Predicting Every Power 5 College Football Team's MVP for 2018 Season
National and all-conference awards are impressive achievements, but every college football team has a most valuable player.
For several teams, that standout performer will be the guiding force of a championship contender. Without him, it's unlikely his school would be in position for a national or league title.
However, that doesn't mean a seven-win program lacks an MVP. Simply reaching a bowl game can be a true success for some teams. And yes, even struggling schools will have a top player. That's not always as obvious, but there's always one.
An important note: Value is based on projected production in 2018, not the most promising player on the roster.
Atlantic Coast Conference
Boston College: AJ Dillon, RB
Not only do the Eagles bring back every starter on the offensive line, but two-year starter Jon Baker returns from an injury. AJ Dillon torched his last seven opponents of 2017 for 1,256 yards, so the rising sophomore will enter the campaign facing understandably large expectations.
Clemson: Clelin Ferrell, DE
How do you pick one? Clemson is stacked. The truth is quarterback Kelly Bryant, while important, might not be the starter by season's end. And last year's defensive MVP, Dorian O'Daniel, is gone. We'll take Clelin Ferrell, who in 2017 totaled 66 tackles and ranked 12th nationally with 18 tackles for loss.
Duke: Joe Giles-Harris, LB
Joe Giles-Harris isn't nationally known, but he's a legitimate star. In two seasons at Duke, the 6'2", 240-pounder has amassed 232 tackles with 25.5 stops for loss and 8.5 sacks. Giles-Harris should be headed for his second straight first-team All-ACC honor.
Florida State: Cam Akers, RB
The quarterback battle between Deondre Francois and James Blackman will shape Florida State's overall success. No matter the starter, though, Cam Akers will be the centerpiece. He collected 1,025 yards as a freshman and should hold a larger role in 2018.
Georgia Tech: TaQuon Marshall, QB
During his first season leading the triple-option attack, TaQuon Marshall scampered for 1,146 yards and 17 touchdowns. The senior must improve as a passer for Georgia Tech to compete in the Coastal Division, but he'll take over a few games on the ground.
Louisville: Jawon Pass, QB
Louisville enjoyed three years of a legendary college career by Lamar Jackson. The Cardinals now turn to Jawon Pass, who has 33 attempts at this level. But if he's as quick a study as anticipated, the program's bowl streak will rise to nine.
Miami: Jaquan Johnson, S
The safety could've pursued the NFL after 2017, but Jaquan Johnson decided to return for his senior campaign. He piled up 96 tackles, four interceptions and three forced fumbles last season and should widely be considered an All-American favorite.
North Carolina: Cole Holcomb, LB
2018 could be another struggle for UNC, which finished 3-9 last season and doesn't have any certainty under center. While the offense labors through the year, at least the Tar Heels can be confident Cole Holcomb will produce. He led North Carolina in tackles during both the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.
North Carolina State: Ryan Finley, QB
All-American defensive end Bradley Chubb claimed this honor in 2016 and 2017, but his graduation creates an MVP void Ryan Finley should fill. He completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 3,518 yards and 17 touchdowns to six interceptions last year.
Pitt: Kenny Pickett, QB
The unlikely face behind a late-season upset of No. 2 Miami, Kenny Pickett will assume the starting reins following the departures of Max Browne and Ben DiNucci. Pickett will also provide a small yet noticeable mobile threat for Pitt's offense.
Syracuse: Eric Dungey, QB
New season, same story. When he's healthy, Syracuse is competitive. All four of the Orange's victories in 2017—including the upset of Clemson—happened with Eric Dungey on the field. But in the 10 games he's missed since 2015, Syracuse is 1-9.
Virginia: Olamide Zaccheaus, RB
A running back by position and receiver by production, Olamide Zaccheaus set a program record with 85 catches last season. He's the only returning target who surpassed 300 yards in 2017. In the likely event he grabs 54 passes, Zacheaus will be UVA's all-time leader.
