It's not quite the Old West—there will be no tumbleweeds rolling by when these guys match up—but by all means, the Big 12 features some dominant gunslingers that will be engulfed in epic shootouts all across the country this fall.
There is a good possibility that the Heisman Trophy winner and BCS National Champion could both be left standing when the smoke settles.
First, you have to take a look at last year's conference champion, the Oklahoma Sooners. They shocked the football world with redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford, who completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 36 touchdowns against just eight picks.
Bradford will miss receiver Malcolm Kelly, but he still has weapons in wideout Juaquin Iglesias (68 receptions for 907 yards and five touchdowns) and 6'6" tight end Jermaine Gresham (37 receptions for 518 yards and 11 touchdowns.)
Bradford will face some big competition in this year's Red River Rivalry game in Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who returned from an awesome freshman year (29 touchdowns and seven interceptions) with an average sophomore campaign (22 touchdowns and 18 interceptions).
This year will be a make or break campaign for McCoy as he looks to rebound without stud wideout Limas Sweed, but he will have some of the load lifted as agile quarterback John Chiles will carry much of the unit's rushing attempts.
The biggest gun in the state, if not the entire conference, belongs to Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, who threw for 5,705 yards with 48 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in 2008. To top it off, he completed 71 percent of his passes, thanks in large part to the emergence of redshirt freshman Michael Crabtree, the winner of the Fred Biletnikoff award as the nation's top receiver.
Other talented quarterbacks in the South include Blake Szymanski of Baylor (2,844 yards, 22 touchdowns, 18 interceptions), Zac Robinson of Oklahoma State (2,824 yards, 23 touchdowns, nine interceptions,) who had three games with at least 100 yards rushing, and Stephen McGee of Texas A&M (2,311 yards, 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions) who ran for 100 yards four times himself.
In the North, it was two dark horses who battled late last season with a possible national title spot at stake. Those quarterbacks are Todd Reesing of Kansas and Chase Daniel of Missouri. Reesing, the 5'11" junior, threw for 3,486 yards, 33 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, leading Kansas to a shocking 12-1 finish.
Their only loss came to—you guessed it—Daniel, a senior who stands an inch taller than Reesing at 6'0" and threw for 4,306 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Daniel, however, has that coveted "it" factor and is expected to be a front runner for the Heisman trophy all season long.
In Colorado, it was somewhat of a revival year for the Buffaloes, and at the helm was Cody Hawkins, the son of head coach Dan. Hawkins, who was a star on ESPN's Summer House program coming out of high school, had a solid freshman year, throwing for 3,015 touchdowns with 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, not to mention leading the team to six victories.
Kansas State welcomes back junior Josh Freeman, who threw for 3,353 yards with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and Iowa State hopes sophomore Austen Arnaud can bring some respect to a program that won just three contests last season.
This season's sleeper may be senior Joe Ganz from Nebraska, who was a star in place of Sam Keller last season. In those three starts, Ganz threw for 15 touchdowns, including seven in a 77-31 victory over Kansas State.
Aside from a national title and potential Heisman winner, five quarterbacks on the list (Bradford, Daniel, Harrell, McCoy, and Reesing) are on the Davey O'Brien Award watch list for the nation's best quarterback, while six (Bradford, Daniel, Harrell, McCoy, Reesing, and Robinson) are on the Maxwell Award watch list given out to the most outstanding player in college football.
And heck, maybe we'll even get those tumbleweeds.