There are 128 teams playing major college football, and while just about every game is on television these days, it's still easy for impact players to get overlooked. Sometimes it's because they're on unsuccessful teams. Sometimes it's because they have a more hyped teammate. And sometimes it's because there's a surplus of talent in their conference preventing them from getting all-league recognition.
So, with less than a month until the 2015 regular season finally begins, let's take a moment to recognize those who don't get recognized enough, the underrated players who deserve more national attention for their performance -- whether they've been overlooked by all-conference voters, national writers or even myself previously in the Sports on Earth player rankings series.
They may not get enough credit, but put these 22 players together and you'd have a pretty great college football team.
QB: Zach Terrell, Western Michigan. P.J. Fleck's debut season as the Broncos' head coach didn't go well in 2013, with a 1-11 record as Terrell, then a freshman, split time at quarterback and completed 53 percent of his passes with an average of 6.4 yards per attempt, eight touchdowns and eight picks. Last year, Western Michigan orchestrated a massive turnaround to 8-5. Freshman tailback Jarvion Franklin starred with 1,551 yards, and Corey Davis was one of the nation's most productive receivers. Terrell deserves credit too: His turnaround mirrored Western Michigan's as a hole. He finished sixth nationally in passer rating (164.4), third in yards per attempt (9.4), 20th in yards (3,443) and 22nd in passing touchdowns (26). The undersized Terrell probably won't be a pro star, but he's poised for another huge year with nine starters returning to the Broncos offense. He's the type of quarterback who can lead a highly productive college offense to a lot of success.
RB: Paul Perkins, UCLA. Perkins plays for team that finished in the top 10. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry, and he rushed for a Pac-12-best 1,575 yards, including 190 against Oregon. He also caught 26 passes for 201 yards. All of this, and yet he was not named to the all-conference team. The same thing happened to Ohio State star Ezekiel Elliott, of course, but circumstances for Elliott were different: He didn't become great until the postseason, and the Big Ten had the best collection of running backs in college football. Perkins' competition in the Pac-12 was also stiff (Buck Allen, Devontae Booker, D.J. Foster and Royce Freeman earned all-league honors), but there's little justification for his exclusion. And even with quarterback Brett Hundley gone, most of the attention is still on Hundley's likely successor, freshman Josh Rosen, as well as linebacker Myles Jack, who has proved to be an effective running back as well. But there's a reason the Bruins don't need Jack on offense anymore.
RB: Kareem Hunt, Toledo. There is a ton of running back talent in college football right now, and there are many other overlooked backs who are contenders for this list: Louisiana-Lafayette's Elijah McGuire (7.6 yards per carry), Western Kentucky's Leon Allen (345 yards vs. Army, 237 vs. Marshall), Northwestern's Justin Jackson (1,187 yards as a freshman), New Mexico's Jhurell Pressley (1,083 yards on only 114 carries), Texas Tech's DeAndre Washington (1,103 rushing yards, 30 catches). But Hunt stands out above the rest. An ankle injury cost Hunt three games in the middle of his sophomore season, but in 10 games he still ran for 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns on 205 carries, averaging eight yards per attempt. Only Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman averaged more yards per game, as Hunt ran for over 100 yards in every game, with 265 vs. Bowling Green and 271 vs. Arkansas State in his last three. He's also 6-foot, 225 pounds, meaning he's someone the pros need to be paying attention to as well. Of course, he'll have to try to repeat last year's success behind an entirely new Rockets offensive line this fall.
WR: Brandon Sheperd, Oklahoma State. Sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph is on the verge of a breakout season, which means production in the Cowboys receiving corps is about to increase after dealing with uneven quarterback play for much of last year. Rudolph took over as starter in the last three games and led Oklahoma State to wins over Oklahoma and Washington to end the year. His main target? Sheperd, who caught 12 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns in those final two games. He averaged 18.9 yards per catch for the season and should have steadier quarterback play this fall.
