good decisions with the football. Perhaps this is the biggest reason that they designed the offense around him in the first place.
Centerpiece: Marquess Wilson, wide receiver
Notable Stats: 52 receptions for 813 yards
Washington State fielded two quarterbacks with over 150 completions in 2012. During all the shifting around him, Marquess Wilson quietly became the team's leading receiver. He performed whenever called upon, and he put up almost 1,000 yards in a season that only saw three wins. Whoever you want to blame for the season, Wilson is not on the list of candidates.
Centerpiece: Bishop Sankey, running back
Notable Stats: 259 carries for 1,234 yards
Keith Price gets a lot of the attention for the Huskies, and he should. He was the one who orchestrated the upset of the Stanford Cardinal earlier in the season. However, Bishop Sankey was the load-bearer for the team all season.
He led the team with that 15-touchdown performance this season.
Centerpiece: Tanner Price, quarterback
Notable Stats: 228 completions for 2,300 yards
Tanner Price ran the Wake Forest offense quite well, though it didn't look like it against teams like Florida State. In his defense, very few teams looked offensively sound against the Seminoles.
Price averaged just over 10 yards per completion, and he took Wake Forest to a bowl in the process. At the end of the regular season, Price had eight receivers with more than 10 catches apiece. Add two tailbacks with over 450 yards apiece, and you can easily see that he is familiar with the term "balance."
Centerpiece: Logan Thomas, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,783 passing yards and 528 rushing yards
Leading the team in both passing and rushing is not something that happens too often. In any given year, there are usually fewer than 10 teams who have a quarterback like that.
Thomas was the cornerstone of the offense this season, and he led the Hokies to the Russell Athletic Bowl with his performance. If he comes back for his senior season (which he really should), he'll be the centerpiece of the offense then, too.
Centerpiece: Kevin Parks, running back
Notable Stats: 160 carries for 734 yards
Virginia didn't have a whole lot of success this season, but Parks certainly wasn't the reason. His 4.58 yards per carry should have been plenty for the Cavaliers to turn into some wins. He added another 189 yards in the receiving game, but that still wasn't enough for Virginia to make a bowl.
The bright side for Virginia is that he's a sophomore. If the Cavaliers want to rectify their errors, they have at least one more year to use him to his fullest.
Centerpiece: Zac Stacy, running back
Notable Stats: 182 carries for 1,034 yards
While Jordan Rodgers might get more hype (he's the brother of Aaron Rodgers), Stacy is the centerpiece of the offense. Stacy put up a 1,000-yard season in the SEC, and that's no small feat, regardless of divisional affiliation.
Stacy finished his final season with the Commodores as the centerpiece of the offense. Hopefully, Vanderbilt has someone in mind to take his spot. (Yeah, good luck with that.)
Centerpiece: Eric Soza, quarterback
Notable Stats: 20 touchdowns to three interceptions
Eric Soza's touchdown-to-interception ratio is the same as Geno Smith, although Smith did throw twice as many of both. Soza was the Roadrunners' offense this season, and even added 364 yards and six touchdowns on the ground to prove it.
If the coaches did not design the offense around him, they did a bad job of proving it.
Centerpiece: Nathan Jeffery, running back
Notable Stats: 184 carries for 897 yards
The UTEP Miners had a standout on offense that they could rely upon for yardage whenever they needed it: Nathan Jeffery. Jeffery's 184 carries accounted for more touches than anyone else on the team, besides the quarterback. Even then, the signal-caller only completed 126 of his passes, so Jeffery was a bigger part of the offense than he was.
Jeffery was also the team's leading scorer with seven touchdowns. As a sophomore, he's got a few years left before he's not the centerpiece anymore.
Centerpiece: Kerwynn Williams, running back
Notable Stats: 1,512 rushing yards for 15 touchdowns
Kerwynn Williams is the key to the Utah State offense. If he does well, the team does well. Granted, that has a lot to do with the offensive line's performance, and that cannot be stressed enough.
However, when you're searching for the centerpiece, that player is going to come from a more "flashy" position than somewhere on the line. Williams scored zero touchdowns in both of the Aggies' losses, and they lost by less than a touchdown in each showing. You do the math.
Centerpiece: John White, running back
Notable Stats: 218 carries for 1,041 yards
Utah didn't have the greatest season in 2012, but the Utes are still figuring out how to out-recruit the established Pac-12 teams. A little rough riding is to be expected.
Of course, John White took advantage of that fact and established himself as a premiere performer for the Utes. His 1,000-yard rushing performance was the highlight of the season for Utah, so he finished his college career on a high note.
Centerpiece: Marqise Lee, wide receiver
Notable Stats: 112 receptions for 1,680 yards
Marqise Lee would have been the centerpiece of any team he joined, but it was USC that signed him. A sophomore that contributes as heavily as he did is rare, and USC would do itself a favor by continuing to keep him in the franchise's spotlight.
The next-best receiver this season was Robert Woods, and he came in with "only" 813 receiving yards. If you can make Woods look ho-hum, you are a special talent. USC fans are certainly thrilled that they keep Lee for at least one more season.
Centerpiece: Tim Cornett, running back
Notable Stats: 242 carries for 1,232 yards
Tim Cornett has been a bigger factor on this offense than even the quarterback. His seven-touchdown performance this season is a much better mark than Nick Sherry's 16 touchdowns to 17 interceptions.
Cornett is a junior, so the Rebels will have another year with him in the backfield. If he continues his improvement, he should make some serious headlines next season in the new "superconference."
Centerpiece: Johnathan Franklin, running back
Notable Stats: 268 carries for 1,700 yards
UCLA has had its ups and downs this season, but it's had far more ups than downs. It's an understatement to say that Franklin has been a large part of that. His 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns are both team-leading marks, and he was a key factor in the 10-point win over USC with two touchdowns of his own.
Franklin is leaving the Bruins after this bowl appearance, but he certainly left his mark on the franchise on the way out.
Centerpiece: Latavius Murray, running back
Notable Stats: 177 carries for 1,035 yards
Murray is one of the most productive running backs in his conference, and it's no accident that UCF relied heavily on him in 2012. UCF rode his 16 touchdowns all the way to the conference-championship game. Though they lost the game, Tulsa keyed on Murray to make that happen.
Murray is like that. If he's hot, the Knights are going to win. It makes sense that UCF would build an offense around him...simply because it works.
Centerpiece: Darrin Reaves, running back
Notable Stats: 215 carries for 1,037 yards
Darrin Reaves keyed two of the Blazers' three wins this season by scoring twice in each of those games. He even rushed for 72 yards against the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are undefeated this season.
If we are honest about what happened that day, UAB was a lot closer to victory than some think. The final score was 29-15, but Ohio State scored 21 points in the second quarter. Reaves might have been able to will the Blazers to victory if not for that fluke of a second quarter.
Either way, Reaves made this list rather handily as the team's leading scorer and leading rusher.
Centerpiece: Alex Singleton, running back
Notable Stats: 187 carries for 21 touchdowns
Singleton averaged a touchdown every 8.9 carries and was key in short-yardage situations. At 260 pounds, there is little that any team could do to stop him from getting a yard or two. He may not have been the leading rusher or leading receiver, but he was the leading scorer by far.
Singleton was the team's leading rusher in that he carried the ball more times than anyone else. It's actually a wonder that he didn't have the highest yards-per-carry average on the team. Like they say, stats don't always tell the whole story.
Centerpiece: Ryan Griffin, quarterback
Notable Stats: 245 completions for 2,771 yards
Ryan Griffin is the center of the offense, and he distributed the ball quite well. He had 10 receivers with 10 or more catches on the season and three rushers with over 100 yards. Griffin was clearly the centerpiece of the offense, but there was just a lack of wins when it came to the schedule.
Griffin could have done a lot better if he hadn't been on his back so much. He was sacked 21 times this year.
