The fortunes (or misfortunes for some) of many a team will depend on how well their key players step up and shoulder the load to help carry their team to success.
There is no position more crucial in this case than that of the quarterback.
For some, it may bring a chance to win the Heisman trophy. For others, possibly a chance for redemption in a BCS bowl game or even the BCS title game, or to earn a BCS bowl game invite and earn the title of "BCS Buster!"
Here are the top 10 QB's to watch in 2009. These players have the opportunity to make or break the 2009 season for their respective teams, and provide all of us fans with quite a thrill ride along the way!
No. 10—Robert Griffin—Baylor
Baylor isn't exactly on national TV week to week, but if you haven't at least heard of Robert Griffin, you must not pay attention to teams outside of your own.
All Griffin did as a true freshman in 2008 was pass for 2,091 yards, 15 touchdowns to only three interceptions, and run for another 843 yards and 13 touchdowns, all while posting a QB rating of 142.0 for the Bears.
Unfortunately, Griffin's incredible stats didn't translate into much, as Baylor finished the year 4-8.
While those gaudy stats could prove hard to duplicate, I expect that Griffin will be able to put up similar numbers, and with any help from his defense at all, the Bears could become bowl eligible in 2009.
I hope they do because it's a shame that most of the nation has never seen Griffin play, and without a bowl game for Baylor, it will probably remain that way.
No. 9—Jimmy Clausen—Notre Dame
Charlie Weis is on the hottest seat in college football and if he is to keep his job at Notre Dame, Clausen must live up to the hype and meet, if not exceed, expectations this season.
Notre Dame crushed Hawaii 49-21 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, and Clausen led the way with 401 yards and five touchdown passes.
Weis can only pray that Clausen builds off of that performance and continues to play at that level or pretty near it this season.
2009 is do or die for the quarterback and the coach. If Clausen falters, he might find a seat on the bench, with highly-touted Dayne Christ waiting in the wings, and Weis will most likely find himself out of a job if the Irish win less than nine or 10 games.
No. 8—Tyrod Taylor—Virginia Tech
Just about every year in recent memory, Virginia Tech has been hyped up and ranked in or near the top 10 in the AP Preseason Poll. And just about every year in recent memory, they have been the poster child for why preseason polls make no sense.
According to ESPN's Mark Schlabach in his "Way Too Early Top 25" article, VA Tech is once again highly regarded, coming in at No. 5.
In 2008, Tech went 10-4, winning the ACC and beating Cincinnati 20-7 in the Fedex Orange Bowl, in what many considered to be a foundation year for 2009.
They were one of the youngest teams in the nation a year ago. If Tyrod Taylor can improve in the passing game (1036 yards, two TD, seven INT), and with star tailback Darren Evans there to help take some of the pressure off Taylor, the Hokies might actually deserve their preseason ranking and may even be contenders for the national championship.
No. 7—Kellen Moore—Boise State
The Broncos have become a mainstay "mid-major" program that has been and will continue to be in the BCS bowl discussion this season.
Last year, Boise finished the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record before being tripped-up by TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Sophomore QB Kellen Moore has proven he is one of the country's best quarterbacks (3,486 yards, 25 TD, nine INT, 157.1 QB Rating), but he'll be missing his top targets from last year.
Tailback Ian Johnson, and receivers Jeremy Childs and Vinny Perretta, are big losses.
Moore will need to duplicate his 2008 season if Boise is to have any chance at another "BCS Busting" undefeated season.
He and the Broncos will be tested early in 2009, opening the season with Oregon at home before road games at Tulsa and Fresno State.
No. 6—Jevan Snead—Ole Miss
Snead could have been Matt Cassell 2.0, but instead he decided to transfer from Texas at the end of the 2006 season, where he would have been Colt McCoy's backup, to Ole Miss where, instead, he is the man, and the rest is history.
Only one team beat the eventual BCS Champion Florida Gators in 2008 and that team was, you guessed it, Ole Miss!
In the thrilling 31-30 road win that catapulted the Rebels into the top 25 and the national discussion, Snead threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a third.
There were a couple of lows however, when Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina handed Mississippi three, somewhat unexpected losses.
The Rebels bounced back with a huge victory over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl to close the season, and end the year on a positive note to build on.
Ole Miss has a favorable schedule in 2009, and Snead should be able to replicate his stats from a year ago (2,762 yards, 26 TD, 12 INT, 145.5 QB Rating), and lead the Rebels back to another successful season and a possible SEC Championship.
No. 5—Terrelle Pryor—Ohio State
While Pryor didn't have the stats (1,311 passing yards, 631 rushing yards, 12 passing and six rushing TD, four INT, 146.5 QB Rating) that Robert Griffin or Kellen Moore did in 2008, he did have a solid season for the Buckeyes.
Pryor had an 8-2 record as a starter and let's face it—he is the QB of "The" Ohio State Buckeyes and, not to belittle Baylor or Boise State, but the reality is that the expectations of him and pressure on him far exceed those on Griffin or Moore.
I believe the Buckeyes lost four starters on offense and five on defense and yet they are No. 7 in Schlabachs' rankings.
The main reason they are ranked in his top 10 is Terrelle Pryor, so you can see what I'm saying about the expectations and pressure placed upon him.
