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College Football Playoff: Who needs to be MVP for teams in hunt?

Chase Young (2)
Chase Young (2) (USA TODAY Sports Images)

There are MVPs and then there are players that get teams over the hump by playing like an MVP at a critical time. The latest College Football Playoff ranking was released on Tuesday night, with the top four of LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia remaining the same.

Experts from the Rivals network of team sites that cover the remaining playoff contenders give their take on which player needs to perform like an MVP down the stretch.

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1. LSU: Grant Delpit

“There were a lot of unknowns and what-if’s going into fall camp for LSU, with the only given being Grant Delpit was going to be lights out. Well, that hasn’t exactly been the case.

“Due to assignment changes and nagging injuries, Delpit has not been the same in 2019 and the Tigers will need him to return to form down the stretch. Very few players have a toolbox the size of Delpit’s. LSU just needs to figure out how to take the lock off so he can access them.” – Jimmy Smith, TigerDetails.com

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2. Ohio State: Chase Young

“The good thing for Ohio State is that several players have already been playing like an MVP so I am not really sure if there is anyone who needs to turn it up for this team to be successful. For the sake of just who has not played for the last two weeks, it sure would be good for Ohio State's chances if Chase Young comes back and plays as disruptive as he was pre-suspension.

“Last time Young was on the field, he sacked the Wisconsin quarterback four times and forced a pair of fumbles along the way. With games against Penn State, Michigan and then potentially a B1G Championship Game, all of those games would be easier to manage with those type of momentum plays coming at opportune times.

“The defense has not regressed in the eight quarters without Young; his return would certainly turn things up to 11 and get the Buckeyes into that final group of four.” – Kevin Noon, BuckeyeGrove.com

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3. Clemson: Trevor Lawrence

"Clemson is going to be so much better than its remaining two obstacles – South Carolina and whatever team from the ACC Coastal is in the conference title game – that I'm not sure an MVP performance is required of anyone for the Tigers to advance to their fifth consecutive CFP.

"That said, Trevor Lawrence seems to get better and better as we get closer to the playoff. His eight interceptions over the first seven games created a sensation that lasted several weeks, so much so that even when he was starting to really sizzle people were still asking what was wrong with him.

"Since throwing two interceptions in the first quarter at Louisville, he has completed 87 of 112 passes for 1,268 yards with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. That's pretty good. And it's hard to see that not continuing over the next two games." – Larry Williams, TigerIllustrated.com

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4. Georgia: Jake Fromm

“For Georgia, that’s easy – quarterback Jake Fromm. Without a consistent performance by the junior, the Bulldogs will be hard-pressed to accomplish this goal. We’ve seen Fromm come up with big moments in big games before, and he’s played in some of most important contests in recent school history.

"But Fromm enters this weekend’s game against Texas A&M having completed under 50 percent of his passes for two straight weeks. He’ll need to do better than that for the Bulldogs to get back to the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years.” – Anthony Dasher, UGASports.com

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5. Alabama: Mac Jones

“The obvious answer for Alabama is Mac Jones. With Tua Tagovailoa out for the season, the Crimson Tide will need Jones to not only lead their offense but also earn style points doing it. There’s been a lot of talk of dropping Alabama in the rankings this week as it is viewed as a completely different team without its Heisman contender. While no one is expecting Jones to match Tagovailoa’s record-setting success, he’ll need to prove doubters wrong and convince the committee that Alabama is still one of the nation’s top four teams.” – Tony Tsoukalas, Bamainsider.com

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6. Oregon: Justin Herbert

“The Oregon defense has proven itself to be vastly improved in 2019 under first-year defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. After 10 games, the Ducks average giving up 14.8 points per game, more than 10 fewer points per game than in 2018. They have been a steady force all season as the Ducks have climbed polls.

“But for Oregon to have a shot at beating the nation’s best teams, it will fall on the shoulders of the offense and Justin Herbert. When the senior quarterback is in sync with his receivers, the offense is balanced and prolific behind a seasoned, talented offensive line.