Centerpiece: Corey Robinson, quarterback
Notable Stats: 257 completions for 3,121 yards
Robinson may not have been the best-performing player on the team, but he was able to make good decisions with the football all year.
There are three rushers on the roster with over 250 yards and seven receivers with over 200 yards apiece. Robinson would certainly have liked to have a better season, but it's undeniable that he's the centerpiece of the Trojans.
Centerpiece: David Fluellen, running back
Notable Stats: 259 carries for 1,498 yards
Fluellen was the main reason that Toledo did as well as it did this season. Toledo didn't lose a single regular-season game by more than seven points, and the Rockets only lost three of those. Fluellen is the marquee player on a 9-4 team (thanks to the bowl loss to Utah State), and he is undeniably the key to Toledo's success.
He rushed for fewer than 100 yards only five times this season, and the Rockets lost four of those five games.
Centerpiece: Seth Doege, quarterback
Notable Stats: 349 completions for 3,934 yards
Seth Doege led the Red Raiders to some serious victories this season, and West Virginia was probably the most impressive. (The defense held WVU to only 14 points in that contest.)
Doege posted a 70-plus percent completion rate and raked in 38 touchdown passes on the way to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The Red Raiders will be sad to see him go at the end of the year.
Centerpiece: Shaun Rutherford, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,137 passing yards, 597 rushing yards
Shaun Rutherford did a fine job of leading Texas State in 2012, despite the fact that its record ended at 4-8. The Bobcats are newcomers to the FBS level of play, and you don't just waltz into a new league and meet success.
It will take another year or three for the Bobcats to become competitive, but Rutherford guided them through the transition with dignity. Texas State was not be a doormat for everyone on its schedule, and Rutherford's performance through the season was stellar.
He threw for 15 touchdowns and added five more on the ground, and he has left Texas State in a decent position to possibly contend for a lower-tier bowl in 2013. With so many losses coming by two scores or fewer, that's far from a pipe dream.
Centerpiece: Trevone Boykin, quarterback
Notable Stats: 154 completions for 1,853 yards
Trevone Boykin did not enter the season as the offensive linchpin, but when Casey Pachall departed from the program that all changed. An offense that was once centered on Pachall had to be revamped, and it had to be built around the new kid.
Boykin had to be comfortable, but at the same time he had to be given the tools for success. What happened was an 1,853-yard performance that pulled TCU into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan State.
That is not a bad performance to build on over the next two or three years.
Centerpiece: Johnny Manziel, quarterback
Notable Stats: 3,419 passing yards, 1,181 rushing yards, first freshman Heisman winner
Johnny Manziel's story is no secret, and his successes are well-known. He is the only person to have beaten Alabama so far this season, and he backed that up with stellar performances for the rest of the season to earn the Heisman trophy.
More will be learned about him against Oklahoma this postseason, but for now he's the nation's hero that proved Alabama is not invincible. If you have a Heisman winner, you build your offense around him. The fact that he is a freshman just gives the Aggies a boatload of hope for the next two seasons.
Centerpiece: Joe Bergeron, running back
Notable Stats: 565 rushing yards for 16 touchdowns
During the season, Texas had some serious quarterback issues. David Ash will start in the Holiday Bowl for Texas, but that still doesn't mean the issues are resolved. It just means that Ash is doing better in practice.
In the meantime, one player emerged as a potential cornerstone for the Longhorns: Joe Bergeron. Bergeron may not have been the flashiest runner in the NCAA, but he certainly was a formidable threat to score at any given moment.
He rushed for only 565 yards but tagged opponents for 16 touchdowns. To put that into perspective, Ash has only thrown for 17 touchdowns. It's not often you see a running back who can outrun the quarterback's arm.
Centerpiece: Tyler Bray, quarterback
Notable Stats: 3,612 yards for 34 touchdowns
Tyler Bray is the headliner of the Tennessee offense, and his 34-touchdown performance in 2012 didn't do anything to hurt his role. Throughout the season, Bray did have some competition by the name of Cordarrelle Patterson, but this is Bray's offense for good reason.
It is a shame that the defense could not help him out. No matter who you build your offense around, missed tackles will always kill the win-loss column.
Centerpiece: Montel Harris, running back
Notable Stats: 1,054 yards for 12 touchdowns
Montel Harris ran all over defenses this season, and he did everything he could to help Temple offensively. In fact, he rushed for more touchdowns than both quarterbacks passed for...combined. Harris may not have been the nation's best tailback, but he certainly made a case for a new children's book: The Temple Owls and the Wildcat.
Centerpiece: Ryan Nassib, quarterback
Notable Stats: 283 completions for 3,619 yards
Ryan Nassib competed against the likes of Munchie Legaux and Teddy Bridgewater for attention in the Big East. Even though he did not make any national awards lists, Nassib did lead Syracuse to a 7-5 season that put the team in a bowl game against West Virginia.
Syracuse certainly should not regret centering the offense on someone so talented.
Centerpiece: Stepfan Taylor, running back
Notable Stats: 302 carries for 1,442 yards
Stanford would have gotten nowhere near the Rose Bowl this season without Stepfan Taylor. Play-action passes do not work if you are missing a rushing game worth defending. Taylor is one of the few major players on offense that skipped last year's NFL draft.
That proved to be the right decision for him, as he will now have yet another BCS bowl appearance under his belt after a solid season. He waited patiently for Andrew Luck to take off to the pros, and he reaped the reward of an improved draft stock as a result.
Centerpiece: Anthony Alford, quarterback
Notable Stats: 664 passing yards, 329 rushing yards
Southern Miss did not have a good season at all, but the offense was clearly built around Anthony Alford for 2012.
His 664 passing yards and 329 rushing yards may not be an NCAA record, but it was certainly the best of the bunch. Alford was the leading scorer on the team with his six rushing touchdowns alone.
If the coaches can build the rest of the offense to run like Alford, then Southern Miss could see a bowl before he leaves. He's a freshman, so they have some time, but they have some serious work to do.
Centerpiece: Zach Line, running back
Notable Stats: 1,207 rushing yards, 231 receiving yards
While it is understood that running backs need to be able to catch the ball, there are still far more rushers than dual-threats on the field on any given Saturday.
Zach Line is one of those threats, and SMU did a great job of getting him the football throughout the season. Line did his best to earn the Mustangs a bowl bid, and they are heading to the Hawaii Bowl as a result of their success this season.
Centerpiece: B.J. Daniels, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,075 passing yards, 434 rushing yards
B.J. Daniels is a dangerous foe to say the least. Daniels led South Florida to three wins via his arm and his legs. Sadly, he will not be with the program in 2013, but South Florida has many issues to deal with in the offseason. Replacing Daniels is high on that list, but it is not the most important factor for a successful 2013 run.
Centerpiece: Marcus Lattimore, running back
Notable Stats: 143 carries for 11 touchdowns
Marcus Lattimore was injured against Tennessee and was ousted from the field for much more than just the rest of the season.
Why is he still the centerpiece? Well, to put it simply, he is just that kind of kid. He poured his heart into this team, and the players immediately started wearing trinkets bearing his number the week after his injury.
Lattimore's heart that allowed him to return from the 2011 injury was the same heart that was broken against Tennessee. He is still the heart and soul of this team, and an injury cannot change that. He is still a large and valuable part of the scheme, though he will not score for the Gamecocks again.
Centerpiece: Jereme' Jones, wide receiver
Notable Stats: 45 receptions for seven touchdowns
South Alabama is another program that is new to the FBS. While it will be a while before the Jaguars are competitive, Jereme Jones set a great example for the team.
Jones averaged a touchdown on almost every sixth contact with the football. If the Jaguars do not continue to build the offense around him, it had better be due to the fact that quarterback Ross Metheny got a lot better during the offseason.
Centerpiece: David Fales, quarterback
Notable Stats: 294 completions for 3,798 yards
David Fales led the Spartans to a 10-2 season and an appearance in the Military Bowl against the Bowling Green Falcons. San Jose State led the season off with a near-victory against the Stanford Cardinal.