At times, Pryor made some amazing passes, and at other times, some were just plain ridiculous and downright horrible.
With that said, remember, he was a true freshman and took the starting job away from Senior QB and team captain, Todd Boeckman. I can't begin to imagine the stress he must have felt.
Still, he persevered. His only losses as a starter in 2008 came to then No. 3 Penn State after an errant pass was picked off, which gave the Nittany Lions the ball late in the game.
In the Fiesta Bowl, Pryor caught a TD pass from Boeckman against then No. 3 Texas, as the Buckeyes held a 21-17 lead with less than a minute to go in the game. McCoy then found Quan Cosby on a quick slant as the Buckeyes were on an all out blitz and Texas went on to the 24-21 victory.
Pryor is rumored to have gained 10-15 pounds of muscle this off-season and the Buckeyes are promising to open up the offense more to suit his abilities. There's talk in Buckeye cyberspace that there will be more use of the Pistol formation, and even the Single-Wing or Wildcat as it's now more commonly known.
He will be surrounded by speedy tailbacks Dan Herron and Jamaal Berry, and power back Carlos Hyde, and a very deep corp of young but talented receivers led by senior Ray Small, so these formations make sense and will keep defenses guessing.
The biggest challenges of the season will be hosting USC in Columbus on September 12, and traveling to Happy Valley to take on Penn State on November 7.
If the Bucks can win those two games, there's really no other legit threat on their schedule, or reason why Pryor shouldn't be able to lead them to an undefeated season and their fourth BCS title game appearance in the last eight years.
No. 4—Zac Robinson—Oklahoma State
Robinson, WR Dez Bryant, and RB Kendall Hunter comprise the three-headed monster and potential nightmare for their opponents in the Big 12 this coming season.
Last season, Robinson threw for 3,064 yards and 25 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions, and also ran for 508 yards and seven scores. While he is more of a pocket passer, he certainly can scramble and make plays with his feet when needed.
With Bryant returning from off-season knee surgery, Hunter may be asked to carry more of the workload initially until Bryant proves he's back to 100%, but if and when he is, Oklahoma State, 10th in Schlabachs' Preseason rankings, could be this years Texas Tech!
No. 3—Tim Tebow—Florida
The Gators may be considered the No. 1 heading into 2009, but, while Tebow is not the No. 1 QB to watch, he's close, coming in at third.
He's been on two championship teams and won the 2007 Heisman so what can "Superman," as Gator fans call him, do for an encore?
We'll have to wait and see but if the Gators are going to have any chance at a repeat title in 2009, the onus will be squarely on Tebows' shoulders.
Playmaker extraordinaire Percy Harvin defected early for the NFL Draft leaving Tebow (2,746 yards, 30 passing touchdowns, four interceptions, 673 rush yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 172.4 QB Rating) and TE Aaron Hernandez, as the only established weapons on offense.
Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps and Emmanual Moody combined for over 1600 yards, but individually none of them had more than 650 yards, thus the jury is still out on which, if any, can step up and help replace the loss of Harvin.
Florida has an exceptionally favorable schedule with only four road games, the toughest of which will be at LSU.
With a little help, Tebow should easily put up another great statistical season, and if the Gators can avoid the upset bug, they may very well be on the road to a possible third title in four years.
No. 2—Colt McCoy—Texas
The Longhorns felt slighted in 2008 after losing only to Texas Tech, on an almost fluke-like touchdown by Michael Crabtree, on the last play of game.
That one play cost the Horns a shot at Florida in the BCS title game, where instead, Oklahoma, who Texas had beaten 45-35 on a neutral field earlier in the year, got the nod and then proceeded to lose their fifth straight BCS bowl game.
If Colt McCoy has anything to say about it this year, that will not happen again!
McCoy's stats (3,859 passing yards, 34TD / eight INT, 561 rushing yards, 11 rushing TD, 173.8 QB Rating) were impressive enough to earn him a second place finish in the Heisman trophy voting.
With his roommate, receiver Jordan Shipley, returning for a sixth season and without a standout running back in the mix, McCoy should once again put up great passing and rushing numbers, and solidify his status as a Heisman contender and potential top NFL pick for 2010.
Now, can I have a drumroll please...
(as if you don't already know who No. 1 is!)
No. 1—Sam Bradford—Oklahoma
Bradford, the 2008 Heisman winner, looks set to repeat the the unbelievable season and production he accomplished last year heading into 2009, but it won't be easy.
He set the bar extremely high for himself, as he threw for over 4,700 yards and 50 touchdowns to only eight interceptions, and rushed for five more scores while posting a ridiculous QB Rating of nearly 181.
Chris Brown and Demarco Murray, each 1000+ yard rushers a year ago, who combined for 34 touchdowns, both return, and with the loss of top receiver Juaquin Iglesias and even with the surprising return of star tight end Jermaine Gresham, Bradford will be hard-pressed to duplicate the numbers he put up a year ago.
OU should still be considered the team to beat in the Big 12 with Texas a close second.
That's it—That's the list!
If you agree or disagree with my list, or you believe I overlooked a QB that you feel deserves to make the list over one of my 10, YOU'RE WRONG (just kidding).
Make sure you post a comment and tell me who and why!
Thanks in advance for reading, rating, and adding your comments!