Virginia Tech: Josh Jackson, QB
Though a brief offseason scare put Josh Jackson's future in doubt, the rising sophomore will be back behind center. He collected 3,315 total offensive yards while leading Virginia Tech to a 9-4 record during his first season as a starter, passing for 20 touchdowns and running for six.
Wake Forest: Matt Colburn II, RB
Similar to Dillon at Boston College, Matt Colburn II ended 2017 on a tear. He accumulated 721 yards over Wake Forest's last six games. Additionally, the entire offensive line returns in Winston-Salem, too. Throw in the early suspension for quarterback Kendall Hinton, and the Deacs will lean heavily on Colburn.
Big 12 Conference
Baylor: Charlie Brewer, QB
Arizona transfer Anu Solomon only appeared in two games. Zach Smith transferred to Tulsa. Charlie Brewer is the unquestioned starter for 2018. He'll be able to improve upon eight-game numbers of 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns to only four interceptions.
Iowa State: Kyle Kempt, QB
Granted a sixth year of eligibility, Kyle Kempt returns after leading upsets of Oklahoma and TCU in 2017. With a full offseason as the No. 1, his progression should be evident quickly. Considering he completed 66.3 of his passes with a 15-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, that's an appealing thought for Iowa State.
Kansas: Joe Dineen Jr., LB
It's a rough time to support Kansas football, and 2018 won't be any better. On the bright side, Joe Dineen Jr. will be an elite playmaker on defense. Among his team-high 137 tackles last season, he registered 25 takedowns—tied for the second-most nationally—in the backfield.
Kansas State: Alex Barnes, RB
We'd love to say either Alex Delton or Skylar Thompson will demand the quarterback job and propel K-State. But that's not likely. Alex Barnes, though, will be a steady contributor on the ground and approach 1,000 yards this season.
Oklahoma: Kyler Murray, QB
Major League Baseball awaits Kyler Murray, but Oklahoma will take everything he'll give. The dual-threat quarterback should thrive in a high-efficiency system, as his 85.7 completion percentage in very brief action last season suggests. His mobility will add an intriguing variable to the Sooners' powerful attack.
Oklahoma State: Justice Hill, RB
Justice Hill gathered 1,142 yards as a freshman, and that was merely an appetizer. The shifty runner maneuvered his way to 1,467 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore. He'll be expected to absorb a larger share of responsibilities following the departure of Mason Rudolph, and Hill's output should remain steady.
Texas: Collin Johnson, WR
Collin Johnson is still improving as a downfield target, but he's a dangerous weapon on quick-hitting and intermediate throws. The 6'6", 220-pounder paced the Longhorns with 54 catches for 765 yards in 2017. As Texas settles its quarterback position, Johnson should become a more consistent red-zone threat, too.
Texas Tech: Dakota Allen, LB
A defender? As the MVP? For Texas Tech?! The quarterback position is unsettled, but Dakota Allen is that special of a talent anyway. Last season, he amassed 102 stops with six tackles for loss. Allen also excelled in coverage, breaking up four passes and snagging two interceptions.
TCU: KaVontae Turpin, WR
Jalen Reagor is a rising star at the position, but KaVontae Turpin contributes all over the field. In addition to his regular role as a receiver, Turpin serves as the primary kick and punt returner while occasionally taking handoffs. He scored in five different ways and had 1,202 all-purpose yards last season.
West Virginia: Will Grier, QB
During his 10 healthy games in 2017, West Virginia went 7-3 and only lost to ranked opponents. Grier threw for no fewer than 280 yards and two touchdowns, cresting the 300-yard barrier nine times. Similar number should be expected with wideouts Gary Jennings, David Sills V and Marcus Simms all returning.
Big Ten Conference
Illinois: Mike Epstein, RB
Despite appearing in just five games as a freshman, Mike Epstein led Illinois in rushing with 346 yards. Yes, that's a glaring problem for the Illini, but it's also a testament to what Epstein can provide a lackluster offense when healthy.