As the season progressed, it became evident that was far from just a fluke. San Jose State is a good team, and Bowling Green will probably learn that the hard way fairly soon.
Centerpiece: Adam Muema, running back
Notable Stats: 211 carries for 16 touchdowns
San Diego State has a major player who is a scoring threat whenever he touches the ball: Adam Muema.
If the rest of the offense can step up and perform like Muema, the Aztecs could be contenders for the BCS before he leaves the program. He's a sophomore, and they are already in the Poinsettia Bowl after a three-loss season.
The BCS is not too far of a reach for this squad at all, especially if Northern Illinois pulls a major upset over Florida State this January.
Centerpiece: Jawan Jamison, running back
Notable Stats: 1,054 rushing yards, 322 receiving yards
Jawan Jamison is the backbone of the Rutgers offense. He is a threat to score both on the ground and through the air. He scored six touchdowns on offense this season, and that does not include his lone touchdown pass.
Jamison is the center of the offense, and he has done nothing but prove his value in game after game this season.
Centerpiece: Taylor McHargue, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,178 passing yards, 628 rushing yards
Rice had a good season, and McHargue's 2,800-yard performance had everything to do with that. McHargue led the Owls on a late-season, four-game winning streak that pushed the Owls into the postseason.
If he could have stepped on the gas sooner rather than later, the Owls could have gotten to the conference championship. As it is, any postseason appearance will make players smile. The Armed Forces Bowl is one of the better postseason experiences in terms of atmosphere.
Hopefully, McHargue can take down the Air Force Falcons on Dec. 29 and end his season on an even higher note.
Centerpiece: Akeem Shavers, running back
Notable Stats: 778 rushing yards, 316 receiving yards
Purdue had a fairly disappointing season, at least as far as expectations were concerned. Akeem Shavers was not the reason for the letdown, though, and he cruised to a 1,000-yard performance in total offense on the season.
Without Shavers, Purdue would not have even made the postseason, much less a January bowl against Oklahoma State.
Centerpiece: Tino Sunseri, quarterback
Notable Stats: 3,103 passing yards for 19 touchdowns
Tino Sunseri led Pitt through a roller-coaster season then landed the Panthers in the Compass Bowl. Sunseri threw 19 touchdowns to only two interceptions, and that made him the headliner for the offense. (That is no small feat with Ray Graham in the backfield.)
Sunseri throws 9.5 touchdowns for every interception he tosses. That's a quarterback you can construct an offense around, for sure.
Centerpiece: Matthew McGloin, quarterback
Notable Stats: 3,271 passing yards for 24 touchdowns
Penn State's story is all too familiar, and we will not be hashing it out again here. McGloin led the Nittany Lions to an improbable second-place finish in the Big Ten Leaders Division, and there was instant hope for the fanbase.
McGloin's talents were already needed before Silas Redd left for USC. After Redd's departure, the weight on McGloin's shoulders just got a little heavier. He responded well, though.
Centerpiece: Storm Woods, running back
Notable Stats: 822 rushing yards, 291 receiving yards
Oregon State is another team that had quarterback issues this season, and the Beavers needed a rock on offense to help them through the transition period. Storm Woods decided he would be that man.
He did an excellent job, and the only loss during that time was to the Washington Huskies. That game was thrown away by the freshly returning quarterback Sean Mannion, though, and was not an indicator that Woods somehow dropped the ball.
Oregon State fans should be thrilled that Woods is a freshman. There are a few years left in the tank before he goes pro.
Centerpiece: Marcus Mariota, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,511 passing yards, 690 rushing yards
Marcus Mariota scored 34 touchdowns with the combination of his arm and legs this season. Mariota made it very easy to see why he was recruited in the first place. Mariota is a freshman and led Oregon to the Fiesta Bowl in his first season.
Had it not been for that pesky Stanford defense, Oregon would be taking on Notre Dame in Miami.
Centerpiece: Bo Wallace, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,843 passing yards, 363 rushing yards
Bo Wallace took over the starting quarterback in place of Randall Mackey, who became the offensive version of a chess queen. Mackey could catch, run or do just about anything else needed of him to further the cause of the Rebels.
The personnel restructure helped Hugh Freeze immensely and allowed Bo Wallace to lead the Rebels to a postseason game. That may not seem like a whole lot, but Ole Miss was absolutely terrible last year.
To put it into perspective: Ole Miss won fewer games last season than Auburn did this season. That, my friends, is a bad year. Wallace was the key to turning that all around this season.
Centerpiece: Joseph Randle, running back
Notable Stats: 1,351 rushing yards, 224 receiving yards
Oklahoma State lost a lot last year, with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon jetting for the NFL. This season, the Cowboys needed someone to step up and take some pressure off the new guys breaking in at those positions.
Joseph Randle decided that he would see what he could do about that. What he did was put together over 1,500 yards of total offense en route to a postseason date with the Purdue Boilermakers. That is not too shabby for a tailback. Do not forget about his 36-yard pass on a trick play that netted him a 102.4 quarterback rating.
Centerpiece: Landry Jones, quarterback
Notable Stats: 332 completions for 3,989 yards
Landry Jones led the Sooners to what should have been a BCS bowl in 2012, and he averaged over 10 yards per completion along the way. While he missed out on a BCS bowl for his final season, centering the offense on him proved to be valuable for Bob Stoops and the Sooners.
Jones has had a highly successful career at Oklahoma, and the Cotton Bowl matchup against Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel looks like a brilliant battle on paper.
Let's hope Stoops puts the game in the hands of capable people. If he lets the Notre Dame crew take over the play-calling again, Jones may have a bitter taste in his mouth heading to the combine.
Centerpiece: Braxton Miller, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,039 passing yards, 1,271 rushing yards
Braxton Miller amassed 28 touchdowns this season, and the Ohio State Buckeyes could theoretically get a piece of the AP National Championship as a result of the undefeated season they put together. (A narrow win by Alabama over Notre Dame could still give the Buckeyes a shot at it, especially if the game is low-scoring as is expected.)
Miller frequented the Heisman watch lists all season but never made the push to the front of the line. On the other hand, designing your offense around a guy like that certainly proved to be the right thing for Urban Meyer to do.
Ohio State may not have contended for a BCS title this season, but the Buckeyes return to eligibility in 2013.
Centerpiece: Tyler Tettleton, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,513 passing yards, 210 rushing yards
Tyler Tettleton led the Ohio Bobcats to a season-opening win over the Penn State Nittany Lions. While it took everyone a few weeks to realize that was a legitimate accomplishment, Tettleton proceeded to not pay attention and just keep winning.
Tettleton's 20-touchdown performance both through the air and on the ground has Ohio smack in the middle of bowl season, with most of the nation shocked that the Bobcats did not win the MAC. That is a great season.
Centerpiece: Tyler Eifert, tight end
Notable Stats: 44 receptions for 624 yards
Here is yet another instance of a quarterback-less team that needed a headliner to take the reins while things got sorted out.
Eifert is arguably the best tight end in the nation, and he won the Mackey Award to prove it. What is not up for discussion is the fact that he is the most valuable player on Notre Dame's offense.
He is the team's leading receiver in number of catches and receiving yards, and he was the offensive anchor throughout the season. Without his contribution to the offense, Notre Dame has at least two losses on the season.
Centerpiece: Venric Mark, running back
Notable Stats: 213 carries for 1,310 yards
Venric Mark's name came up more than a few times throughout the season, and he led the Wildcats to a 5-0 start in 2012. Mark was one of the go-to guys all season long, and his production was undeniable. When the dust settled at the end of the season, the Wildcats had only lost three games.
Even the Wisconsin Badgers did not fare that well this year, and they are in the Rose Bowl.
