Before we begin the season, I'd like to first give you a sneak peak into who will dominate the Big 12 on both sides of the ball, and who I believe will receive the Big 12 Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards.
2008 was a banner season for the Big 12, and more of the same should follow this season. Coming back are two Heisman finalists in Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, and they should have their respective programs battling for Big 12 supremacy all season long.
Other storylines include Oklahoma State. Will the Cowboys be last season's Texas Tech? How about Baylor? Can breakout sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin lead his team to a bowl game? In the North, who will take the lead now that it appears Missouri is down?
All those questions will be answered and more.
But for now, let's take a look at some of the contenders for the conference POY honors:
Weatherspoon has been the anchor of the Missouri defense since his sophomore season in 2007. Now, in his senior season he looks to cap an already impressive career in which he has already been a first team All-Big 12 selection twice, and was a second team All-American and Butkus Award finalist in 2008.
Weatherspoon's 11 tackles a game led the Big 12 a season ago, and his 155 tackles accumulated were the second most in Missouri history.
Along with those sumptuous numbers include 18.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions (two of which we're returned for touchdowns), all while leading his team with seven pass brakeups from his linebacker position.
Impressive stuff from a versatile talent. With the rest of Missouri's defense likely to struggle it may be hard for him to have the kind of impact necessary to receive the POY, but he will irrefutably put up largely sumptuous numbers once again.
Joe Pawelek has been a model of consistency for the Bears since his freshman season.
The San Antonio native started out his career in 2006 as a freshman All-American. He has since progressed into one of the best linebackers in the entire country, and is the incontestable leader for the Baylor defensive unit.
In his Junior season Pawelek was awarded with All-American honors as well as being selected as a consensus 1st team All-Big 12 selection.
He totaled 128 tackels, six tackles for loss, six INT's, and seven pass brakeups. His 10.7 tackles a game trailed only Weatherspoon in the conference. He was also the only player in the country to be ranked in the top 10 nationally for tackles, and INT's.
Pawelek's commendable achievements are not confined to the football field, however. He was also a leader in the classroom, as he was selected as an Academic All-American as well.
Optimism and Baylor are two things that don't seem to be congruous with each other reguarly, but Coach Art Briles is beginning to change the culture in Waco at an almost incredulous pace.
With an offense led by rising star Robert Griffin on offense and the defense led by Pawelek, expect both Pawelek and the Bears to do great things on the football field which could culminate with their first bowl game since 1994.
Sergio Kindle was the No. 1 defensive prospect in the nation coming out of Woodrow Wilson High School in '06. Appeared in games since his true freshman season but really burst onto the national scene as a junior in 2008.
Operating as a tweener between outside linebacker and DE, Kindle unleashed the beast Texas fans we're anxious to see since he signed on at Texas.
Kindle was tabbed a 1st team All-Big 12 selection as well as being selected as an honorable mention All-American selection by SI.com.
Operating opposite All-American and 1st round selection Brian Orakpo, Kindle accumulated 53 tackles, 10 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, 15 pressures, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
With Orakpo gone to the NFL, Kindle made the switch to defensive end full-time and will be the most featured player in Will Muschamp's defense. Now in his senior season and second year under the tutelage of Muschamp, expect Kindle to have a monster senior year.
If Texas wins all their games like some say they will, expect Sergio to be on the shortlist of players vying for the defensive POY.
McCoy sprinted onto the scene as a freshman in 2007, earning him the Big 12 defensive freshman of the year award.
He augmented that success with an even better year in '08 in which he was tabbed a second team All-American and 1st team All-Big 12 selection.
He led all interior defensive lineman with 30 tackles and also had 6.5 sacks last year. He tallied two sacks against Texas and his first career pick came against Florida in the national championship game.
Oklahoma returns a lot of talent on defense and could conceivably be the top unit in the conference and among the best in the nation in '09.
If McCoy continues his trend of following up his seasons with an even better one the next, McCoy could be in the running for the Conference and National POY award.