WR: Tajae Sharpe, Massachusetts. UMass' FBS transition hasn't gone as hoped, but new coach Mark Whipple quickly developed a potent offense that will make the Minutemen a tough out this year. Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel earned first-team All-MAC honors, and he leaned heavily on Sharpe. As a junior, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Sharpe caught 85 passes for 1,281 yards and seven touchdowns. He's not a burner, but his ball skills and physicality make him look like the Jaelen Strong of the MAC.
WR: Jalen Robinette, Air Force. Georgia Tech has had a few do it, but it's not exactly easy for wide receivers to stand out in option offenses. Under Troy Calhoun, Air Force isn't quite as pass-averse as Army and Navy, but the Falcons still ranked 123rd in attempts last year at just 15.8 per game. Robinette caught 43 passes for 806 yards, averaging 18.7 yards per catch, emerging as the perfect type field-stretching receiver that can be impossible defend downfield as part of an offense that runs so much. If you don't believe me, just watch what he did to New Mexico last year:
OT: Jason Spriggs, Indiana. Tevin Coleman was a superstar last season, but he wouldn't have rushed for 2,000 yards -- on a team with no passing game for much of the season -- without help from a really solid O-line. Spriggs, a 6-foot-7 senior, is an NFL-caliber left tackle who brings quickness to the position and adeptly seals off the edge for the outside running game. Both Spriggs and right guard Dan Feeney deserve more attention.
G: Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh. James Conner didn't do it alone last year. Like he did and will do again at Wisconsin, coach Paul Chryst put together a powerful offensive line at Pitt. Chryst is gone, but new coordinator Jim Chaney helped build a great O-line at Arkansas. Three starters return, including Johnson, who Pro Football Focus gave the highest run blocking grade for a left guard last year. He didn't even receive honorable mention All-ACC honors, but he was a significant factor in Conner's 1,765-yard season.
C: Siaosi Aiono, Utah. Devontae Booker became a star at running back for the Utes last year, and Aiono played a big role in paving the way. The 6-foot-2, 310-pound senior started eight games at right tackle in 2013, then settled into the starting role at center last season, where he gave up just one sack and contributed to Booker's breakout as the foundation of the offense.
G: Caleb Peterson, North Carolina. The Tar Heels' failure to live up to expectations as a yearly sleeper are frustrating, but maybe this can finally be the year. It starts up front, where all five starters return to a solid offensive line. The star of the unit is senior guard Landon Turner, a coveted NFL prospect, but Peterson has also stood out at left guard. A junior, Peterson has 23 career starts and will play a pivotal role in what should be an improved running game.
OT: John Theus, Georgia. Theus was a five-star recruit in the class of 2012, and he was immediately thrown into the fire, starting all 14 games at right tackle. But he had mixed results in the first half his career, coming off the bench five times in 2013. The cycle is almost complete, as he's now a potential All-SEC player for one of the best lines in college football, one that paved the way for a dominant running game and allowed only 17 sacks last year.
DE: Ken Ekanem, Virginia Tech. When a defense has this much talent, someone is bound to get overlooked. Ekanem did earn third-team All-ACC honors last year, but he's part of a loaded defense in which cornerback Kendall Fuller and defensive end Dadi Nicolas are the most recognizable names. Ekanem, however, led the Hokies with 10 ½ sacks last year as a sophomore, with 5 ½ coming in the last four games.
DE: Bronson Kaufusi, BYU. With no all-conference teams or conference titles to compete for, it can be hard to get individual recognition at non-Notre Dame independents -- which are only BYU and Army now. Everyone knows BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, thanks to his heroics against Texas, but the Cougars' standout on defense is less of a known star. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Kaufusi has 15 ½ career sacks, with 11 ½ tackles for loss last season as a junior, and he can make a name for himself early this year with BYU opening against Nebraska, Boise State, UCLA and Michigan in September.