Centerpiece: Jordan Lynch, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,962 passing yards, 1,771 rushing yards
Jordan Lynch is clearly the most effective player at his position in the country. His 43 touchdowns on the season speak for themselves, and Lynch led the Huskies to a BCS bowl. Whether you believe that there are more deserving teams out there or not, you have to give it to Lynch and the Huskies: They earned every bit of that Orange Bowl berth.
Lynch's numbers would be impressive if he was a full-time running back, but he is not. He is a quarterback with 1,771 yards on the ground. (That number includes all the lost yardage due to sacks, too, so they are a bit deflated.)
You could build 100 offenses in your career and never build them around a talent like Lynch.
Centerpiece: Derek Thompson, quarterback
Notable Stats: 214 completions for 2,629 yards
Derek Thompson was a balanced quarterback who did not choose his receivers before the snap. That does not mean he did not have favorites. Every team has certain receivers that are more talented than others.
At the end of the season, he had eight receivers with over 100 yards. When a quarterback steps up in the pocket and does not let you know where he is throwing the ball, it puts a huge amount of pressure on your defense. While it only led North Texas to four wins this season, the Mean Green were only eight points away from the postseason in 2012. (A one-point loss to Western Kentucky and a seven-point loss to Troy kept them out.)
Centerpiece: Mike Glennon, quarterback
Notable Stats: 3,648 passing yards for 30 touchdowns
NC State has had a decent season in terms of wins and losses, and they get to play in a bowl game before hanging up the spikes until spring. On the bright side for the Wolfpack, they had a wonderful season by taking down the Florida State Seminoles in front of a home crowd in North Carolina.
At the time, Florida State was being seriously discussed as a national-championship possibility. Mike Glennon and the Wolfpack decided to take advantage of the Seminoles' cruise-control attitude and handed them a devastating loss.
Never underestimate your opponent, especially if he is a potential 4,000-yard passer with home-field advantage. That is probably the guy they designed the offense for, and he was worth it.
Centerpiece: Giovani Bernard, running back
Notable Stats: 1,228 rushing yards, 490 receiving yards
The North Carolina Tar Heels had a great season by their football program's standards, and Giovani Bernard was the main reason for that success. Bernard's numbers tell most of the story, and his 17 touchdowns tell the rest.
Bernard is a lethal player from the backfield, and you better have a game plan that includes stopping him if you are going to beat the Tar Heels.
Centerpiece: Austin Franklin, wide receiver
Notable Stats: 74 receptions for 1,245 yards
Throughout the season, Franklin caught 50 percent of the touchdown passes thrown by quarterback Andrew Manley. (Manley threw 18 strikes, and Franklin caught nine.)
Franklin was clearly the best player on the field on offense, and the Aggies even worked him into the rushing game a few times this season.
Centerpiece: Kasey Carrier, running back
Notable Stats: 255 carries for 1,469 yards
Aside from his fitting last name, Kasey Carrier has much more to boast about after this season. New Mexico's leading passer threw 62 completed passes, which was far short of Carrier's 255 touches.
Carrier took the ball to the house 15 times this season and caught 10 passes on top of all that. Carrier was the most productive performer on the New Mexico offense, and he earned his time in the spotlight.
Centerpiece: Stefphon Jefferson, running back
Notable Stats: 1,883 rushing yards for 24 touchdowns
Stefphon Jefferson is currently 46 yards behind Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey on the national rushing-yards rankings. The good news for Jefferson is that Carey got an extra game to help pass him. In terms of rushing yards per game, Jefferson is still the leader.
Nevada's offense lives or dies by Jefferson's performance, and he opens up the passing game with the respect he demands. It really is a shame that New Mexico could not make the postseason.
In any respect, the nation's second-leading rusher is definitely worth using as an offensive cornerstone.
Centerpiece: Taylor Martinez, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,667 passing yards, 973 rushing yards
Taylor Martinez looked like a potential Heisman finalist (or the Heisman winner) earlier in the season, but that turned out to be wishful thinking.
On the other hand, being responsible for 31 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards of total offense is nothing to take lightly. Martinez repeatedly showed his talent, even in the few losses that Nebraska had.
The 'Huskers built the offense around him, and he rarely disappointed them in that role.
Centerpiece: Keenan Reynolds, quarterback
Notable Stats: 884 passing yards, 628 rushing yards
After being embarrassed by Notre Dame in Ireland to start the season, Navy refused to throw in the towel. It turned out that the 40-point loss was not that embarrassing since Notre Dame is now the No. 1 team in the country.
Navy went on to lose only three more games, and the Midshipmen are heading to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Keenan Reynolds made that possible with his dual-threat ability and his knowledge of the system that governs his football team.
He threw and ran for a total of 18 touchdowns and distributed the ball so evenly that there were two rushers with more yards on the ground than he had. There were also five receivers with over 10 catches apiece, and that's no small feat for a guy who only threw 56 completions.
Centerpiece: Kendial Lawrence, running back
Notable Stats: 200 carries for 1,025 yards
Kendial Lawrence averaged over five yards per carry, which raises an interesting question: How did Missouri only win five games? The answer is in the schedule. Missouri faced Georgia, Florida, Alabama, LSU and the late-season version of Texas A&M. Those were five teams in the Top 10 that faced Missouri, and James Franklin did not even get to suit up for some of them.
Lawrence did a great job for his first season in the SEC. The 1,000-yard mark is not easy to hit, and that schedule made it even more difficult. Lawrence earned his spot as the center of the offense, and he continually earned the right to keep it throughout the season.
Centerpiece: Tyler Russell, quarterback
Notable Stats: 219 completions for 2,791 yards
Tyler Russell led the Mississippi State Bulldogs to an 8-4 season after a 7-0 start. The start was among the best in school history, and the finish was certainly beautiful for a team that is routinely one offense short of a national championship.
Russell's average of over 10 yards per completion is stellar in the SEC West division, and his six-interception mark was not too shabby, either.
Centerpiece: Donnell Kirkwood, running back
Notable Stats: 199 carries for 849 yards
With big wins over Syracuse (Big East contender) and Purdue (Big Ten contender), Donnell Kirkwood led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to the postseason. Minnesota almost gained bowl-eligibility before the rest of the Big Ten figured out that the Gophers were not to be trifled with.
The Gophers finished the season on losses to Michigan State and Nebraska, but that was to be expected. Those two teams have been near the top of the Big Ten recruiting standings for a few years, and Minnesota will need a couple of years to play catch-up with some of its classes.
After that, the Gophers can begin to chip away at the elite of the Big Ten. Building an offense that can perform is step one, and the Gophers certainly picked a performer to lead their rushing attack.
Centerpiece: Logan Kilgore, quarterback
Notable Stats: 212 completions for 2,571 yards
Logan Kilgore is another quarterback who averaged over 10 yards per completion, and he led Middle Tennessee to an 8-4 fourth-place finish in the Sun Belt. Why the Blue Raiders did not get an invitation to the postseason is beyond me, but that is another article for another time.
Kilgore threw down on Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech to earn signature wins this season over two major contenders in their conferences. Middle Tennessee may not be heading to a bowl game, but there is nothing to do but smile about the 2012 season. Kilgore led his team to a four-loss finish with wins over bowl-eligible teams.
The coaches made a good choice when they put him at the center of the offense.
Centerpiece: Le'Veon Bell, running back
Notable Stats: 350 carries for 1,648 yards
Le'Veon Bell was the marquee name on the rebuilding edition of the Michigan State Spartans. After last year's departure of Kirk Cousins, Sparty needed someone who could carry the load. Bell decided that he could give it a shot, and he shot to the end zone 12 different times.
He scored 11 on the ground, and he hit paydirt once off a pass. Bell will be sorely missed in 2013 if he declares for this year's draft. If not, he will be a welcome returner to the Spartans next season.
Centerpiece: Denard Robinson, quarterback/running back
Notable Stats: 154 carries for 1,166 yards
Denard Robinson was the focal point of the Michigan offense from the moment he arrived on campus. Given his talent as a runner, the coaches even modified the traditional Michigan offense to suit his strengths.
