The Big 12 made it easy this week. When a game ends in a 66-59 score, top performers are easy to glean, especially in a game loaded with star power. Texas Tech and Oklahoma exchanged big play after big play and gave audiences an entertaining if unconventional contest. Elsewhere in the Big 12, West Virginia stayed unbeaten with a sound victory over TCU while Charlie Strong added a few degrees to his seat following a loss in the home of the offensively-challenged Wildcats. At this point, we are really just waiting for Oklahoma, Baylor, and West Virginia to settle the Big 12 late in the season, with Oklahoma State possibly mixing in if they can pull an upset or two.
Premier Conference Performers
QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech Red Raiders
52/88 for 734 yards, five touchdowns and one interception; 12 carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns
819 total yards. It is a number hard to achieve on easy mode in the sadly defunct EA Sports NCAA Football. Yet it is what Patrick Mahomes managed to hang on an Oklahoma defense which has been gashed frequently this season. It was a ‘defense is optional’ type of tilt, so you can’t read too much into it, but Mahomes has continued to eviscerate opposing defenses regardless of his competition or supporting cast. Really only West Virginia has managed to keep him under wraps. He is certainly not without warts, but I will continue to bang the drum for him as an underrated draft prospect.
RB Joe Mixon, Okahoma Sooners
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31 carries for 263 yards and two touchdowns; four receptions for 113 yards and three touchdowns
After a quiet two game stretch, Joe Mixon again reminded everyone why he is one of the nation’s top backs and deserves mention when talking about the best draft-eligible 2017 runners. The total numbers are quite as notable given Texas Tech appears to be playing with only seven defenders weekly; however, his usage and overall skill-set is incredibly appealing. Mixon can line up out wide and run routes like a receiver and several of his receiving touchdowns this season have allowed him to demonstrate strong hands and advanced ball skills. He’s a perfect fit for modern football and it would not surprise me to see him surpass some more heralded runners in draft status should be declare in 2017.
QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Sooners
27 carries for 545 yards and seven touchdowns; two carries for 19 yards
It is rare for a seven touchdown performance to seem like an afterthought. In some ways, it is the case with Baker Mayfield, as his numbers look pedestrian in comparison to Patrick Mahomes and he looks like a complementary piece next to the Sooners big offensive weapons. In any event, Mayfield still ripped up the Red Raiders and reminded folks he is still a quality collegiate quarterback, for all his foibles. I don’t see much if any NFL upside here but he has really helped take the Sooner offense to the next level.
WR Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma Sooners
Nine receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns
I’ve permanently reserved a spot for Dede Westbrook in this weekly piece. He continues to demolish secondaries and make corners who dare press him in coverage look foolish. The ultra-quick and refined Westbrook has become one of the nation’s elite playmakers and looks like a potential Top 40 pick come next April.
WR Devin Duvernary, Texas Longhorns
One reception for 80 yards and one touchdown
Much like Westbrook although to a lesser scale, we may need to etch (figuratively) the name of Devin Duvernay into this column. A messy Longhorns receiving group has been given some clarity with the emergence of Duvernay, who despite only netting one target against Kansas State made it count with an 80 yard touchdown. With sudden acceleration and elite long speed, he’s already one of the conference’s better deep threats and does yeoman work in the short-passing game as well. He’s gaining comfort in this offense with each passing week and looks like a potential superstar for the Longhorns.
Derrick Willies, WR Texas Tech Red Raiders
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A fairly highly regarded junior college transfer and former Iowa Hawkeye, many thought Derrick Willies could smoothly transition into the Big 12 and become one of the Red Raiders’ focal points on offense. With a large frame accompanied by plus athleticism, he had the appealing physical profile which teams get excited about. Unfortunately, the early returns have been negligible as Willies has caught only nine passes despite Texas Tech slinging it around the yard seemingly thousands of times per game. The learning curve can be steep for junior college transfers, and you cannot write the book on his career just yet. But he is not rewarding those who took a gamble on him out of the JUCO ranks.
QB Shane Buechele, Texas Longhorns
17/24 for 222 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
Shane Buechele has been featured here before, but the Longhorns are trotting out a ton of true freshmen and we have not unearthed any hidden gems here as we hit midseason so I am going to take the easy way out. While he has cooled a touch since the season’s opening two weeks, Buechele has still been remarkably consistent for a true freshman quarterback and has routinely showcased plus arm talent along with enough athleticism to make plays with his feet and evade pressure. Texas is pretty loaded with youth at the skill positions; this group has the potential to develop into one of the best offenses in the nation assuming they mature under Charlie Strong’s (or whomever the next head coach is) watch. Despite less than prototypical size, Buechele is big enough, and he’s near the top of the class for 2019 quarterbacks despite being part of a gifted group.