The best teams typically have the best players, and the Rivals.com All-America team certainly would support that thesis.
The 26-member first team (11 offense, 11 defense, four special teams) has 16 players who were on teams that won conference championships or played in league championship games. And that doesn't include players from Stanford, Oklahoma State and LSU, each of which posted 10 victories this season.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a heavy favorite to win the Heisman, is our overwhelming choice as player of the year after passing for 2,589 yards and rushing for 1,409. He is just the third player in FBS history with 20 rushing TDs and 20 passing TDs in the same season.
Mark Dantonio, who guided Michigan State to an 11-1 finish and a share of the Big Ten championship, is our coach of the year. Four years ago, Dantonio headed to East Lansing to take over a program that had sustained three consecutive losing seasons and hadn't won a Big Ten championship since 1990. This season, with some creativity (a fake field goal in overtime against Notre Dame, a fake punt against Northwestern), some big wins and some luck (he overcame a late-September heart attack), he led the Spartans to the most wins in school history.
Our freshman of the year is South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who joined an offense that last season was last in the SEC in rushing. This season, Lattimore rushed for 1,198 yards and 17 touchdowns and was a major factor in the Gamecocks winning the SEC East and advancing to the league championship game for the first time.
Our top offensive coordinator is Oklahoma State's Dana Holgorsen, who arrived from Houston to take over an offense with a new quarterback, a banged-up tailback, a rebuilt offensive line and no proven receivers. But rather than struggle, the Cowboys soared. They averaged 537.6 yards per game to lead the nation in total offense and were third in scoring at 44.9 points per game.
Vic Fangio, in his first season at Stanford after a long run in the NFL, is our top defensive coordinator. He overhauled the Cardinal's defense and oversaw dramatic improvement. Last season, the Cardinal ranked 90th in the nation in total defense and 69th in scoring defense. But under Fangio, Stanford improved to 24th in total defense and 11th in scoring defense.
With Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Auburn is one of six teams with multiple picks on the Rivals.com first team. Nebraska leads with four selections, while Oregon, Wisconsin, TCU and Florida also have multiple choices.
Particulars: 6-6/250, Jr.; Blinn College (Texas), preceded by Atlanta Westlake
Buzz: Newton arrived as the most touted JC transfer in the nation, but no one expected this. He is just the third quarterback in FBS history with 20 rushing TDs and 20 passing TDs in the same season. He leads the SEC in rushing with 1,409 yards and has thrown for 2,589 yards.
Particulars: 5-9/185, Soph.; Texarkana (Texas) Liberty-Eylau
Buzz: James is one of the most explosive players in the country. He leads the nation with 1,682 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns and averages 5.99 yards per carry. He's rushed for at least 91 yards in every game he's played and scored at least one touchdown in every game but one in which he's appeared.
Particulars: 5-9/193, Jr.; North Dartmouth (Mass.) Dartmouth
Buzz: Todman split carries last season with Andre Dixon, but Todman proved he could carry the load this season. He averaged 143.0 yards per game with 14 touchdowns for the BCS-bound Huskies with the second-most carries (302) in the nation despite missing one game.
Particulars: 6-1/205, Soph.; Ardmore (Okla.) Plainview
Buzz: After a non-descript first season, Blackmon emerged as the nation's most productive receiver this season. He has 102 receptions for 1,665 yards and a national-best 18 touchdowns in 11 games. He had at least 105 receiving yards in every game.
Particulars: 5-11/183, Jr.; Norman (Okla.) High
Buzz: Extremely explosive, Broyles leads the nation with 118 receptions. A three-year starter for the Sooners, he has 1,452 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Particulars: 6-4/233, Soph.; St. Matthews (S.C.) Calhoun County
Buzz: Jeffery came on at the end of last season as a true freshman, then burst onto the national scene this season. He is a huge, physical wide receiver, with great hands and good speed. He has 79 receptions for 1,387 yards and nine TDs. He has had seven 100-yard games.
Particulars: 6-7/327, Sr.; Monona (Wis.) Monona Grove
Buzz: He helped pave the way for a rushing attack that ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten (247.4 ypg). Carimi is the latest in a long line of dominating Badgers offensive tackles, and he's a road-grader in the running game.
Particulars: 6-6/305, Sr.; Columbus (Miss.) Caledonia
Buzz: Sherrod is a big guy who can move. He is a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, who are second in the SEC in rushing at 215.8 yards per game. He is equally adept in run blocking and pass protection.
Particulars: 6-2/282, Sr.; Mobile (Ala.) B.C. Rain
Buzz: This four-year starter has won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given annually to the ACC's top offensive lineman in each of the past two seasons. Hudson, an Outland Trophy finalist, was named the ACC offensive lineman of the week for his performances in victories over BYU and Miami.