After the coaches figured out that he was a natural running back, things only got better for the Wolverines. Denard Robinson rushed for seven touchdowns throughout the season, and he passed for nine others before Michigan finally figured out it had a tailback throwing the ball.
Centerpiece: Zac Dysert, quarterback
Notable Stats: 302 completions for 3,483 yards
Zac Dysert was put in the driver's seat of the Miami Redhawks, and he drove the unit right to a 25-touchdown performance. While the Redhawks didn't make the postseason, Dysert certainly proved that they are capable. If they can train a quarterback just a smidgeon better than Dysert, they can at least be bowl eligible. (His 12 interceptions certainly had something to do with the four-win result.)
Dysert tacked 265 rushing yards and two more touchdowns onto his total by using his legs to find yardage when there was a lack of options elsewhere. Dysert is one of those kids that you wish could get an extra year of eligibility just to see what he could do with it.
Centerpiece: Stephen Morris, quarterback
Notable Stats: 245 completions for 3,345 yards
Stephen Morris averaged an astounding 13.65 yards per completion, and he led the Miami Hurricanes to what should have been an appearance in the conference-championship game and a potential bowl game.
The school opted to self-impose a bowl ban in hopes that the NCAA will call it even after the investigation is over. Whatever your opinion on that situation, the fact is that Morris led the Hurricanes to a 7-5 season that should have seen him in at least a 13th game.
At least he still has his senior season left...unless the NCAA rips that away, too.
Centerpiece: Jacob Karam, quarterback
Notable Stats: 176 completions for 1,895 yards
The Memphis Tigers just finished the season on a three-game winning streak. Sadly, that was not enough to earn them a field trip in December, but it is something that will have the players smiling during the offseason.
Jacob Karam averaged over 10 yards per completion, and he led the Tigers through that winning streak to finish the season. At the end, there were five running backs with more than 150 yards apiece and five receivers that posted that same stat. Karam was definitely the right guy to pick as the leader of the offense.
Centerpiece: Michael Cox, running back
Notable Stats: 198 carries for 710 yards
UMass had one of the worst seasons possible, scoring only one win over the Akron Zips. Michael Cox was determined to not be one of the reasons that happened, and he turned in a 710-yard performance that should have been good enough to account for at least a win or two.
Centerpiece: Stefon Diggs, wide receiver
Notable Stats: 848 receiving yards, 114 rushing yards, one touchdown pass,
Here is another player who showed his versatility throughout the 2012 season. He contributed in every way possible on offense, including a touchdown pass on a trick play.
Diggs is a freshman, so the fact that the coaches are using him as a potential focal point is a good move. It seems to have worked out this season, so you can expect to hear his name for a few more years.
Centerpiece: Rakeem Cato, quarterback
Notable Stats: 406 completions at 69.5 percent for 37 touchdowns
Rakeem Cato is one of the most unmentioned players in college football this season. His completion percentage, number of completions and number of touchdowns are all admirable, and he added a rushing touchdown for good measure.
Cato is a sophomore, so he should be able to bring his 11-interception bar down a bit. Fans of the Herd have a few more years to look forward to his presence under center.
Centerpiece: Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback
Notable Stats: 267 completions for 3,452 yards
Bridgewater got himself a little Heisman chatter throughout the season, especially toward the tail end of his 9-0 start to the season.
Bridgewater pulled out the season-ending win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to earn the Big East's BCS bowl bid. Bridgewater will face the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. If he can gather himself and put all his good attributes to work, he could end the season on a major upset.
Centerpiece: Colby Cameron, quarterback
Notable Stats: NCAA record for pass attempts without an interception set at 358, 359 completions for 4,147 yards
Colby Cameron is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and he almost outgunned Johnny Manziel, who went on to win the Heisman. Cameron demolished the previous NCAA record for consecutive passes without an interception.
Now, anyone can cheat the system and throw 400 passes in a row into the stands, but Cameron threw 31 touchdowns and earned a 68.8 percent completion rate along the way to setting that record. He has one of the best brains for the game that we have seen in a long time, and building the offense around that was a no-brainer for the coaches as well.
Centerpiece: Zach Mettenberger, quarterback
Notable Stats: 193 completions for 2,489 yards
LSU had quarterback troubles last year, and they came to a head in the national championship game when the Tigers refused to switch quarterbacks despite a guaranteed loss if the status quo remained unchanged.
Enter Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger was supposed to be the offensive blasting cap that detonated under LSU and lead them to a potential national championship. While that did not happen, something special happened instead.
Mettenberger developed throughout the season, and he developed quickly. (His first meaningful snap was at the beginning of this season.) With a brand-new quarterback and a depleted roster, the LSU Tigers ran through their schedule to a 10-2 finish.
Against Alabama, Mettenberger had his breakout game, and he backed that performance up against Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas. This kid could lead LSU to a championship in 2013. Anyone who believes that is impossible is only setting himself up for shock and awe.
Centerpiece: Kolton Browning, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,830 passing yards, 441 rushing yards
Kolton Browning is not just the quarterback who took down the mighty Arkansas Razorbacks, he is the Warhawks' leading rusher. Browning led the Warhawks to the biggest upset victory of the season (over Arkansas), and he nearly led his team to victory over the Auburn Tigers the next week. (Auburn won in overtime.)
Browning led ULM to a heck of a season, and that should be proof enough that he was the correct choice for offensive cornerstone.
Centerpiece: Terrance Broadway, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,526 passing yards, 661 rushing yards
Broadway led the team with a combined 3,187 yards of total offense and 24 touchdowns. If he can continue the trend as far as numbers are concerned, he can take down East Carolina in the meeting.
Centerpiece: Raymond Sanders, running back
Notable Stats: 125 carries for 669 yards
Raymond Sanders is one of the many running backs on this list who have carried their teams to victory. The quarterback has only 103 completions, so Sanders has been a bigger part of the offense than even the signal-caller has been.
While the Wildcats are certainly hoping for better fortunes next season than they had under Joker Phillips, Sanders would be a good choice for the new coach to continue as the center of the offense. (Unless, of course, the Wildcats recruit a big-name quarterback between now and then.)
Centerpiece: Dri Archer, running back
Notable Stats: 1,352 rushing yards, 539 receiving yards, one touchdown pass
Dri Archer is Kent State's offense. He is the team leader in both rushing and receiving yards, and he even tossed in a touchdown pass for extra credit.
Archer is the key to beating Kent State. If you shut him down, you shut Kent State down...unless you shut him down by leaving someone open elsewhere. That would be as bad as just forfeiting the game in the first place.
Northern Illinois held Archer to 15 yards in the MAC Championship, and the Huskies still needed two overtimes to take down the Golden Flashes.
Centerpiece: Collin Klein, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,490 passing yards, 890 rushing yards
It is no secret that Collin Klein was one of only three players who were invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony. He finished second to Johnny Manziel but has a long resume for why he should not have.
Klein and his 37 touchdowns led the Kansas State Wildcats to the Fiesta Bowl by earning the Big 12 title via the head-to-head tiebreaker with Oklahoma. Klein is a dual-threat quarterback like Manziel, but his loss to Baylor really hurt his campaign.
The loss also put Kansas State's national-title hopes on life support. On that particular day, Baylor seemingly rented a defense that Klein couldn't get around. The fact that Kansas State is a household name is largely due to Klein's performances over the last two seasons.
Bill Snyder came out of 2012 looking like a genius, and there is little room to believe otherwise.
Centerpiece: James Sims, running back
Notable Stats: 218 carries for 1,013 yards, 168 receiving yards
James Sims carried the ball for over 1,000 yards, and the Kansas Jayhawks just did not have anything else going on this season. Nobody else could find a way to influence the game like Sims did.
