Defense wins championships and offense sells tickets, but to be a BCS Top 25 program, you need to have both.
Even when a team like the LSU Tigers or Alabama Crimson Tide has an all-world defense, they still have to have offensive playmakers to put points on the board. The same is true of high-powered offenses like the Oklahoma State Cowboys. If they didn't have great players on defense, they wouldn't be sitting at 11-1.
Every team in the BCS Top 25 has elite players on both sides of the ball, but which players are the best of the best on their respective teams? Read on to find out.
Offensive Player: Malcolm Brown, RB
Notable Stats: 668 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, five TDs
The Texas Longhorns don’t have the most stacked offense in the nation, but they do have two solid running backs in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergerson.
Generally, I would go with the more explosive Bergerson, who has comparable stats. However, Brown has been the more consistent of the two backs this season, and I think he’s the Longhorns' future.
Defensive Player: Alex Okafor, DE
Notable Stats: 38 tackles, seven sacks, 10 tackles for loss
Okafor is the newest in a long line of great Texas pass-rushers. His seven sacks are good enough to make him one of the best in the Big 12 at getting to the quarterback.
Texas has a few notable players, like Keenan Robinson, but Okafor has the production it takes to be considered the team's best defensive player.
Offensive Player: Michael Dyer, RB
Notable Stats: 1,194 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 10 TDs
After losing Cam Newton, the Auburn faithful were wondering if they’d see a loss in production from their offense.
Well, they aren’t going to win another national championship, but their offense is in good hands with Michael Dyer running wild over opposing teams. His numbers aren’t huge, but he’ll only get better moving forward.
Defensive Player: Corey Lemonier, DE
Notable Stats: 40 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss
Corey Lemonier has been an absolute beast so far this season. The young defensive end has gotten to the quarterback at a ridiculously high rate and is leading the Tigers defense.
Lemonier’s excellent play makes him the easy choice here. However, the Tigers have a solid defense, and while it’s not as strong as Alabama’s, many of their players could start for any program.
Offensive Player: Tevin Washington, QB
Notable Stats: 2,330 total yards, 24 total touchdowns, six INTs
Tevin Washington has basically picked up right where Joshua Nesbitt left off. He’s running the option like a seasoned pro and has the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets back in the top 25.
Washington gets some help from David Sims, but he is the engine that makes the Yellow Jackets run.
Defensive Player: Julian Burnett, LB
Notable Stats: 103 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble
Julian Burnett is a tackling machine. He’s always in the right place to make a play, and even though he’s not a huge playmaker, he makes enough big ones to get on this list.
Burnett is the rock that solidifies Georgia Tech’s defense. He’s a great, fundamental tackler and provides the leadership the squad needs.
Offensive Player: Michael Floyd, WR
Notable Stats: 87 receptions, 1,014 yards, eight total touchdowns
Michael Floyd has been a mainstay among the top wide receivers in the nation for a few years now, and 2011 is no different.
The wideout has been dominant throughout the entire year. He’s getting some competition from Jonas Gray, but Floyd is still the best offensive player for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Defensive Player: Manti Te’o, LB
Notable Stats: 98 tackles, 4.5 sacks
There might not be a linebacker in the NCAA that’s better than Manti Te’o. He’s a terror for opponents to game-plan against because he has next to no weaknesses.
He’s racking up tackles every week and is still able to make big plays in the backfield. Te’o is definitely going to be playing on Sundays soon, but for now the Irish can enjoy watching him dominate on Saturdays.
Offensive Player: Rex Burkhead, RB
Notable Stats: 1,108 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 16 total touchdowns
Taylor Martinez might be the more well-known offensive weapon for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but Rex Burkhead is the man who gets things done.
Martinez makes far too many mistakes to be thought of as a legitimate quarterback. Burkhead, on the other hand, is a great running back who’s consistently putting the Cornhuskers in a position to win.
Defensive Player: Lavonte David, LB
Notable Stats: 104 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two INTs
Lavonte David isn’t going to be the highest drafted player from the Cornhuskers; that’ll be either Jared Crick or Alfonzo Dennard.