Particulars: 6-5/323, Sr.; West Haven (Conn.) Notre Dame
Buzz: Moffitt, a three-year starter for the Badgers, is another vital part of a line that has opened holes for three backs who have rushed for at least 800 yards apiece.
Particulars: 6-3/285, Sr.; Jenks (Okla.) High
Buzz: A stalwart along the Cardinal line, Beeler is strong, quick, smart and experienced. He anchored an offensive front that paved the way for a 1,000-yard rusher and a 3,000-yard passer. Stanford has allowed just five sacks this season.
Particulars: 6-4/275, Jr.; Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt
Buzz: Bowers leads the nation with 15.5 sacks -- 2.5 more than anyone else -- and ranks second nationally with 25 tackles for loss. He also has 67 overall tackles, an unusually high number for a lineman.
Particulars: 6-6/285, Jr.; Cozad (Neb.) High
Buzz: A force in the Huskers' interior line. Crick has 63 tackles -- a high amount for a tackle. He also has 16 tackles for loss, including 9.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
Particulars: 6-5/298, Jr.; Copiah-Lincoln CC (Miss.), preceded by Mobile (Ala.) Williamson
Buzz: Fairley -- who has been criticized by some for being overly aggressive -- has been a big-play machine for the Tigers. He has 10.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and an incredible 21 quarterback hurries; those are unreal numbers for a defensive tackle.
Particulars: 6-4/263, Sr.; Muncie (Ind.) Central
Buzz: A pure dominator, Kerrigan ranked first in the nation in tackles for loss with 26 and third in sacks with 12.5. He also has forced five fumbles, giving him 14 of those in the past three seasons. And he did it all with zero help from teammates on a moribund Purdue defense.
Particulars: 6-1/210, Jr.; Fort Scott (Kan.) CC, preceded by Miami Northwestern
Buzz: He has made an enormous impact in his first season since transferring from junior college. The speedy David leads the Big 12 with 145 total tackles and has 14 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Particulars: 6-2/242, Sr.; Seaside (Calif.) High
Buzz: A hard-nosed playmaker, Foster has made 151 tackles, second-most in the nation. He had at least 10 tackles in 11 games, has recorded 14 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles and blocked a kick.
Particulars: 6-3/235, Soph.; Cincinnati St. Xavier
Buzz: Kuechly leads the nation in solo tackles (102) and total tackles (171) while spearheading the nation's top-ranked run defense. He has recorded at least 10 tackles in 21 consecutive games, which is the nation's longest current streak in that category.
Particulars: 6-1/205, Sr.; Glendale (Ariz.) Apollo
Buzz: Perhaps the best cover corner in the nation, Amukamara broke up 13 passes and was the leader of one of the nation's best pass defenses. He also has made 58 tackles.
Particulars: 6-1/222, Jr.; Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely
Buzz: He's the prototypical shutdown corner -- great size, big-time speed, physical and good hands. Teams have shied away from throwing at his side, but he has four interceptions and six pass breakups, and he also has made 36 tackles.
Particulars: 6-1/212, Sr.; Garland (Texas) South Garland
Buzz: Johnson has three interceptions and has forced three fumbles to go along with his 56 tackles. He was selected as one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive back.
Particulars: 5-9/190, Sr.; Lakeland (Fla.) High
Buzz: Black, a three-year starter, was the Gators' MVP this season. He's not the fastest or the biggest guy, but he has great instincts. He led Florida in tackles with 102 and also had three picks, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a sack and nine tackles for loss.
Particulars: 6-2/175, Sr.; Omaha (Neb.) Burke
Buzz: Almost automatic, Henery converted 18-of-19 field-goal attempts and hit all 16 from inside 50 yards. His one miss was a 51-yard attempt that was blocked. He also did a solid job as the Huskers' punter.
Particulars: 6-3/215, Sr.; Dallas (Ga.) East Paulding
Buzz: Henry leads the nation in punting at 46.4 yards per boot and is the major reason the Gators also lead the nation in net punting at 45.8 yards per attempt. He was pressed into double-duty as the Gators' field-goal kicker, with mixed results.
Particulars: 5-10/192, Sr.; Hutto (Texas) High
Buzz: Kerley, a wide receiver by trade, ranks 18th nationally in kickoff-return average (28.0) and 17th in punt-return average (12.93). LSU's Patrick Peterson is the only other FBS player to rank among the nation's top 20 returners in each category.
Particulars: 5-11/180, Soph.; Fresno (Calif.) Edison
Buzz: The Ducks were in scoring position any time their defense forced a punt. Harris, who also starts at cornerback, averages 19.5 yards per punt return and has taken back four for touchdowns, two more than anyone else in the country.