Unfortunately, though the offense is geared for the run, there was nothing backing it up for the majority of the season. If he can repeat or improve upon this performance next season, the Jayhawks will have one position that they don't have to worry about.
Centerpiece: Steele Jantz, quarterback
Notable Stats: 1,562 passing yards, 210 rushing yards
Steele Jantz was the unchallenged center of the Iowa State offense in 2012. The 6-6 Cyclones will be meeting Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl this postseason, and Jantz is the largest contributor to that accomplishment.
When he leaves at the end of the year, the fans will not be thrilled.
Centerpiece: Mark Weisman, fullback
Notable Stats: 159 carries for 815 yards
Mark Weisman has one interesting stat that's not on that list. He has eight touchdowns on the season, and the entire receiving corps combined for seven touchdowns. That's right, he outperformed an entire division of the football team.
Wiesman is a great player to center your offense around. If his success can rub off on half of the receivers, Iowa has the makings of a 6-6 team that can go bowling. (The other rushers combined for another seven touchdowns, so they are already half as good as he is.)
Centerpiece: Stephen Houston, running back
Notable Stats: 749 rushing yards, 381 receiving yards
Stephen Houston is the team's leading scorer with 16 touchdowns. He has great hands, and his running ability led the Hoosiers to a decent season. While this was true, the Hoosiers fell just shy of an eight-win season.
They lost four games by a touchdown or less. (Three losses were by three or fewer points.)
Centerpiece: Nathan Scheelhaase, quarterback
Notable Stats: 1,361 passing yards, 303 rushing yards
Nathan Scheelhaase was the center of the offense. Unfortunately for him, the Illini only won two games. He will be back next season, and Illini fans can only hope that he has learned from the 2012 experience.
If the coaches can put together an offensive plan in 2013 that gives him a fighting chance, his numbers will be respectable. For now, he is just a bird without wings.
Centerpiece: Dominique Blackman, quarterback
Notable Stats: 167 completions for 1,605 yards
Idaho's quarterback landed just shy of 10 yards per completion. The Vandals already canned the head coach, which is a start. The next step is to put together a team that is simply not among the worst in the FBS.
Blackman was the focal point of the offense, and he should not be thrown under the bus. However, to turn a team around quickly, the standards are going to have to be shifted at all levels. This may require some personnel shifts.
Centerpiece: Charles Sims, running back
Notable Stats: 851 rushing yards, 373 receiving yards
Charles Sims is a good running back on a team that had to replace one of its best quarterbacks in history. That is a good place for a tailback to be as far as opportunity is concerned.
Sims capitalized on that opportunity by proving himself to be a threat both in the backfield and across the line of scrimmage. The offensive-minded Houston Cougars certainly used his 14 touchdowns to their advantage in what could have been a much worse performance than five wins.
Centerpiece: Sean Schroeder, quarterback
Notable Stats: 175 completions for 1,878 yards
Sean Schroeder's average of over 10 yards per completion was respectable, but the team as a whole had a disappointing three-win season in the Mountain West Conference. Of course, it is the Warriors' first season in the conference, so a bowl bid was not highly expected.
Schroeder was the right man for the job, and Hawaii can be proud of its performance in the new conference. Not everyone can pull off a Texas A&M-like debut.
Centerpiece: Tevin Washington, quarterback
Notable Stats: 1,173 passing yards, 638 rushing yards
Due to the nature of Georgia Tech's offense, the centerpiece will be the quarterback until the scheme is changed. However, that does not mean that we just skip over the Yellow Jackets without talking about it.
Tevin Washington is the decision-maker for every play that the Yellow Jackets run. It is the quarterback's responsibility to read the defense, follow the play as it develops and ultimately decide where the ball goes.
Yes, this is generally true of any quarterback, but some offensive schemes rely on the quarterback's ability more than others. Most offenses rely on the quarterback to know the plays and call audibles when it is appropriate. It is up to the coaches to out-call the opposition.
Washington gouged defenses for 26 total touchdowns and earned a trip to the ACC Championship with a little circumstantial help from a couple of division mates.
Centerpiece: Aaron Murray, quarterback
Notable Stats: 231 completions for 3,466 yards
Aaron Murray led the Georgia Bulldogs to the SEC title game and lost by four points, four yards or four seconds, depending on who you are talking to at the time.
Murray only had one hiccup, and that was against South Carolina when the Gamecocks had Marcus Lattimore. (Not that Lattimore would have made up for a 28-point difference.) Murray would have liked the opportunity to redistribute his points from blowout wins in order to erase that loss, but this is not a role-playing game, it's football.
Murray's performance this season was great, and he was definitely the right guy to place at the center of the plan. He was one successful play away from meeting Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, and that is a great season no matter who you root for.
Centerpiece: Derek Carr, quarterback
Notable Stats: 311 completions for 3,742 yards
Fresno State only lost three games this season, and one was to the Oregon Ducks, who will be going to the Fiesta Bowl.
Derek Carr was the biggest single contributor to that with his 36 touchdowns and 3,742 passing yards. The fact that he threw only five interceptions was icing on the cake, as every victory was by at least 14 points except for the San Diego State match.
Carr was the crux of the offense, and the final record of 9-3 proves that was the right call.
Centerpiece: EJ Manuel, quarterback
Notable Stats: 237 completions for 3,101 yards
Though he had a terrible showing against NC State, Florida State's EJ Manuel earned every bit of praise he was given in 2012, aside from the national-championship chatter prior to that NC State loss.
Of course, if the Seminoles had won the NC State game, who knows what kind of energy they would have had against Florida at the end of the season. Manuel averaged a little over 13 yards per completion and tossed 22 strikes to the end zone on his way to the ACC's berth in the Orange Bowl.
Centerpiece: Jake Medlock, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,127 passing yards, 236 rushing yards
Jake Medlock leads the Florida International Golden Panthers, and they landed far below bowl eligibility this season. Medlock did more with his legs this season than simply buying time in the pocket, but it wasn't enough to get the Panthers those much-needed wins.
On a bright note for FIU, he was not a bad quarterback, he just had less support than he needed. FIU fans can sleep well during the offseason, though. Medlock is a sophomore and has some good years left in him, especially after a start like this.
As the offense gels, the wins will come.
Centerpiece: Graham Wilbert, quarterback
Notable Stats: 261 completions for 2,814 yards
Florida Atlantic landed in the top half of the national rankings for passing yardage per game, but the scoring offense has plenty of room to improve after finishing 107th.
Graham Wilbert did a fine job of quarterbacking, but the rushing game was severely lacking, and the receiving corps was heavily weighted toward William Dukes. With a one-dimensional offense, the Owls had little chance of finding true success.
Unfortunately, the centerpiece of the offense is graduating after this season and will not return to the football field.
Centerpiece: Mike Gillislee, running back
Notable Stats: 1,104 rushing yards, 146 receiving yards
Mike Gillislee was the glue that held this offense together. As Jeff Driskel needed time to develop, Gillislee was more than happy to put up the numbers for the offense to the tune of 11 touchdowns and over 1,000 rushing yards.
Gillislee will be ready to pass the torch at the end of this season, so Driskel had better be ready to take it in 2013. The Sugar Bowl should be a video documentary of the transfer of power from Gillislee to Driskel.
Centerpiece: Bronson Hill, running back
Notable Stats: 905 rushing yards, 208 receiving yards
Bronson Hill's seven touchdowns were pretty much the entire highlight reel of the Eastern Michigan Eagles' 2012 season.
If the Eagles are going to have sustained success, a centerpiece that can put up over 1,000 yards of total offense in a losing effort is a great foundation for them to start with. Hill is a sophomore, so a trend of improvement can be expected. He is certainly off to a great start.
Centerpiece: Vintavious Cooper, running back
Notable Stats: 1,030 rushing yards, 226 receiving yards
The East Carolina Pirates are in a bowl again, and Vintavious Cooper led the way with over 1,200 yards of total offense. He is a new addition to the Pirates, and his contribution to the eight-win season is invaluable.