Indiana: Nick Westbrook, WR
Whether it's Peyton Ramsey or Arizona transfer Brandon Dawkins under center—and my guess is we'll see both as starters—Indiana's quarterback will constantly be looking for Nick Westbrook. He paced the Hoosiers with 995 yards and six touchdowns in 2016, but an ACL tear ended his 2017 season in the opener.
Iowa: Nate Stanley, QB
Consistency evaded Nate Stanley last year, but his potential is obvious. He accumulated 2,437 yards, 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions while also leading the Hawkeyes to a 55-24 obliteration of Ohio State. Under his leadership, Iowa should reach a bowl game for the sixth consecutive season.
Maryland: Ty Johnson, RB
Finding a quarterback has been borderline impossible for Maryland. Perhaps that changes this season, or maybe it doesn't. But the Terrapins can be assured of explosiveness from Ty Johnson, who boasts a career per-carry average of 7.5 yards.
Michigan: Rashan Gary, DL
Yes, he's an elite talent and potential first-round NFL draft pick next April. Rashan Gary's value extends beyond that, however. Michigan's depth on the defensive line is unproven, and Gary can slide between end and tackle as necessary. His versatility will allow the Wolverines to have flexibility in their rotation.
Michigan State: Brian Lewerke, QB
Brian Lewerke could assert himself as one of the nation's top quarterbacks this season. He's coming off a campaign in which he racked up 3,352 yards of total offense and accounted for 25 touchdowns. The dual-threat quarterback is the primary reason Michigan State will compete for a Big Ten championship.
Minnesota: Rodney Smith, RB
The Golden Gophers planned on utilizing a talented duo of running backs in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, but the latter suffered a season-ending leg injury this offseason. Smith, the team's leading rusher in both 2016 and 2017, will be the undisputed centerpiece of the running game.
Nebraska: Stanley Morgan Jr., WR
Since we cannot make head coach Scott Frost the MVP, we'll take the player set to benefit from Nebraska hiring the bright offensive mind. Stanley Morgan Jr. posted team-high marks across the board last season with 61 receptions, 986 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Northwestern: Paddy Fisher, LB
There's a legitimate chance Clayton Thorson won't be available early in the season while recovering from his ACL tear. Paddy Fisher will be tasked with leading a defense with extra pressure to excel if Thorson is limited. As a freshman, Fisher gathered 113 takedowns with nine tackles for loss and forced four fumbles.
Ohio State: Nick Bosa, DE
The emergence of Dwayne Haskins will be the national storyline, but that's mostly because Nick Bosa is a proven star. Through two seasons, he's provided 23 tackles for loss with 13.5 sacks. Bosa will be productive in the box score, but his presence is valuable to the Buckeyes because of the additional attention he demands.
Penn State: Trace McSorley, QB
Now that Saquon Barkley is a professional, we're about to find out Trace McSorley's true ability to pilot an offense. The dual-threat quarterback has built a strong reputation after accounting for 75 touchdowns over the last two years. Even if Penn State falls short of a division crown, McSorley will put up gaudy numbers.
Purdue: Jackson Anthrop, WR
For better or worse, a revolving door at quarterback between Elijah Sindelar and David Blough seems likely. Purdue needs to have a reliable target no matter who's throwing the ball, and Jackson Anthrop—who had a team-high 47 catches for 423 yards and five touchdowns last season—will be the top target.
Rutgers: Kevin Wilkins, DE
The Scarlet Knights must replace three of their top four defensive linemen, so they'll be relying on Kevin Wilkins off the edge. He registered 47 tackles with 5.5 for loss in 2017. If his pass-rushing presence improves, he'll buoy what could be a problematic unit.
Wisconsin: T.J. Edwards, LB
Running back Jonathan Taylor is a Heisman Trophy candidate, but Wisconsin's championship hopes are based on an elite defense. T.J. Edwards, who has three seasons of 80-plus tackles and seven career interceptions, is the backbone of the tremendous unit.
Arizona: Khalil Tate, QB
The breakout sensation of 2017 is ready for his first season as the full-time starter. Khalil Tate piled up 3,002 yards of total offense and accounted for 26 touchdowns despite holding a bench role for four-plus contests. New coach Kevin Sumlin will tailor an offense that matches Tate's strengths as a runner.
