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 cause than that of the quarterback.
For some, it may be a chance to win the Heisman Trophy. For others, possibly a chance for redemption in a BCS bowl game, the BCS title game, or to earn a BCS bowl game invite and earn the title of "BCS Buster"!
Here are the top 10 QBs to watch in 2009 that 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—Tyrod Taylor—Virginia Tech
Just about every year in recent memory, Virginia Tech has been hyped up and ranked in or near the top ten 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, Virginia 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 (1,036 yards, two TD, seven INT), and with star tailback Darren Evans there to help take some of the pressure off of Taylor, the Hokies might actually deserve their preseason ranking and may even be contenders for the national championship.
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 faulters, he might find a seat on the bench with highly-touted Dayne Crist waiting in the wings and Weis will most likely find himself out of a job if the Irish win less than nine or ten games.
No. 8—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 a year ago. 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. 7—Robert Griffin—Baylor
Baylor isn't exactly on national television 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 because all Griffin did as a true freshman in 2008 was pass for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns to only three interceptions and ran for another 843 yards and 13 touchdowns, while posting a QB rating of 142.0 for the Bears!
Unfortunately, Griffins' 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. 6—Jevan Snead—Ole Miss
Snead could have been Matt Cassel 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 that 31-30 thrilling 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 each 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 with 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 and pressure on him far exceed those of/on Griffin or Moore.
I believe the Buckeyes lost four starters on offense and five on defense and yet they are No. 7 in Schlabach's rankings. The No. 1 reason why they are ranked in his top ten 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. But 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, deep in OSU territory, leading to the game's only touchdown and a PSU win.
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 when McCoy found Quan Cosby on a quick slant as the Buckeyes were on an all-out blitz and Texas went on to claim 24-21 victory.
Pryor is rumored to have gained 10-15 pounds of muscle this offseason 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, Brandon Saine, and speedy new comer Jaamal Berry, as well as a very deep corp of young but talented receivers. These formations make sense and will keep defense guessing.
The biggest challenges of the season will be hosting USC in Columbus on 9/12/09 and traveling to Happy Valley to take on Penn State on 11/07/09.
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 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, so 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 percent but if and when he is, Oklahoma State, 10th in Schlabach's preseason rankings, could be this year's Texas Tech!
No. 3—Tim Tebow—Florida
The Gators may be considered the No. 1 heading into 2009, but Tebow is not the No. 1 QB to watch but 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 make have any chance at a repeat title in 2009, the onus will be squarely on Tebow's 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 proven weapons on offense.
Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, and Emmanuel Moody combined for over 1,600 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 2nd 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 (although if you have the least bit of deductive reasoning power, you already know who No. 1 is).
No. 1—Sam Bradford—Oklahoma
Bradford, the 2008 Heisman winner, looks 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 1,000-yard rushers a year ago who combined for 34 touchdowns, both return and with the loss of top receiver Juaquin Iglesias and 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 but Texas will have a lot to say about that in 2009. Well that is if the tie-break system doesn't fail them again.
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 you would add or remove, and why!