With the college football regular season halfway through already, the Associated Press polled its writers covering various Pac-12 programs for a midseason rundown of the best and worst through the first six weeks.

In that exercise, USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu earned some major kudos as the Pac-12’s best defender.

Here’s what the AP had to say on Tuipulotu:

Tuli Tuipulotu, Southern California. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive lineman has been a wrecking ball against opposing offenses, leading the nation with 7.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss per game.

Tuipulotu’s constant pressure up front has helped the back end of USC’s defense, which leads the nation with 12 interceptions.

It’s a fair pick. We named him our midseason Defensive Player of the Year earlier this week.

USC is 6-0 and ranked No. 7 in the latest AP Top 25 despite its offense not having its best stuff in recent weeks. The defense has picked up the slack on the other side of it, and Tuipulotu is a major reason why. He had three sacks against Washington State, single-handily wrecking the Cougars’ gameplan early on.

The 6-foot-4 junior is growing into one of the top defensive linemen in the country in his first year under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and coach Lincoln Riley. Of course, Tuipulotu was a handful for Pac-12 offensive linemen last season, too, when he totaled 48 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, and a team-high 5.5 sacks en route to earning an All-Pac-12 First Team nod.

The national recognition is starting to roll in now, too. Tuipulotu is certainly in the conversation for an All-American nod this year if he stays at this level.

Other AP superlatives included:

  • Top offensive player: UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson
  • Top coach: UCLA’s Chip Kelly
  • Top first-year freshman: Cal’s Jaydn Ott
  • Top first-year transfer: Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.
  • Most surprising player: Arizona’s Jacob Cowing
  • Most disappointing team: Stanford
  • Hottest seat: Stanford’s David Shaw