1. Move over Pac-10: At least for now the Big 12 has the best set of quarterbacks alive. Ten of the conference's 12 starters return. Start with Heisman finalist Chase Daniel at Missouri. Both Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Graham Harrell of Texas Tech are Heisman candidates. Bradford was the NCAA pass efficiency leader as a redshirt freshman. Kansas' Todd Reesing led the Jayhawks to the best record among BCS conference schools.
It says something when Texas' Colt McCoy might be the fifth-best quarterback in the league.
2. First-year blues for the Blackshirts in the red jerseys: Don't assume that Bo Pelini is going to turn it around right away at Nebraska. Sure, he is this moment's Next Hot Model but there are significant issues in Lincoln.
He inherits only 11 returning starters, tied for the second fewest in the Big 12 (with Texas). The defense can't be rebuilt in a day, or even four months. Pelini is a defensive wizard but he will need time and players.
For all his talents, Pelini is still a first-time head coach (not counting his one-game interim coach win in the Alamo Bowl five years ago for Nebraska). The other 11 Big 12 coaches were a combined 57-75-1 in their first year as a head coach.
3. The Heisman Thing: There are at least five legitimate Heisman candidates in the league this season. That's probably a record for this young league. As I've always said, in late July I'm a candidate. But watch these guys closer:
--Daniel. A 2007 finalist could be the favorite to win if Tim Tebow falters and Missouri wins 12 games again.
--Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Set an NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yards last season. Should become more of a go-to receiver this season.
--Bradford. Playing behind a massive offensive line.
--Harrell. If Tech plays 14 games (regular season + conference championship game + bowl) Harrell would need to average only 456 yards per game to become the game's all-time leading passer.
--Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree. If that happens then Crabtree will another monster year like 2007 when he caught almost 2,000 yards worth of passes.
4. North Rising: There is a definite shift in power. Four years ago the North Division was 3-15 against the South. Two years ago the North won three non-conference games against BCS-conference schools. Last year both Missouri and Kansas finished in the top 10. Nebraska and Colorado are on the way up.
5. Showdown at Arrowhead: Get a hotel room in Kansas City for late November and early December. The Big 12 race comes down to Cowtown. Missouri and Kansas play in Kansas City on Nov. 29. The Big 12 championship is at Arrowhead a week later. If either the Tigers or the Jayhawks win the North, they would have a decided advantage playing against the South champion in what would amount to a home game at 80,000-seat Arrowhead.