DT: Austin Johnson, Penn State. Life can be hard for a nose tackle: Do a lot of work and get little recognition. But Johnson perfectly complements Anthony Zettel, who gets all the publicity. Zettel is a dominant, athletic penetrator at defensive tackle, while the 325-pound Johnson -- nearly 50 pounds heavier than Zettel -- is quick for his size and capable of occupying blockers and getting a push into the backfield. Johnson actually ranked fifth on the team with 49 tackles.
DT: Antwaun Woods, USC. The departure of Leonard Williams leaves a gaping hole on the USC defensive line, one that impossible to fill. The Trojans can still be solid up front, and it starts with Woods. While the disaster at Boston College early last season skews the numbers, USC ended up being terrific against the run, hardly giving up anything in the final 10 games. A 320-pound senior, Woods is a powerful nose tackle who won't put up huge stats but makes a big impact on the game up front.
LB: Ed Davis, Michigan State.* Davis has been overshadowed by the talent in front of him and behind him in the Spartans' defenses, but he deserves greater recognition. The 233-pound senior had 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks and 58 tackles last year. In addition to succeeding as a blitzer and playing well in space, he's a valuable asset against the run, as pointed out by Rotoworld's Josh Norris.
*UPDATE: On Aug. 12, Michigan State announced that Davis suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice.
LB: Keith Kelsey, Louisville. The Cardinals defense as a whole probably didn't get enough credit last year. Hype for the offense generally follows a Bobby Petrino-coached team, but Todd Grantham's defense ranked 11th in yards per play and 10th against the run. As a sophomore, Kelsey broke out with 87 tackles -- 60 solo -- along with six sacks, teaming with James Burgess to form an excellent inside linebacker combination.
LB: Tyler Matakevich, Temple. The Owls return 10 starters to a defense that allowed just 17.5 points per game, and none is more important than Matakevich, a machine-like linebacker who has 355 career tackles. He's also recorded double-digit tackles for loss each of the last two seasons, proving to be a reliable, instinctive defender who gets overlooked because of where he plays.
CB: Cameron Sutton, Tennessee. The Vols are recognized for their rising talent, particularly players like defensive end Derek Barnett and running back Jalen Hurd. Sutton, meanwhile, wasn't even included among 42 defensive backs on the watch list for the Thorpe Award (obligatory note: watch lists are 100 percent meaningless and should not be taken as actual news). Sutton has started all 25 games in his Tennessee career, registering three interceptions and 13 pass breakups last year, developing into a lockdown corner for a very good pass defense.
CB: Eric Murray, Minnesota. Beyond running back David Cobb and tight end Maxx Williams, Minnesota's success last year came somewhat anonymously. The Gophers' two starting cornerbacks did, however, earn All-Big Ten honors. Murray, a second-team pick by the coaches, is overshadowed a bit by Briean Boddy-Calhoun, a first-team pick by the media, mostly because Boddy-Calhoun had five interceptions to Murray's one. Both are great college corners, but Murray -- with 39 career starts under his belt -- deserves more praise for his physicality and all-around coverage ability in a stellar Gophers pass defense. He has an NFL future, for sure.
S: Deon Bush, Miami. The ACC has had an impressive crop of defensive backs lately, and Bush has been overlooked. He didn't make any of the ACC's three all-conference teams last year, and he didn't make the cut behind conference stars Quin Blanding and Jeremy Cash for this year's preseason team. Miami boasted an underrated defense as a whole last year, and Bush developed into a rangy impact player who forced five fumbles and finished with 53 tackles.
S: Jayron Kearse, Clemson. The Tigers owned perhaps the nation's best defensive front last year. With much of it gone, attention shifts to the secondary. Mackensie Alexander is already a star at cornerback, and Kearse may soon join him, provided he becomes more consistent. A 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior, Kearse finished third on the team with 60 tackles, plus five tackles fro loss, three sacks, two interceptions and five pass breakups. More pressure will be on the Clemson secondary this year with the rebuilding up front, but the Tigers have the talent to deliver.