However, he has been the most productive player for Nebraska this season. He’s been a mainstay in the middle of the defense and has made enough big plays to get himself on this list.
Offensive Player: Casey Pachall, QB
Notable Stats: 2,530 yards, 67.8 completion percentage, 24 TDs, six INTs
Casey Pachall isn’t the quarterback Andy Dalton is, but he’s more than serviceable. He’s led the TCU Horned Frogs to a huge upset win over Boise State and a spot in the top 25.
He’s just a sophomore, so there’s plenty of room for the young gunslinger to grow. However, he’s already one of the more efficient passers in the nation. The Horned Frogs’ future looks bright with Pachall at the helm.
Defensive Player: Tank Carder, LB
Notable Stats: 62 tackles, two INTs, two TDs
The TCU defense isn’t as dominant as it has been in the past, but not for the lack of Tank Carder’s play.
Carder has been making huge plays all over the field all year long. He’s brought back two interceptions for touchdowns and been a force in the heart of the TCU defense.
Offensive Player: Silas Redd, RB
Notable Stats: 1,122 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, seven TDs
The Penn State Nittany Lions have always fielded great running backs, and Silas Redd only continues that tradition.
He’s been churning out the tough yards for Penn State all year long. His touchdown mark isn’t as high as some of the other elite backs in the nation, but it’s more than enough to put him on this list.
Defensive Player: Devon Still, DT
Notable Stats: 47 tackles, four sacks, 14 tackles for loss
Devon Still is up for multiple awards at the end of this college season, and rightfully so. His dominant play has seen him skyrocket up draft boards and he has become one of the best defensive linemen in his class.
Still had some competition for this spot from Gerald Hodges, but in the end, I went with the guy who’s up for the Bednarik and Outland trophies.
Offensive Player: Robert Griffin III, QB
Notable Stats: 4,122 total yards, 72.9 completion percentage, 38 total TDs, five INTs
Robert Griffin III is the most electrifying player in the nation and could be on his way to a Heisman after his gutsy performance against the Oklahoma Sooners.
Needless to say, this Baylor Bears team wouldn’t even be sniffing the top 25 without RG3. He’s one of the top three players in the nation, and more than deserves a spot on this list.
Defensive Player: Mike Hicks, S
Notable Stats: 81 tackles, three INTs
For how good the Bears have been on offense, they’ve been just as bad on defense. That said, there have been a few bright spots, most notably Mike Hicks.
Hicks has been making big plays from his safety position. His three interceptions lead the team, as do his 81 tackles.
Offensive Player: Sammy Watkins, WR
Notable Stats: 68 receptions, 1,034 yards, 10 TDs
Tajh Boyd gets all the hype, and he’s a very good quarterback, but for me, Sammy Watkins is the best offensive player for the Clemson Tigers.
Watkins’ ability as a wideout is what makes this team so dangerous. He doesn’t have the catch numbers to match up with guys like Justin Blackmon, but he’s racking up yards and getting in the end zone at a high rate.
Defensive Player: Andre Branch, DE
Notable Stats: 67 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss
Andre Branch got some stiff competition from Brandon Thompson, but in the end his production wins out.
With 8.5 sacks, Branch has been destroying offensive lines all season. Add to that his 67 total tackles, which show his ability to stop the run, and you have a complete defensive end.
Offensive Player: Montee Ball, RB
Notable Stats: 1,466 yards, 6.6 yards per carry, 30 total touchdowns
No other running back has hit pay dirt as many times as Montee Ball. His 30 touchdowns are ridiculous, and he’s also been explosive with 6.6 yards per carry.
He’s probably not going to get much Heisman hype considering his team is only 9-2, but he’s quickly becoming one of the best players in the nation.
Defensive Player: Chris Borland, LB
Notable Stats: 111 tackles, four forced fumbles, two INTs, 1.5 sacks
Chris Borland is another linebacker who just knows how to make plays. His 111 tackles show that he’s always in the right position, but it’s his multiple game-changing plays that really jump off the stat sheet.
Overall, he’s forced six turnovers on the year and has gotten to the quarterback twice. That kind of production is what puts him on this list.
