There are 39 bowl games plus a national championship this year, but with the college football regular season finished, let's take stock of the regular season, conference by conference, with league awards and grades for every Power Five team. The series already covered the ACC and Big Ten. We continue with the Big 12.
Offensive Player of the Year: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. There couldn't be a more obvious choice. Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the seventh player to finish in the top five of the voting three times. The former walk-on is on pace to break his own FBS single-season passer rating record. He has completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns and five interceptions, averaging 11.8 yards per attempt. With a strong arm and a knack for improvising, Mayfield has thrived behind a veteran offensive line with the play-calling of coordinator-turned-head-coach Lincoln Riley, leading the Sooners to their third straight Big 12 title and second College Football Playoff bid in three years. Mayfield has been the best player in the nation; he's clearly the best player in the Big 12.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma. Okoronkwo was a rising star last season, and he stepped his game up to another level as the biggest impact player on an inconsistent Oklahoma defense. Okoronkwo has racked up 71 tackles, 17 ½ tackles for loss, eight sacks, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups. He's a disruptive player and effective pass rusher who fell off a bit at the end of the season, in terms of production, but still turned in a memorable campaign overall.
Coach of the Year: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma. When Bob Stoops abruptly retired in the middle of the offseason, Oklahoma knew it had the right replacement on staff. Riley is only 34 years old, but he teamed with Baker Mayfield to re-energize the Oklahoma offense the past two seasons and was the clear in-house answer for replacing a legend. Riley proceeded to keep Oklahoma right on track, as the Sooners went 12-1 with another Big 12 championship. They won by 15 at Ohio State in his second game, beat Texas in the Red River Rivalry and swept TCU in the regular season and the Big 12 title game. And Riley has continued to call plays for an offense that leads the nation in yards per play.
Freshman of the Year: CeeDee Lamb, WR, and Trey Sermon, RB, Oklahoma. There's no obvious winner in the Big 12, so let's just go for an Oklahoma sweep of these awards with two impact freshmen who helped the offense continue to perform at a ridiculously high level despite a ton of attrition at the skill positions. Lamb averages 18.6 yards per catch with 40 catches for 741 yards and seven TDs. Sermon has teamed with Rodney Anderson and Abdul Adams to make this a potent backfield, with 119 carries for 710 yards and five TDs. Lamb and Sermon help give Oklahoma a solid foundation moving forward.
How successful should this season be viewed by each team? Grades for each team's season reflect 2017 achievements within the context of program history and expectations.
Oklahoma (12-1): A. Stoops stepped down in the offseason. The Sooners said goodbye to Heisman finalist receiver Dede Westbrook. They lost a pair of NFL running backs in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Their defense was coming off a subpar season. Although the Sooners entered this year as Big 12 favorites, again, after winning back-to-back conference titles, there were some obvious hurdles to making the playoff in Riley's first season as head coach. And yet, despite the loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma has improved. The offense has jumped from 7.54 yards per play, which ranked second nationally in 2016, to a national-best 8.44. The defense has had issues, but it's still taken a small step forward. With the combination of Riley, Mayfield and arguably the nation's best offensive line, Oklahoma has been nearly unstoppable. It has scored over 40 points nine times. It ran away with a victory at Ohio State. It averages more yards per play than any team in the 2000s except for 2006 Hawaii. The Sooners are playoff-bound, and after Stoops brought a national title to Norman in his second season in 2000, Riley has a chance to do it in his first.
Iowa State (7-5): A. On the surface, a 7-5 season doesn't seem like anything special, and maybe there is a little bit of disappointment after the Cyclones lost three of their final four games, when they had been in the hunt for a trip to the Big 12 title game. But Iowa State hadn't done better than 3-9 in any of its past four seasons. It hadn't finished a season with a winning record since 2009. If it wins the Liberty Bowl against Memphis, it will be the school's most wins since going 9-3 in 2000. In the second year under coach Matt Campbell, Iowa State scored a pair of wins over TCU and Oklahoma teams that were undefeated and ranked in the top five at the time of the games. Aside from the 2011 upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State, Iowa State doesn't win those kinds of games. This year, it earned two marquee wins to jump into the national spotlight, and it did so after starting quarterback Jacob Park left the team. There's no doubt that 2017 represented a massive step forward for Iowa State, which has a winning record in Big 12 play for the first time in 17 years.
TCU (10-3): A-. After falling to 6-7 last year, TCU bounced back and became a Big 12 contender again. The Horned Frogs lost three times, and while the defeat at the hands of Iowa State was frustrating, two of those losses came at the hands of Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma's high-powered offense. TCU routed Arkansas on the road, won by double digits at Oklahoma State and held seven opponents to 14 points or less. The Horned Frogs easily boasted the best defense in the Big 12, and after winning a total of 11 games in their first two seasons as Big 12 members, they've won double-digit games for the third time in four years. Falling from the New Year's Six to the Alamo Bowl after losing the Big 12 title game is frustrating, but this has still been yet another successful year for Gary Patterson in a successful transition from the Mountain West to the Big 12.
Oklahoma State (9-3): B. With senior quarterback Mason Rudolph and the nation's deepest receiving corps returning, Oklahoma State boasted high hopes of ousting rival Oklahoma at the top of the Big 12 and making a playoff push. Rudolph (4,553 yards), James Washington (Biletnikoff Award) and the Cowboys put up big offensive numbers, as expected, with an average of 46.3 points per game. However, they lost at home by 13 to TCU, by 10 to Oklahoma and by five to Kansas State. Those three home losses put the Cowboys in third place in the Big 12, as they didn't get a shot at the conference title and instead will head to the Russell Athletic Bowl. It's a bit of a disappointment for a team that started the season ranked 10th, but the Cowboys have a chance for 10-plus wins for the sixth time in eight years with a bowl win, and this will be the first time ever that they will finish ranked in the AP poll in three straight seasons.
