Remember when Texas was back? I do, because I made the foolish prognostication following their toppling of the Irish in week one. The win over Notre Dame looks pedestrian at this point, and the Longhorns defense has been unable to stop anyone as teams pile up point after point on Charlie Strong’s crew. There are the annual calls for Strong to be fired, and while I personally believe he deserves another year given the work he had to do in the post-Mack Brown era, it is looking more and more likely Texas will start over after the year. The Big 12 looks wide open and unless Baylor can run the table, it looks unlikely to field a playoff team this year.
Premier Conference Performers
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RB Shock Linwood, Baylor Bears
25 carries for 237 yards and one touchdown
Shock Linwood was a devy darling following a strong redshirt freshmen season in which he racked up 881 yards and eight touchdowns in a complementary role. He’s settled in as a productive college runner likely to get lost in a deep 2017 class of runners, but with a few breaks – most notably situation – he could find his niche at the next level. With Baylor’s group of receivers hobbled and Johnny Jefferson out for the season due to personal issues, expect Linwood to continue to pile up huge numbers.
QB Mason Rudolph
19/28 for 392 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
It may have been against Texas’ barely-there defense, but Mason Rudolph was nearly flawless this past Saturday in leading the Cowboys to a win over the Longhorns. There’s a lot to like about the true junior signal-caller, including size, touch, and deep ball flair. I personally feel he is best situated staying another year, but depending on who declares he has a shot to be one of the first handful of quarterbacks drafted in 2017 if he chooses to declare.
WR Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech Red Raiders
12 receptions for 219 yards and two touchdowns
It is never easy to get a read on Texas Tech skill position players since there is always an absurd amount of room to operate within their wide-open system. But when an individual dominates the market share of his team’s yards, it is worth taking notice. Jonathan Giles has emerged as the clear top target for the Red Raiders, totaling 565 yards through four games with the next closest receiver checking in at 285. Assuming the role of top playmaker following the departure of Jakeem Grant, Giles has thrived and earned notice within a group of sophomore receivers which have been rather pedestrian thus far.
RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma Sooners
16 carries for 105 yards and one touchdown, five receptions for 70 yards
When referring to Joe Mixon as rising, it is not to say he has all of a sudden burst onto the scene. The former five star recruit has been a hot commodity from the moment he committed to Oklahoma. However, despite his on-field success, there still seems to be a bit of reticence when discussing Mixon as one of the top runners in 2017. A powerful runner with a smooth gait and plus receiving skills, he’s seldom mentioned as one of the top backs off the board, but I think he could surprise next April (should he choose to declare) as he offers immediate three down potential and a superstar’s profile. He’s a darkhorse to have the best career of any runner in the 2017 class.
WR John Burt, Texas Longhorns
Two receptions for 16 yards
It wasn’t long ago John Burt was rising on this list. Much like the rest of the Longhorns, he is now descending a bit as he has failed to exceed 36 yards in any game since the opener against Notre Dame. He has not taken the role of number one receiver by the horns, and Texas looks more content to spread it out as their weapons improve across the board. True freshmen Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay are both getting run in this offense and both have more natural talent than the sophomore Burt. It may not be long until his targets really dry up and the opener against the Irish looks more like an outlier than an expected outcome.
WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State Cyclones
Three receptions for 33 yards
Allen Lazard’s season dominance has dissipated, as he has maxed out at 47 yards over his past three games and failed to be the Cyclones leading receiver in any one of them. Additional defensive attention is partly to blame, but you’d like to see uber-talented players overcome the bracket coverage to still dominate. There’s still plenty of talent here; we just may not see the true breakout season we had hoped for.
RB Kyle Porter, Texas Longhorns
7 carries for 29 yards
Kyle Porter has not exploded out of the games, carrying the ball 15 times for 62 yards in two games of action. However, one thing Texas does well is run the football, and Chris Warren’s knee injury looks like it could keep him out for an extended period, if not the entire season. The Longhorns have employed a two back attack all year long with Warren and D’onta Foreman, and with Warren sidelined there are a lot of touches to be had. Porter is physically ready to play at the Big 12 level and the fact he was not redshirted despite the presence of two bellcow runners is promising. While D’onta Foreman will remain the lead back, Porter has been thrust into a huge role on offense and should post quality numbers for a team who has moved the ball fairly consistently on offense. This year’s freshman running back production has come from some of the lesser heralded recruits (Trayveon Williams, Brian Herrien, etc.) and Porter could join this mix.
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