Ndamukong Suh emerged as the most dominant defensive player outside or Brian Orakpo in the conference last season.
As a junior, Suh became the first defensive lineman to lead the Huskers in tackles since 1973. His 76 tackles were the most by a Husker lineman since 1992.
A consensus first team All-Big 12 selection, Suh leads a talented group of DL at Nebraska that will look to win it's first Big 12 north crown since 2006.
The Big 12 is known for its high-powered offenses and to many fans delight, much can be expected again in 2009. With teams like Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Baylor, and Texas Tech lighting up the scoreboard, this year should be a treat for football fans everywhere.
Here are some of the candidates to bring up the POY honors:
At 6'3", 200 pounds, Briscoe brings about a rare combination of size, speed, strength, and athleticism.
A second team All-Big 12 selection, Briscoe was fourth in the nation in receiving yards per game and tallied 92 receptions for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns, all school records.
Briscoe may have had his biggest game of the year vs. Oklahoma in which he collected a total of 269 yards to go along with a couple touchdowns.
His quarterback, Todd Reesing, is back, so expect Briscoe to have an even bigger year in 2009 and be a possible All-American selection.
Robert Griffin was the nation's youngest starting quarterback in 2008 in his true freshman campaign; while he may have been a baby, his game resembled that of a veteran savvy magician.
Griffin was among the most electrifying players in the nation and was a threat to score every time the ball was in his hands.
Not only was he a threat with his feet, but the Baylor quarterback was extremely accurate throwing the ball, as he ranked 27th nationally in pass efficiency.
Griffin was selected to the first team Freshman All-American unit and was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Finished the season with over 2,000 yards passing with 15 touchdowns and only three picks.
Simply put, Griffin is one of the main reasons people around Waco are excited about football for the first time in a long time. The sky's the limit for this kid, so expect the unexpected for this year and beyond.
Dez Bryant is, in my opinion, the best receiver in the nation—hands down. The guy is an absolute freak of nature, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's a top-five pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Bryant was second in the nation with 19 touchdowns and was third in both receiving yards and punt return yards per game.
Bryant is already among the most decorated receivers in Big 12 history with two seasons under his belt; he was an All-American selection and Big 12 Special Teams POY.
Not only is Bryant gifted, but he has one of the best work ethics you'll find in a collegiate athlete and works tirelessly on every play.
Very fun to watch, there is no telling what Bryant and the 'Pokes have in store for us in an encore for what was already one of the most productive offensive seasons in 2008.
Where to begin? Sam Bradford is, eloquently put, THE MAN.
The reigning 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, Bradford was the leader of one of the most explosive offenses in NCAA history.
Along with the Heisman, Bradford was the Big 12 Offensive POY in 2008 and a first team All-Big 12 selection. He is the first OU quarterback in Big 12 history to win two Big 12 titles, and he's only going to be a junior in '09.
He led the nation in touchdown passes and passing efficiency, has his name next to every record possible in the OU record books...when you take a look at this guy's complete body of work over his career at OU, it's mindboggling and downright incredulous all at the same time.
What he is going to do in 2009 is beyond me, but I'd feel privileged, Sooner fans...guys like this don't come around too often.
As impressive as Bradford's is, McCoy is equally as remarkable.
First and foremost, his 32 wins are the most in UT history, bettering that of his predecessor, Vince Young.
The 2008 Walter Camp Football Foundation POY, McCoy was also a second team All-American and was Bradford's runner-up in the Heisman Trophy presentation.
McCoy was third in the NCAA in passer rating and set an NCAA record for completion percentage. Along with all his effectiveness as a passer, he also led the Horns in rushing in 2008.
Colt McCoy can do it all, and Big 12 observers should relish in the fact that we get to watch him and Bradford compete for one more year in the Big 12. It should be a dandy.
I gave McCoy the No. 1 spot because I expect Texas to beat OU in the RRR and win the Big 12 while going undefeated, all the way to the national championship game.