It’s been a fun 15 weeks, but it’s time to look back and hand out my awards for the best of a memorable season of Big 12 football.
Best offensive player: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. There shouldn’t be any debate here. Petty has been consistent, efficient and far and away the best offensive talent in the Big 12 this season. Only Jameis Winston has a higher passer rating this season, and Petty accounted for 41 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He threw for 30 scores and completed 220-of-356 passes (61.4 percent) for 3,844 yards. In a thin year for quarterbacks in the Big 12, he stood out far above the rest.
Best defensive player: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas. Performance in conference play. Jeffcoat narrowly edges Kansas State’s Ryan Mueller for me here thanks to a big final weekend against Baylor. Jeffcoat had 18 tackles for loss, but 16.5 of those came in nine Big 12 games. No other Big 12 player had more than 14 in conference play. All 12 of his sacks came in Big 12 play, too. Mueller had just 9.5 in his nine games.
Best special teams player: Anthony Fera, K/P Texas. Fera’s a good punter, but he gets this award because of his placekicking efforts.Oklahoma’s Michael Hunnicutt made more kicks than Fera, but Fera was 6-of-7 from beyond 40 yards and had a higher overall percentage than any Big 12 kicker. Hunnicutt was just 2-of-3 on kicks longer than 40 yards.
Best coach: Art Briles, Baylor. The Bears weren’t just Big 12 champs. They looked more dominant than any team in the conference for much of the season. Anybody who was paying attention knew Baylor had the talent to win the Big 12. Briles helped maximize that roster and has Baylor on the way to its first BCS bowl in school history.
Best freshman: Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma. He narrowly edges out Baylor running back Shock Linwood for this award, but both filled in admirably for injured stars. Oklahoma linebacker Corey Nelson went down in early October, but Alexander stepped into the spotlight and excelled. He logged four double-digit tackle games in his seven starts, and had 3.5 tackles for loss with a forced fumble.
Best newcomer: Charles Sims, RB, WVU. Sims sadly won’t get much national recognition after West Virginia’s disappointing 4-8 campaign, but he’s a do-it-all back who accounted for 1,496 yards of offense and 14 touchdowns. He was just 15 yards short of capturing the Big 12 regular season rushing title and earned himself a whole bunch of money after transferring to WVU from Houston. He’ll wow people at the combine and Dana Holgorsen lauded him for his efforts on and off the field all season.
Best quote: Paul Rhoads, Iowa State. It doesn’t get much more quote-worthy than this, friends. Take it away, Paul. He received a reprimand for his comments, but I can’t blame him for sticking up for his guys. Most people I talked to around the league in the aftermath of his presser agreed.
Best moment: Art Briles, Baylor. You want to know what doing something after six years of being told you can’t do it looks like? Look no further than a crying Art Briles on the podium accepting the Big 12 title trophy and later watching his players celebrate after giving an emotional speech to the crowd who had just rushed the field in Floyd Casey Stadium’s final game.
Best offensive play: Dreamius Smith, RB, WVU. You forgot about this play, didn’t you? West Virginia’s juco transfer made Marshawn Lynch proud with this 75-yard score that had it all. Broken tackles, power moves, jukes and straight-line speed.
Second-best offensive play: Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech. I couldn’t keep it to just one play. This was incredible. The focus, the body control and the coordination to haul in the catch despite being interfered with.
Best defensive play: Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State. Speaking of things I can’t explain, I’d like to thank Mr. Mueller for showing me something I’ve never seen on a football field and may never see again.
Best special teams play: Grant Bothun, Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma. Bothun’s quarterback rating is off the charts after this play, which tied the game in the third quarter of Oklahoma’s eventual win over rival Oklahoma State.
Most impressive win: Oklahoma State over Baylor. Plenty of people thought Oklahoma State could beat Baylor, but nobody thought OSU could dominate both sides of the ball the way it did against the Bears in a 49-17 win that gave the Cowboys the inside track to the Big 12 title.
Best turnaround: Kansas State. The Wildcats were 2-4 with no quality wins and a loss to FCS North Dakota State at midseason. They finished the year 5-1 to crash the top half of the Big 12 and reach the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. That stretch included three blowout wins and the only loss came to Sugar Bowl-bound Oklahoma.
Worst turnaround: Texas Tech. Few bought into Texas Tech as a legitimate top 10 team after a 7-0 start, but the Red Raiders looked like at least a nine-win team through a shaky start that included two double-digit deficits. The Red Raiders haven’t won since reaching 7-0 with a win at West Virginia on Oct. 19 and finished 7-5 with a ticket to the Holiday Bowl.
Biggest surprise: Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor. Goodley had just 171 yards receiving last year and most assumed Tevin Reese would be the top option for Bryce Petty this season. Goodley topped 90 yards in nine of 12 games this season and caught a touchdown pass in all but two games to capture the Big 12 receiving title with 1,319 yards and 13 touchdowns on 67 catches.
Biggest disappointment: TCU. The Horned Frogs had their share of injuries to stars like Devonte Fields and Casey Pachall, but fellow stars Waymon James and Brandon Carter fell out of Gary Patterson’s good graces at different points throughout the year and one of the Big 12’s preseason favorites fell to 4-8 to miss a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
Best busted streak: Kansas. The Jayhawks snapped a 27-game losing streak in Big 12 play, just two short of Baylor’s all-time record. The fans celebrated in style, tossing the goalposts into Potter Lake, per tradition.
Best photo: This return by Josh Stewart came at the expense of a whole bunch of Frogs, and gave us this amazing photo. Seriously, Oklahoma State, I better be invited the next time you have a pancake breakfast.
Worst play: Mike Davis, WR, Texas. The hit itself is only slightly worse than the Big 12 letting Davis get away with just a reprimand. Davis non-apology followed by a video apology didn’t help his case much, either. It wasn’t exactly dripping with sincerity.
Most unabashed trolling: John Mackey Award. Here’s reality: Jace Amaro is by far the nation’s best tight end. Mackey Award officials declined to reclassify him as a tight end after Tommy Tuberville’s staff requested he be considered only a receiver back in 2012. He was excluded from the original watch list and a midseason update. Then, he was included on the list of semifinalists, which most assumed would be the end of the issue and the beginning of Amaro’s official award campaign. Then the Mackey Award officials didn’t include him on the list of three finalists? Really? Amaro’s numbers dwarf the three players the award chose, and so does his NFL potential. Silliness.