“Before the season Herbert was often mentioned as a Heisman candidate and most games this year, he has proven those pundits correct. If he continues to play like one down the stretch, the sky is the limit for the 2019 Ducks.” – A.J. Jacobson, DuckSportsAuthority.com

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7. Utah: Tyler Huntley

“There are a lot of MVPs on this Utes squad and a ton of NFL talent. However, one guy is unquestionably the most crucial for the Utes: quarterback Tyler Huntley.

“Talk of Huntley just being a game manager, is a joke. Some of his crucial stats are as follows: No. 5 in pass efficiency, No. 7 in yards per completion, No. 33 in passing yards, and a 13:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s also averaging 11.5 yards per pass completion. If Utah cared about padding stats and running up scores, his numbers would be even more impressive. However, that’s not the Utes' M.O., yet they’re still winning by an average of 23.4 per game.

“Huntley is the straw that stirs the drink. He’s become one of the best quarterbacks in program history, and he’s their best signal-caller since Alex Smith. If they make it to the CFP, it’s with Huntley leading them.” – Alex Markham, UteNation.com

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8. Penn State: Sean Clifford

Penn State certainly has a few of these, not least of all K.J. Hamler following his early exit from the Indiana game on Saturday due to an apparent head or neck injury, but the Nittany Lions truly go as quarterback Sean Clifford does. His arm is important in getting the ball out to Penn State’s playmakers such as Hamler, tight end Pat Freiermuth, receiver Jahan Dotson and a stable of running backs, his legs are important for moving the chains when those options turn scarce, and his head is important for choosing which to use in the game’s biggest moments.

"At Ohio State this weekend, in his 11th career start, all of those elements will be tested in ways that Clifford has never seen before in a hostile atmosphere that goes beyond anything he’s ever played in.

“In a contest that virtually acts as Penn State’s elimination match for the CFB Playoff and absolutely is its elimination match for a shot at representing the East Division in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Nittany Lions are going to need plenty of points for any opportunity at a win. Clifford is going to have to be the guy to deliver them.” – Nate Bauer, BlueWhiteIllustrated.com

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9. Oklahoma: Kenneth Murray

“There's a lot of people out there that would tell you Jalen Hurts is the answer. Sure, Oklahoma has done it with offense in past years so why change things up? I get it.

“However, junior linebacker Kenneth Murray is the correct answer here. The heart and soul in the middle of Alex Grinch's defense. Oklahoma will only go as far as its defense takes it.

“We know Oklahoma's offense is going to produce points. The Sooners have scored at least 34 points in 20 straight contests. So it's up to Murray and the defense to force turnovers and get the ball back for the Sooners.

“Simply put, they need more of what they saw in the second half last weekend in Waco.” – Eddie Radosevich, SoonerScoop.com

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10. Minnesota: Tanner Morgan 

"Tanner Morgan has had an outstanding sophomore season. His play was crucial late in Minnesota's first four wins, which were all close, as well as in the Penn State victory. It's hard to see Minnesota making the College Football Playoff without more great performances from Morgan."

"Minnesota this season has looked to establish the run before the pass, but it's the passing game that's propelled the Gophers to most victories. They like to run a lot of slants, as well as go routes in single coverage. Morgan has proven to be capable of making every throw needed this season. Additionally, he's aided by having Minnesota's three best receivers since Eric Decker in Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell." – Matt Jessen-Howard, TheGopherReport.com

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14. Baylor: James Lynch

“The easy answer is QB Charlie Brewer because as he goes, so goes Baylor's offense. However, Baylor needs a strong push from junior DE James Lynch. He was off to a great start through the first six games and dominating. He's also one-half sack away from the single-school record for sacks in a season. He's at 8.5 and needs to get to nine to set the record.

"However, teams have double-teamed him and made it difficult for him to be the presence he was at the beginning. Lynch hasn't come close to a sack in the last four games. Baylor's defensive front has been pretty solid this year. However, a strong finish from Lynch could mean the difference.” – Kevin Lonnquist, SicEmSports.com

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