Cooper put up eight touchdowns throughout the season, and ECU only lost one game in which he scored a touchdown. That's not to say that he has to score for the Pirates to win, but it is certainly difficult to argue with the results when he does.
Cooper will be around for a while, and the Pirates should seriously consider putting some serious responsibility on his shoulders over the next few seasons.
Centerpiece: Sean Renfree, quarterback
Notable Stats: 260 completions for 2,755 yards
Sean Renfree has led Duke to its first bowl game since 1994, and everyone has been talking about it since Oct. 20. Renfree put up almost 3,000 yards through the air, and he could cross that barrier against the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Either way, Duke selected the Pop Warner National College Football Award winner to lead its team. That is a great selection for any position of importance in life. The Pop Warner winner is a leader and a role model. The fact that he is successful on the football field is just an added bonus compared to all that.
Centerpiece: Lyle McCombs, running back
Notable Stats: 860 rushing yards, 230 receiving yards
Lyle McCombs tagged opponents for almost 1,100 yards of total offense on the way to UConn's slightly disappointing five-win season. The Huskies lost four games this season by seven or fewer points; that is why the disappointment exists.
They were competitive in the Big East, and they also had little issue scoring on opponents. The issue was scoring enough points to win. McCombs did his part, as did most of the Huskies. As a sophomore, he is going to be the center of the offense for a few more years. Should a quarterback come along and develop into a real winner, McCombs will gladly take the back seat if it means postseason appearances or better.
Centerpiece: Donnell Alexander, running back
Notable Stats: 587 rushing yards, 155 receiving yards
Colorado State is entering a new football-centered portion of its history as a school, and the 2012 season started off with a signature win over the Colorado Buffaloes. That victory was a bit misleading to the Rams, as it caused them to believe that a special season was underway. As it turned out, it was marginally better than 2011, but the Buffaloes turned out to be terrible.
The good news for the Rams is that they did follow Donnell Alexander to a three-win season. While that is not exactly T-shirt material, it is confirmation that the Rams are heading in the right direction with the program.
Alexander is a freshman, so he will get to see the new era from beginning until his graduation. If he remains the center of the offense, Colorado State could be set up for real success in the coming years.
Centerpiece: Christian Powell, running back
Notable Stats: 158 carries for 691 yards
Colorado is a team that is quite difficult to analyze. The Buffaloes are not yet ready to contend in the Pac-12, and Christian Powell can only do so much by himself. The offensive line certainly played a huge role in his production, but they were also part of the problem. If he didn't have to do quite so much, the numbers could be a lot higher.
Of course, averaging roughly 4.4 yards per carry raises one important question: Why did he only have 158 carries? After all, he only missed two games. If the Buffaloes used him more than they did, the results could have been different. Maybe not with more wins, but definitely with more points on the board.
It is going to be hard to recruit having lost so many games by so many points. On a bright note, Powell is pulling more than his weight. Maybe he will get a chance to try out for some NFL teams based on his size and stats. He has a few more years before he needs to concerned with that though, as he is a freshman.
Centerpiece: Tajh Boyd, quarterback
Notable Stats: 3,550 passing yards, 492 rushing yards
Tajh Boyd is easily at the center of the Clemson offense. His performance carried Clemson to what could have been a BCS Bowl. Louisville, Northern Illinois and South Carolina all got in the way of that dream, though. (At least Northern Illinois earned the BCS bid, right?)
Clemson posted two losses on the season, but those were both to BCS Top 10 teams (at the time). Clemson's Boyd is among the best quarterbacks in the nation, and his supporting cast is mostly just as talented as he is. His 43 touchdowns certainly make that clear.
If Boyd were to return for his senior season, there could be some serious headlines in his future. (It could go the Matt Barkley direction, though, so he should seriously weigh his options.)
Centerpiece: Munchie Legaux, quarterback
Notable Stats: 1,716 passing yards, 335 rushing yards
Munchie Legaux led the Cincinnati Bearcats to a 5-0 start before succumbing to the Toledo Rockets for their first loss of the season. In total, Legaux led Cincinnati to the Belk Bowl via a 9-3 record and a share of the Big East title.
Cincinnati picked a great player to put in the middle of the offense, and if he had not encountered a bit of a slump, that 9-3 record would look a lot more like 11-1. If Legaux returns for his senior season, there could be a conference championship in the Bearcats' future.
Centerpiece: Zurlon Tipton, running back
Notable Stats: 1,391 rushing yards, 258 receiving yards
Zurlon Tipton may not have been able to take Central Michigan all the way to the postseason on his own, but his 20 touchdowns certainly played a huge part in getting the Chippewas to the Little Caesars Bowl.
The Chippewas finished the season on a three-game winning streak, and if the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers cannot stop him, a bowl victory is coming for this headliner. Tipton has amassed over 1,500 yards of total offense, and if he brings that skill level to Detroit, WKU has a long 60 minutes ahead of it.
Centerpiece: Keenan Allen, wide receiver
Notable Stats: 61 receptions for 737 yards
Cal had a horrible season by its standards, and the team is not interested in repeating the three-win feat at any point in the future. The highlight of the season was getting to watch Cal's star shine. Allen averaged 12.1 yards per catch and only averaged five catches per game.
Granted, you cannot expect to throw the ball to the same guy over and over and actually win a ton of games. (Eventually, people would figure out that you are a one-trick pony and take that threat away.)
Also in Cal's defense, Allen did not play in the final three games of the season. Still, handing him more than one 100-yard outing would have done wonders for the Bears. If you have talent, use it.
Centerpiece: Alex Zordich, quarterback
Notable Stats: 1,254 passing yards, 501 rushing yards
Alex Zordich was the most integral part of the Buffalo offense until he had to be benched due to injury. While Buffalo made Joe Licata the center of the offense during the injury span, Zordich was always tabbed for return. (Think along the lines of Oregon State with Sean Mannion.)
Zordich has a bit of trouble with the passing aspect of the game, but he is a great runner. (That is evidenced by his stats.) Licata is the opposite; he is a better passer but cannot carry a play with his legs unless it is necessary.
Zordich is the center of the offense and was the starter in the near-win over the Georgia Bulldogs. Licata is the future of the program, and he is only a freshman, so he may be able to improve the footwork before he leaves the school.
Centerpiece: Jamaal Williams, running back
Notable Stats: 744 rushing yards, 288 receiving yards
Jamaal Williams headlines the show when BYU's defense makes its way to the sideline. BYU should be feared for its defense this season, as the unit ranks fifth in scoring defense nationally.
On offense, though, the Cougars rank only 66th. At least that is in the top half of the nation. Either way you slice it, it is a winning combination of offense and defense.
Williams scored 12 touchdowns this season and produced over 1,000 yards of total offense. Although the offense had a couple of games where it faltered, Williams led the team starting in September and helped it get a total of seven wins to earn the trip to the Poinsettia Bowl against San Diego State.
Williams' freshman status makes him a prime candidate for future runs as the team's centerpiece.
Centerpiece: Anthon Samuel, running back
Notable Stats: 966 rushing yards, 186 receiving yards
Anthon Samuel is the single biggest contributor to the bowl-bound offense of the Bowling Green Falcons. Being the biggest yardage contributor to the offense does not always mean you are the centerpiece, but Samuel certainly proved that he was indispensable throughout the season.
Any time he rushed for over 115 yards, the Falcons walked away with a win. The same can be said for whenever he scored two or more touchdowns. Samuel is a sophomore, so you can expect him to play this role for another couple of years.
Centerpiece: Alex Amidon, wide receiver
Notable Stats: 78 receptions for 1,210 yards
While the Eagles had a season that caused their coach to be let go, there were still some bright spots on the stat sheet that showed they have promise.
Alex Amidon was the focus of the offense and produced an astounding 15.5 yards per catch to put himself in that spot. The good news for Boston College is that it did not get blown out in every game, and it has a lot of talent.