Arizona State: Manny Wilkins, QB
N'Keal Harry is among the best receivers in the country. However, the performance of Manny Wilkins in a unique situation—you know, for a coach (Herm Edwards) who hasn't roamed a sideline since 2008—will have the largest impact on Arizona State's success in 2018.
Cal: Ross Bowers, QB
After eclipsing the 3,000-yard mark, Ross Bowers needs to hold off South Carolina transfer Brandon McIlwain for the starting job. Provided that happens, Cal returns a couple of key receivers in Vic Wharton III and Kanawai Noa. Bowers should be able to surpass that number again and put Cal in position to qualify for a bowl.
Colorado: Steven Montez, QB
By the end of 2018, the 10-win campaign of 2016 might seem a lifetime ago. Colorado is undergoing a heavy rebuild on offense, basically only excluding quarterback thanks to Steven Montez. His experience could be the main reason the Buffs manage to avoid occupying the cellar in the Pac-12.
Oregon: Justin Herbert, QB
"Pending health" is a dangerous phrase, but Justin Herbert's impact is readily apparent. Last season, the Ducks averaged 516.5 yards of offense with him in the lineup compared to 320.0 in the five games he missed due to a collarbone injury. If Herbert is available all season, Oregon will be a threat to Washington and Stanford in the North.
Oregon State: David Morris, S
Jake Luton and Conor Blount are battling to start at quarterback. While the result matters from a development perspective, Oregon State probably won't be competitive. David Morris, who tallied 75 tackles as a freshman, will be a bright spot on defense.
Stanford: Bryce Love, RB
The NFL came calling, but Bryce Love decided to return for one year. Now, he's looking to build on a season in which he was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. Thanks to an experienced group of offensive linemen, it's reasonable Love will surpass 2,000 yards again.
UCLA: Jaelan Phillips, DE
Although a recent trend of injuries is concerning, Jaelan Phillips remains an exciting prospect. In only seven appearances as a freshman, he collected 21 tackles—including seven takedowns for loss and 3.5 sacks. An explosive, relentless rusher, Phillips could earn All-Pac-12 recognition with a healthy season.
USC: Stephen Carr, RB
Tyler Vaughns will thrive if USC settles the quarterback situation, but Stephen Carr's success is less dependent on the man under center. He averaged 6.7 yards per touch as a freshman and will replace 1,500-yard runner Ronald Jones II as the lead back. Carr will likely top the 1,000-yard barrier and steady a revamped offense.
Utah: Zack Moss, RB
If Utah is a Pac-12 contender, it means quarterback Tyler Huntley progressed far beyond what we anticipated. Otherwise, the Utes will be leaning on Zack Moss for consistent offense. The rising junior powered his way to 1,416 all-purpose yards in 2017 and ought to match that output this season.
Washington: Myles Gaskin, RB
Washington boasts elite talent all over the secondary, but Myles Gaskin is the definition of a reliable runner. In each of his three college seasons, he's recorded between 1,300 and 1,400 yards. Gaskin is also excellent in short-yardage situations; he's a combined 28-of-32 on third downs of one to three yards over the last two years.
Washington State: Gardner Minshew, QB
Not only must the Cougars replace longtime starter Luke Falk, but they also lost leading receivers Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson-Mack, two key rushers and three starting linemen. Wazzu will look for East Carolina transfer Gardner Minshew to stabilize an offense working through major personnel changes.
Alabama: Tua Tagovailoa, QB
Expectations for Tua Tagovailoa are starting to get wild. But we're not projecting a Heisman Trophy for the sophomore. Still, the national championship showed the aerial boost he can provide the Tide compared to Jalen Hurts, and Tagovailoa's impact will be apparent when the running game cannot overpower the opposition.
Arkansas: Devwah Whaley, RB
We considered taking Hjalte Froholdt. He's really good! However, the left guard will be working to create running lanes for Devwah Whaley, who has a pair of 500-yard seasons to his name. The junior will shoulder a heavier share of carries and no longer needs to split time with David Williams in the red zone.