Offensive Player: Denard Robinson, QB
Notable Stats: 2,738 total yards, 53.1 completion percentage, 29 total touchdowns, 14 INTs
Denard Robinson hasn’t been quite as effective this year as he was when he set the college football world on fire.
That said, the “Nard Dog” has put Michigan in a position to win every week. You’d like to see him cut down on his mistakes, but with all the excitement he brings to the table, you can live with it.
Defensive Player: Thomas Gordon, S
Notable Stats: 54 tackles, one INT, one forced fumble, four fumble recoveries
Thomas Gordon has been nothing if not opportunistic this season. He’s got five total takeaways and he’s also been a stout tackler.
He might not be as well-known as some of the other safeties on this list, but his production makes him one of the better defensive backs in the nation.
Offensive Player: Kirk Cousins, QB
Notable Stats: 2,521 yards, 64.0 completion percentage, 19 TDs, five INTs
It was hard for me to pick between Kirk Cousins and BJ Cunningham, but in the end I had to go with the young quarterback.
Don’t get me wrong, Cunningham’s had a great year, but he completely disappeared against Nebraska. In the end, I have to go with the more consistent Cousins.
Defensive Player: Denicos Allen, LB
Notable Stats: 55 tackles, six sacks
This was another place that I had trouble deciding who to go with. Denicos Allen has had a solid season disrupting the quarterback, but Jerel Worthy is the better-known commodity.
In the end, I decided to go with production over recognition. Worthy’s going to be playing on Sundays soon, but this year, Allen is the better player.
Offensive Player: Aaron Murray, QB
Notable Stats: 2,446 yards, 63.6 completion percentage, 28 TDs, nine INTs
Aaron Murray has really come on strong for the Georgia Bulldogs this season. Last year, we saw glimpses of the player he could become, but this year he’s begun to make that next step.
It remains to be seen if Murray can be better than Matthew Stafford, but he has all the tools needed to become a quality, NFL-caliber starter.
Defensive Player: Jarvis Jones, LB
Notable Stats: 58 tackles, 12.5 sacks, one forced fumble
The Bulldogs have two guys who have been making huge plays all season. Defensive back Bacarri Rambo has been jumping passing lanes all season, but it’s the disruptive force of Jarvis Jones that catches my eye.
Jones' 12.5 sacks put him on the short list for the Bednarik trophy, and rightfully so. He’s been in the backfield almost the entire season, and he definitely has the look of a future NFL star.
Offensive Player: Alshon Jeffery, WR
Notable Stats: 43 receptions, 585 yards, six TDs
Alshon Jeffery gets this spot mostly due to the injury of Marcus Lattimore. Jeffery is going to be a great NFL player, but right now, he’s really hindered by the Gamecocks' subpar quarterback play.
Put this talent on a team with a quality QB, and he’d be racking up stats like anyone else in the nation.
Defensive Player: Melvin Ingram, DE
Notable Stats: 39 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two INTs
Melvin Ingram just barely ekes out Stephon Gilmore for a spot on this list. Ingram’s game-changing plays are just too impressive for me to ignore.
His 6.5 sacks would be good enough, but when you add in his two interceptions from the defensive line, you get a truly great player who would dominate anybody.
Offensive Player: Collin Klein, QB
Notable Stats: 2,600 total yards, 36 total TDs, five INTs
Collin Klein is the Kansas State Wildcats offense. Without him, they wouldn’t be anywhere close to the same team.
He’s not a great passer, but he has been able to protect the ball well when asked to throw. His true strength is in the running game. He’s been destroying Big 12 defenses with his ability to tuck the ball and run for big gains.
Defensive Player: Nigel Malone, CB
Notable Stats: 53 tackles, seven INTs, one TD
Arthur Brown made a serious run for this spot on the list, but Nigel Malone’s seven interceptions make him the obvious pick here.
Malone’s been shutting down passing lanes all year, and when teams do choose to throw his way, he makes them pay with big takeaways that put the dangerous K-State rushing attack back on the field.
Offensive Player: LaMichael James, RB
Notable Stats: 1,285 yards, 7.4 yards per carry, 14 touchdowns
LaMichael James’ numbers are even more impressive when you factor in the two games he’s missed due to injury.
