- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here's what we learned after an up-and-down opening week in the Big 12:
Baker Mayfield might be a walk-on, but he can play: It didn’t take long for the rest of us to see why freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield won Texas Tech’s starting QB job. While accounting for five touchdowns in the 41-23 win over SMU, Mayfield displayed a rocket arm, an aggressive mentality and a great deal of savvy. The Red Raiders are hoping to get Michael Brewer back, perhaps as soon as next month. But if Mayfield keeps performing the way he did against SMU, it’s difficult to see coach Kliff Kingsbury going with a different quarterback.
The defenses in the Sooner State might be better: Inconsistent defense has plagued Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in recent seasons. Both teams have fielded some of the most prolific offenses in the country, but this season, they might have the defenses to go along with those offensive attacks. In their opener, the Cowboys obliterated Mississippi State up front, and kept the Bulldogs from scoring again after the opening drive. The Sooners completely blanked Louisiana-Monroe in a 34-0 rout. Both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will face better offenses down the line. But it was a promising debut for both units.
Kansas State, West Virginia and Iowa State have a long way to go: Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said as much after his club narrowly escaped FCS opponent William & Mary. Kansas State and Iowa State weren’t so lucky. The Wildcats fell at home to North Dakota State, while Iowa State lost to Northern Iowa. All three Big 12 teams are in rebuilding mode, which was pretty evident this weekend.
TCU is winless, but it is going to win plenty of games: In a 37-27 defeat to LSU, TCU showed it belonged on the field with one of the top teams in the SEC. Even without All-American defensive end Devonte Fields, TCU’s front held up against LSU’s powerful run game, and the Horned Frogs' defensive backs made several plays against the pass. Quarterbacks Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin made their share of plays, too, especially Boykin, who pulled TCU to within a field goal midway through the fourth quarter. The Frogs will have to hash out their quarterback situation. But the defense is in place, and enough playmakers exist on offense for this team to contend in the Big 12.
The QB run game will be a big part of the Big 12: Over the years, the Big 12 has been defined by the arms of its quarterbacks. This season, it could be their legs, too. Both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma won their openers by leaning on the quarterback run game. J.W. Walsh replaced starter Clint Chelf and rushed for 125 yards to lead the Cowboys to the win. In his debut, Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight ran for 103 yards. Boykin and Kansas State’s Daniel Sams also pulled off big plays with their wheels in relief of starters Pachall and Jake Waters. Even Mayfield and Texas’ David Ash showed plenty of mobility in their openers. The pass will remain the Big 12’s calling card. But many of these passers can really run, too.