There is a decent chance that the next head coach can turn this ship around in his first year. Nobody really looked like he knew what was going on during the 2012 season, and a little direction can go a long way.
Just ask Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State and Ole Miss; they will tell you that is true.
Centerpiece: Joe Southwick, quarterback
Notable Stats: 222 completions for 2,466 yards
Joe Southwick averaged over 10 yards per completion, and he led the Boise State Broncos to a season-opening near-victory over the Michigan State Spartans.
The Broncos only lost two games, and both losses came by a combined six points. Just a little extra oomph from Southwick against Sparty and the San Diego State Aztecs would have landed the Broncos in a BCS Bowl.
Southwick had the giant task of filling Kellen Moore's shoes this year, and a two-loss season is a great start for the junior quarterback. After another offseason of development, Southwick could lead the Broncos to a conference championship in the Big East.
Centerpiece: Terrence Williams, wide receiver
Notable Stats: 95 receptions for 1,764 yards
Nick Florence had to replace Robert Griffin III this season, and Terrence Williams made the job a lot easier for him. Granted, the Bears got two fewer wins, but you cannot lose a Heisman winner and expect zero drop-off.
Williams led the nation's third-ranked passing offense and fifth-ranked scoring offense with 1,764 yards and 12 touchdowns. Williams had a load of competition with Lache Seastrunk on the squad, but Williams was the go-to guy on offense.
Without Williams, one of the nation's top offenses would have been ranked much lower. (Tevin Reese would have picked up a lot of the slack, but the absence of that second threat would have crushed the Bears offense.)
Centerpiece: Jahwan Edwards, running back
Notable Stats: 281 carries for 1,321 yards
Ball State is in a bowl. That may not necessarily be front-page news, but the Cardinals got there with a 9-3 record. That is a welcome change for Cardinals fans. It has been a long time since Ball State was this successful. In 2008, Ball State finished the regular season with 12 wins.
Jahwan Edwards is a 14-touchdown contributor to the Cardinals' success this season, and he is the man the defense respects enough to keep an eye on at all times. That opened up the passing game, but even the receivers were no more than half as effective as Edwards in terms of touchdowns.
Ball State will be glad to have him back next season. He has at least one more year before he is draft-eligible.
Centerpiece: Tre Mason, running back
Notable Stats: 171 carries for 1,002 yards
Auburn was in turmoil just two seasons after a national-championship run. This season saw the termination of head coach Gene Chizik, and the Auburn fanbase was not disappointed to see him go. Most of the turmoil has been at the quarterback position, and Chizik could not seem to find an answer to the problem.
Tre Mason picked up the slack as much as any one man can, and he put up eight touchdowns on the ground this season. That was more than all the Auburn quarterbacks could put up if they were all added together.
Mason outperformed the entire quarterback position, and he rushed 22 times in each of Auburn's wins over FBS opponents. It doesn't take a genius to do that math. If he rushes for over 20 carries and the Tigers win, then maybe they should use him more.
Centerpiece: Trent Steelman, quarterback
Notable Stats: 667 passing yards, 1,248 rushing yards
Army runs an offense that allows it to compete with teams who have a much easier time recruiting than the Army does. The quarterback is the focus, and he has the game in his hands during every play he is involved with.
Trent Steelman ran the offense well, but it failed to translate into the win-loss column. Steelman accounted for over 1,900 yards of total offense through this season, and he put up 18 touchdowns in the process.
The Black Knights have the No. 1 rushing attack in the nation, and they averaged 369.8 yards per game to get there. Steelman was a great choice for offensive cornerstone, but Army just was not equipped to compete with its FBS foes this season. (Well, except for Boston College and Air Force.)
Centerpiece: Ryan Aplin, quarterback
Notable Stats: 3,129 passing yards, 443 rushing yards
Ryan Aplin made his mark at Arkansas State this season by leading the Red Wolves to the GoDaddy.com Bowl for the second season in a row. The Red Wolves only lost games to Oregon, Nebraska and Western Kentucky.
Aplin rode his skill to 29 touchdowns this season and an appearance in his conference's best bowl. (Assuming that the Sun Belt champion doesn't meet the requirements for a BCS position.)
Aplin has been the focus of the offense since before Hugh Freeze made the turnaround at Arkansas State. He has had the pleasure of experiencing both the ugly and the beautiful. All that's left for him is to win the bowl this time around, and he will have the perfect ending to his college career.
Centerpiece: Tyler Wilson, quarterback
Notable Stats: 249 completions for 3,387 yards
Tyler Wilson led a team that was supposed to finish, at worst, third in the SEC West in 2012. What the Razorbacks found out was that Bobby Petrino's coaching was more effective than originally thought.
The Razorbacks had a terrible season by their standards in 2012, but it was largely due to the fact that Wilson had much less protection than he was used to. Wilson still managed to rack up well over 3,000 yards passing, and he hooked up with his targets for 21 touchdowns.
Wilson is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, and he was definitely the centerpiece at Arkansas. With the drop in the effectiveness of the offensive line, though, the Hogs had trouble putting up wins. John L. Smith was apparently the worst possible choice for a head coach. Even Tennessee wouldn't want him.
Centerpiece: Taylor Kelly, quarterback
Notable Stats: 2,772 passing yards, 435 rushing yards
Arizona State's Taylor Kelly led the Sun Devils to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl opposite the Navy Midshipmen. Behind Kelly's performance, the Sun Devils have the nation's 21st-ranked scoring offense and the 44th-best passing offense.
Kelly certainly delivered his signature win against the Arizona Wildcats, who had already upset the USC Trojans earlier in the season.
Centerpiece: Ka'Deem Carey, running back
Notable Stats: 303 carries for 1,929 yards
Ka'Deem Carey just finished his signature season with a 172-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Nevada Wolf Pack in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15.
Carey has at least one more season coming at Arizona, and he is clearly the best choice for Arizona's offense to be built around. His 23-touchdown performance this season leaves a lot of hope in the hearts of Wildcats fans all over the country.
If he can maintain his effectiveness, he would be a valuable player in 2013. If he can improve, he can earn all kinds of awards at the school. (Maybe he will earn some national awards as well.)
Centerpiece: A.J. McCarron, quarterback
Notable Stats: 191 completions for 2,669 yards
A.J. McCarron's stats may not look stellar when placed next to some others' on this list, but the others do not have the arsenal he has at his disposal. McCarron has produced a 173.1 quarterback rating so far this season, and that's good for the best rating in the nation at the moment.
McCarron also shares the field with two 1,000-yard rushers from the SEC, so he rarely needs to bail himself out of a situation by tossing a questionable pass. His check-down receivers are some of the shiftiest players in the land.
McCarron doesn't make mistakes, and that's a player many teams would love to build an offense around.
Centerpiece: Dalton Williams, quarterback
Notable Stats: 326 completions for 3,387 yards
Dalton Williams could be the centerpiece of a lot of teams and heighten their production right away. Unfortunately, there are just too many variables at Akron for him to be as effective as he can be.
Williams threw some bad passes throughout the year, but he simply did not have a supporting staff to pull out some of the tough wins. Williams threw for over 10 yards per completion, and he tossed 25 touchdowns along the way.
Unfortunately, Akron will bid him farewell this year, and he will not return to the football field as a player.
Centerpiece: Connor Dietz, quarterback
Notable Stats: 1,127 passing yards, 658 rushing yards
Connor Dietz put up some impressive stats, as you can see. The Air Force Falcons built their offense around him, and he delivered a 1,700-plus-yard performance that took them all the way to the Armed Forces Bowl.
Dietz tagged opponents for nine touchdowns through the air and orchestrated a rushing attack that produced 37 scores of its own. The Falcons finished only behind Army with respect to rushing offense, and the Falcons will attempt to ride that success to a victory over Rice in the postseason.