12 Best of the Big 12: Baker Mayfield is cream of the crop

We all know this: It’s Baker Mayfield’s Big 12, at least for another two weeks.

The Oklahoma quarterback, aka the walk-on transfer turned Heisman Trophy winner, is the toast of college football. He’s won just about every award around. And he’s still up to his old trolling tricks. There’s a photo of Mayfield posing with Wall Street’s Charging Bull statue, flashing the horns down sign. There was Thursday’s tweet, semi-mocking former Sooners quarterback Chris Robison, who now plays for Florida Atlantic. The two teams will kick off the 2018 against each other.

There’s no question Mayfield is this season’s best on-field player in the Big 12. He’s an emphatic No. 1 on the American-Statesman’s Big 12 of the Big 12, postseason version, as the Sooners carry the conference fortunes in the national semifinals against Georgia.

The Statesman annually ranks the league’s 12 best players, regardless of position, in the preseason and postseason. It’s kind of like a recruiting list of high school prospects, except the players on the Big 12 board have proved to be exceptional. Separating them is a matter of nuance.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart was touting Mayfield earlier this week, explaining why it’s so difficult to defend the quarterback’s creative skill set. Basically, he said, Mayfield is built like a stocky running back, a “wildcat quarterback who can throw it really good.”

“I don’t think you are going to contain this guy,” Smart said. “He can escape when he wants to escape. So you have to invite him to stay. He can make throws from the pocket or you have to flush him out and have someone athletic enough to get him on the ground.”

Mayfield’s 598 yards passing against Oklahoma State were the best performance by a Big 12 quarterback this season. He’s also accounted for 75 plays of at least 20 yards this year. That’s best in the nation.

While Mayfield is the best of the best, the Big 12 also can claim that its collective glittery stars are the brightest in the nation.

Mayfield wasn’t the only league quarterback to win a national honor. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, the Statesman’s preseason No. 1, earned the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. It’s presented to the nation’s top senior quarterback, but it counts community service and academic achievement along with on-field stats.

“Mason represents our football program the right way,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “He’s won a ton of games for us. He’s played with broken ribs, he’s played with a broken foot, and he’s been tremendous for this school and tremendous for society. I had a conversation with his mom and dad and told them for everything that he’s done (on the field), as a parent, you should be more proud of what he’s done (in the community). He’s awesome.”

Mayfield was a finalist. It’s about the only time on the awards circuit that he hasn’t offered victory remarks.

Mayfield also collected the Davey O’Brien, Maxwell and Walter Camp trophies.

OU’s Mark Andrews won the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end. Oklahoma State’s James Washington picked up the Biletnikoff as the country’s top receiver. And Texas’ Michael Dickson won the Ray Guy Award, signifying the nation’s top punter.

The Big 12 also produced six consensus All-Americans, the most of any conference in the country. All six were unanimous selections. And if that’s not enough glitter, a mock draft produced by CBS Sports on Thursday listed eight conference players being selected in next year’s first round of the NFL draft.

Here’s our list of the Big 12’s best 12:

1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: He beat teams because he’s the most efficient guy in history. During the Big 12 title game this month, Mayfield moved ahead of former Sooner Heisman winner Sam Bradford in career passing efficiency, 176.03-175.62. If it stays there, it’s a national record. His yearlong rating is 203.76. He’s poised to be the first FBS quarterback to exceed 200 for a season.

2. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma: The tackle is considered the top offensive lineman in the country. He was a unanimous All-American. CBS Sports projects Brown as the No. 2 pick for next April’s NFL draft.

3. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: The quarterback led the nation in passing with 379 yards per game. He also topped the country with the most completions of more than 50 yards (14).

4. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma: Statistically, he’s the top tight end in country with 58 receptions and the perfect buster of a zone defense.

5. Michael Dickson, Texas: Yes, he’s a punter. But have you seen him kick? He averaged more than 48 yards per punt to lead the nation. He had 14 kicks exceeding 60 yards. More than 40 percent of his punts were downed inside the 20.

6. James Washington, Oklahoma State: Led all Power Five receivers in yardage. But revel in this stat: Washington averaged more than 20 yards per catch. And he had 69 receptions. Amazing.

7. David Sills, West Virginia: The Mountaineers receiver could be called Mr. Touchdown. He led the nation with 18 of them, six better than the next Power Five wideout (Washington).

8. Mat Boesen, TCU: The defensive end’s 11½ sacks topped all other Power Five defenders. And all the sacks came in league games.

9. D.J. Reed, Kansas State: He was second in the country in both kickoff and punt return average. On defense, Reed, a cornerback, had four picks with nine pass breakups.

10. Malik Jefferson, Texas: The Longhorns middle linebacker was one of four league defenders with more than 100 tackles. He had 79 solos.

11. DeShon Elliott, Texas: The safety was a unanimous All-American, thanks to his six interceptions, two of them of the pick-six variety.

12. Joel Lanning, Iowa State: How’s this for a true two-way player? The former starting quarterback switched to linebacker. His 110 tackles were third in the Big 12. He rushed for 115 yards and completed three passes.

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