Even with those missed games, James has been the most electrifying player on the field every time out for the Oregon Ducks. His explosive ability is what makes this Ducks offense so potent.
Defensive Player: Eddie Pleasant, S
Notable Stats: 48 tackles, three INTs, one sack
Coming into the season, Cliff Harris was the most talked about player in Oregon’s secondary. However, he’s only been able to suit up for four games, and other players have had to step up in his place.
No one’s done that more than Eddie Pleasant. The young safety has been a playmaker for the Ducks all season, as his three interceptions attest.
Offensive Player: Landry Jones, QB
Notable Stats: 3,796 yards, 65.3 completion percentage, 28 touchdowns, 10 INTs
I want to begin by saying that if Ryan Broyles hadn’t been hit by injury, he’d be in this spot instead of Landry Jones.
That said, even though the Oklahoma Sooners lost their best player a few weeks ago, Jones has done an admirable job of trying to keep the offense together without Broyles. His numbers aren’t Heisman-worthy, but they’re solid nonetheless.
Defensive Player: Frank Alexander, DE
Notable Stats: 45 tackles, 8.5 sacks, one INT
The Sooners actually have a few guys you could put in this spot. Ronnell Lewis, Travis Lewis and Tony Jefferson have all turned in great years for OU.
However, no one has been as disruptive as Frank Alexander. The man’s in the backfield on almost every play and has been planting quarterbacks on their backs to the tune of 8.5 sacks this year.
Offensive Player: Case Keenum, QB
Notable Stats: 4,269 yards, 73.4 completion percentage, 38 TDs, three INTs
Case Keenum won’t win the Heisman because of the low level of competition he faces, but he’s putting up ridiculous numbers while leading the Houston Cougars to an undefeated record.
There’s really no other Cougar who’s had anywhere close to as good of a year as Keenum. He might not win any end of the year accolades, but his numbers are impressive no matter who he lines up against.
Defensive Player: Sammy Brown, LB
Notable Stats: 74 tackles, 12.5 sacks
Sammy Davis is similar to Keenum, in that he’s been putting up big numbers all season, but hasn’t been talked about because his team doesn’t play quality opponents.
However, you can’t ignore his 12.5 sacks for very long. He’s been an absolute terror in the backfield and deserves to get some more national recognition soon.
Offensive Player: Kellen Moore, QB
Notable Stats: 2,915 yards, 73.8 completion percentage, 35 TDs, six INTs
Kellen Moore is nothing if not efficient. His Boise State Broncos were upset against TCU and ended their perfect streak, but he’s continued to play at a high level on the blue turf.
His 35 touchdowns really jump off the page, as does his 73.8 completion percentage. That shows that even with the loss of some of his biggest targets, Moore has continued to dominant his opponents.
Defensive Player: Tyrone Crawford, DE
Notable Stats: 38 tackles, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble
Tyrone Crawford hasn’t been as dominant as some of the other defensive linemen on this list, but he’s still been productive from his defensive end position.
With 6.5 sacks, he’s been the biggest playmaker the Broncos have and has put his name on the map as Boise State’s best defender.
Offensive Player: Andrew Luck, QB
Notable Stats: 2,937 yards, 70.3 completion percentage, 31 TDs, eight INTs
In most fans' minds, Andrew Luck has been the Heisman winner since the day he decided to come back for another year at Stanford. Robert Griffin III is making the race interesting, but Luck is the best pro prospect in the nation.
He hasn’t been quite as dominating as he was last year, but he’s still carving up opposing defenses. I’d be very surprised to see anyone other than Luck walk away with the Heisman at season’s end.
Defensive Player: Chase Thomas, LB
Notable Stats: 45 tackles, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble
Personally, I’d love to put Shayne Skov in this spot, but the young linebacker was injured early in the season and hasn’t seen the field since.
Chase Thomas has done a pretty good job for filling in for Skov. He doesn’t rack up tackles, but he’s a playmaker who gets into the backfield at a high rate.
