I came to Dallas Sunday night with a few things on my mind, questions I hope to find answers to over the coming days here as we talk with the coaches and players about their teams, schedules and chances for success in 2009.
Here are just a few of the topics we'll be exploring. There are always bound to be surprises as well, such as last week at media days in the Southeastern Conference when a reporter asked Florida quarterback Tim Tebow if he was a virgin.
Who is going to beat Oklahoma?
The Sooners are three-time defending conference champions coming into this season. Sure, plenty of folks in Texas believe the Longhorns rightfully belonged in last year's game by virtue of their victory over OU, but it didn't work out that way. Does anyone have the stuff to dethrone the Sooners, who bring back a lot of talent, including the reigning Heisman Trophy winner?
I'm expecting business as usual from Bill, but of more interest will be how he is able to produce this season and in the future considering his age and the demands of the game at this level. Snyder is obviously capable, but I'm not convinced he will succeed this time around.
Why are so many so high on Nebraska in the North Division?
I would certainly put the Cornhuskers in the mix for the division title and a berth in the Big 12 championship in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium here in December, but this is also a team that needed a miracle 57-yard field goal to beat a mediocre Colorado team in Lincoln, Neb., last year. I'm sort of feeling like Kansas got robbed in the preseason media poll. After all, the Jayhawks have one of the league's best returning starters at quarterback. Big Red is trying to replace its signal caller, and that's always dicey.
How are the Missouri Tigers dealing with losing so many big contributors to their success over the past two years and the upheaval in the coaching staff for the first time in nine seasons?
There is still plenty of talent left in Columbia, Mo., and the Tigers don't play anyone outside of Illinois in the nonconference schedule. This is still a bowl team and could be much better than some believe if its young players step in and play at a high level the way they seem to at Oklahoma and Texas year after year.
Is this the best Baylor team since the program joined the Big 12?
I have to think so. Quarterback Robert Griffin could be the best player in the conference in another year or two. He's dynamic and coach Art Briles is surrounding him with nice complementary players in an offense perfectly suited to his skills. The defense is also a strong veteran bunch led by free safety Jordan Lake and All-Big 12 linebacker Joe Pawelek.
What will we get from Texas Tech coach Mike Leach?
Leach is always good for something quirky or funny. It might be a story from the offseason or just his no-nonsense view of the world. This is a guy who has proposed a 64-team playoff in the past and once did the weather on the nightly news in Lubbock.
He's a fun guy to cover despite the fact he severely limits who you can talk to in his program from week to week.
And finally, speaking of interesting perspectives, what will Colorado coach Dan Hawkins have to say about the Buffs?
The guy already ratcheted up the pressure on himself and his players with his 10-win forecast for 2009 way back in December. I've been in Dallas less than 12 hours and a handful of fellow reporters already have asked me if Hawkins is on the hot seat, and it not, why not? Plenty of people are going to want to hear for themselves why Hawk is so confident about his team with so many questions still surrounding it.