Texas Tech (6-6): B-. The Red Raiders lost a first-round pick at quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, but they increased their win total by one to get back to the postseason. That improved, and Kliff Kingsbury keeping his job, means that this season qualifies as a mild success. Plus, the defense did finally take a step forward, going from 126th to 71st in yards per play allowed and 128th to 94th in points allowed. The defense still has issues, but this season represented clear improvement in the third year under coordinator David Gibbs after a disastrous 2016 for the unit. The Red Raiders won nonconference games against Arizona State and Houston, and just when Big 12 play was appearing to be a lost cause, they ended their regular season by beating Texas 27-23 in Austin to get to bowl eligibility.
Kansas State (7-5): C+. Give the Wildcats points for how the season ended, at least. Hopes of being a Big 12 sleeper -- they started the year 20th in the AP poll -- were abruptly dashed early, thanks to an ugly loss at Vanderbilt, then three straight losses to Texas, TCU and Oklahoma. But after a 3-4 start, Kansas State won four of its last five regular-season games, including an impressive 45-40 victory at Oklahoma State and a last-second one-point win over Iowa State. Kansas State averaged over six yards per play on offense. It had a knack for playing in tight games, with seven games decided by a touchdown or less: three wins and four losses. It hasn't been a great season, but a bowl win would make the ending impressive after Bill Snyder's 78th birthday.
West Virginia (7-5): C+. After going 4-0 in close games during a 10-3 season that didn't feature a marquee win in 2016, West Virginia faced some regression with a revamped defense. The Mountaineers hung around the top 25 for much of the season, but they lost their opener to Virginia Tech and were clearly a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 team rather than a contender. Of course, an injury to quarterback Will Grier against Texas on Nov. 18 made things worse, as the Mountaineers fell in that game, then had little hope of keeping up with Oklahoma in the regular-season finale. The defense fell from 57th to 108th in yards per play allowed, as the Mountaineers allowed 31.6 points per game. Big plays from Grier and the West Virginia offense weren't enough to overcome those issues, especially because the Mountaineers had a positive turnover margin in only two games, against Kansas and East Carolina.
Texas (6-6): C. Tom Herman's first season saw decidedly mixed results: The Longhorns opened the season by giving up 51 points in a loss to Maryland, and they couldn't get over the hump in close losses to USC, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. They had a chance to end their regular season on a three-game winning streak after winning at West Virginia, but instead they lost a Nov. 24 home game to Texas Tech. The Longhorns made strides on defense, but they juggled quarterbacks, with Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger both playing. Most important: The running game was a mess, as Ehlinger, a quarterback who shared time, led the team with 364 rushing yards behind a line that was far too inconsistent when star left tackle Connor Williams got hurt. The Longhorns at least got to six wins to avoid missing the postseason for the third straight years, but they need to beat Missouri in the Texas Bowl to avoid a fourth straight losing record.
Kansas (1-11): D-. With some talent on defense returning after a late-season win over Texas in 2016, there was hope for the Jayhawks to take a moderate step forward in David Beaty's third season as coach. Instead, Kansas won its season-opener against Southeast Missouri State, an FCS team, and then lost 11 games in a row. The Jayhawks were shut out by Iowa State and TCU and held to three points by Oklahoma, and they lost by 29 to Baylor, which didn't win another game. The Jayhawks rank 125th in Football Outsiders' S&P+ ratings and 123rd in the Massey composite rankings. They rank 124th in yards per play on offense and 115th on defense. Beaty is now 3-33 in three seasons.
Baylor (1-11): N/A. There's no fair way to assess Matt Rhule's Year 1 performance. The season was undoubtedly frustrating and worse than expected: Baylor lost close games to Liberty and UTSA to open the season, and it never recovered. Despite giving Oklahoma and West Virginia close games, the Bears' only win came against Kansas. The biggest positive is that freshman Charlie Brewer appears to be a viable, promising option at quarterback moving forward, and Denzel Mims is an impressive playmaker at wide receiver. But, ultimately, this couldn't help but be a transition year: Under acting coach Jim Grobe, Baylor lost its last six regular-season games in 2016. Rhule took over a young and thin roster coming out of a scandal, and with little depth, Baylor just didn't have the pieces to compete in the Big 12 this season. Despite the 1-11 record, Rhule can't be judged based on what happened in 2017. It was a post-scandal reset, and thus we can consider this grade "incomplete." Rhule will be judged based on how he builds the Bears back up moving forward.
Sports on Earth All-Big 12 Team
QB: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
RB: Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
RB: David Montgomery, Iowa State
WR: James Washington, Oklahoma State
WR: David Sills, West Virginia
TE: Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
OL: Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
OL: Dalton Risner, Kansas State
OL: Erick Wren, Oklahoma
OL: Ben Powers, Oklahoma
OL: Zach Crabtree, Oklahoma State
DE: Ben Banogu, TCU
DT: Will Geary, Kansas State
DT: Daniel Wise, Kansas
LB: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
LB: Malik Jefferson, Texas
LB: Joel Lanning, Iowa State
LB: Joe Dineen, Kansas
CB: D.J. Reed, Kansas State
CB: Ranthony Texada, TCU
S: DeShon Elliott, Texas
S: Kyzir White, West Virginia
K: Matthew McCrane, Kansas State
P: Michael Dickson, Texas