Auburn: Jarrett Stidham, QB
Yes, the Tigers fell short in the 2017 SEC Championship Game, and the loss stung. But you can hardly ask for something beyond a .667 winning percentage against Alabama and Georgia. Stidham threw for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, and a more experienced receiving corps should help those numbers rise.
Florida: David Reese, LB
How quickly can head coach Dan Mullen work his magic on Florida's offense? If that doesn't happen immediately (and a multiyear turnaround is the expectation), the Gators will be leaning on David Reese and the defense to keep them competitive. Reese paced the team with 102 tackles last year, dwarfing the No. 2 total of 58.
Georgia: Jake Fromm, QB
Although nobody feels bad for the Bulldogs and the defensive talent they must replace, the result is increased pressure on Jake Fromm. Georgia will expect the sophomore to navigate the opening portion of the season as the defense adjusts and then steady the team when competition level rises from mid-August. Considering how he performed as an inexperienced freshman, 2018 should be no problem.
Kentucky: Benny Snell Jr., RB
Mark Stoops and Co. will be breaking in a new quarterback. Fortunately, Benny Snell Jr. will remove some of the burden. After piling up 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman, he scampered for 1,333 yards and 19 scores last year. He should be similarly productive behind an experienced offensive line.
LSU: Devin White, LB
This dude is a stud. A hyperathletic linebacker at 6'1" and 240 pounds, Devin White is everywhere you need him to be—and sometimes places you didn't expect. Among his 133 tackles, he recorded 19 at or behind the line of scrimmage and added 15 hurries, per CFB Film Room. With his play recognition and speed, expect him to dominate again.
Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald, QB
The senior quarterback's skill set should be a terrific match for Joe Moorhead. Mississippi State's new head coach played to Trace McSorley's strengths at Penn State, and Fitzgerald has similar ones. He's headed a third straight season with 2,700 yards of total offense and accounting for 29-plus touchdowns.
Missouri: Drew Lock, QB
All of the preseason award attention is fine. But how much will the offensive coordinator switch from Josh Heupel to Derek Dooley affect Drew Lock? While we're confident he'll be Missouri's MVP regardless, a repeat of his 3,964-yard, 44-touchdown campaign should not be expected. That's simply not fair to Lock.
Ole Miss: Jordan Ta'amu, QB
When a knee injury ended Shea Patterson's 2017 season, initial reactions doomed Ole Miss. Jordan Ta'amu had other ideas. In five starts, he amassed 1,604 yards and 11 touchdowns to four interceptions with a 3-2 record. Ta'amu will have the luxury of throwing to A.J. Brown, who is arguably college football's best wideout.
South Carolina: Deebo Samuel, WR
Deebo Samuel entranced the CFB world with six touchdowns in three games, but a broken leg ended his season quickly. Back for his senior year, Samuel is South Carolina's most explosive playmaker and an All-American candidate as a kick returner.
Tennessee: Marquez Callaway, WR
If the Vols have a reliable quarterback, Marquez Callaway should be a breakout performer. He only had 24 catches for 406 yards in 2017 but thrived in one-on-one situations. More accurate targets would be a boon for his production. Callaway may also contribute as a punt returner, a role he handled last year.
Texas A&M: Trayveon Williams, RB
Trayveon Williams followed up a 1,000-yard freshman campaign with 798 yards last year, but he shared time with now-graduated Keith Ford. Williams should hold a larger role in an offense that demands much of the quarterback. He'll be a valuable safety outlet as a pass-catcher for Nick Starkel and/or Kellen Mond.
Vanderbilt: Kyle Shurmur, QB
All 10 of Kyle Shurmur's interceptions last season occurred in five of the Commodores' seven losses. During the five wins, he tossed 14 of his 26 touchdowns. It's fair to say Vanderbilt's success (or lack thereof) was a direct result of his performance. There's little reason to expect a change, especially after the departure of running back Ralph Webb.
All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.