Offensive Player: David Wilson, RB
Notable Stats: 1,442 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, eight TDs
David Wilson has gotten some help from his quarterback Logan Thomas in the running game this year, but he’s the man that moves the chains for the Virginia Tech Hokies.
His 1,442 yards are good for third best in the nation, and his 6.2 yards per carry show off how explosive he is. You’d like to see him get a few more TDs before the season’s over, but no one on the Hokies offense is better than him.
Defensive Player: Jayron Hosley, CB
Notable Stats: 46 tackles, three INTs, 11 passes defended, one forced fumble
The Hokies have always had playmakers all over their defense, and Jayron Hosley is just another in a long line of great Virginia Tech players.
He’s been breaking up passes all over the field and has managed to force four total turnovers. He’s “Beamer ball” at its best, and head coach Frank Beamer loves him for it.
Offensive Player: Justin Blackmon, WR
Notable Stats: 103 receptions, 1,241 yards, 15 TDs
Some people might want to put Brandon Weeden here, and while I won’t argue that Weeden isn’t a great player, Justin Blackmon is the man for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Blackmon has been running wild through every team’s secondary for two straight seasons. He’s the best receiver in the nation, and will be a great player for whichever NFL team takes him.
Defensive Player: Broderick Brown, CB
Notable Stats: 51 tackles, four INTs, 17 passes defended, two fumble recoveries
The Oklahoma State Cowboys don’t have a dominating defense, but they make big plays to get the ball back to their potent offense.
No one on the defense is better at forcing turnovers than Broderick Brown. He has six total turnovers this year and has even started to look like a prototypical shutdown corner at times.
Offensive Player: Tyler Wilson, QB
Notable Stats: 3,215 yards, 63.1 completion percentage, 21 TDs, five INTs
Tyler Wilson hasn’t had Knile Davis for the entire season, and many thought that might lead to a drop in the Arkansas Razorbacks offense.
However, Wilson has led the Razorbacks to a No. 3 ranking with a chance to play for a national title. He hasn’t put up as many TDs as some of the more highly-touted quarterbacks, but he’s getting it done where it matters—the wins column.
Defensive Player: Tramain Thomas, S
Notable Stats: 73 tackles, four INTs
Tramain Thomas has been all over the field this season. He’s made the fundamental plays all year, while adding four interceptions from his safety position.
Look for him to continue to lead the Razorbacks as they finish up the season. He’s been a great leader all season, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Offensive Player: Trent Richardson, RB
Notable Stats: 1,380 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, 22 total touchdowns
Trent Richardson has been a Heisman favorite all season. His 22 touchdowns on the year are more than anyone else on his team.
His explosive play has given the Alabama Crimson Tide a high-energy player who can turn a game around with just one carry. With only one game left, he doesn’t have much time to make a late Heisman push, but if he can put together an amazing performance, he might just have a shot to pull it off.
Defensive Player: Dont’a Hightower, LB
Notable Stats: 70 tackles, three sacks, one INT
Dre Kirkpatrick. Courtney Upshaw. Mark Barron. Alabama is loaded with players that are going to be lacing their cleats up on Sundays in the near future. It’s difficult to pick just one player, but in the end I went with Dont’a Hightower.
Hightower is on the short list for most of the end of season awards, and rightfully so. The linebacker has put together an amazing 2011 campaign, and is going to make whoever drafts him awfully happy.
Offensive Player: Michael Ford, RB
Notable Stats: 625 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, seven TDs
The LSU Tigers don’t really have just one player that immediately jumps out at you on offense, but they do have quite a few good running backs.
I decided to go with more explosive Michael Ford over Spencer Ware. Ware has a few more yards and the same amount of touchdowns, but Ford has put up his numbers with 50 less carries.
Defensive Player: Tyrann Mathieu, CB
Notable Stats: 59 tackles, three fumble recoveries, two INTs, 1.5 sacks
Tyrann Mathieu is the definition of a football player. He excels in pass coverage and will make you pay if you make a mistake his way.
His fellow cornerback Morris Claiborne is also an elite player, but I decided to go with Mathieu instead because he’s only a sophomore and will only get better moving forward; something that should scare SEC offensive coordinators greatly.