The Big 12 got exactly what it needed in 2015 – a playoff team. After missing out on the College Football Playoff last season, the conference had an offseason filled with more discussion about a conference championship game and whether or not expansion was needed. But as many have suggested, patience was the right course of action. Oklahoma emerged as the league’s best team, while Baylor was in the mix for a playoff spot before injuries to its quarterbacks took a toll. Additionally, Oklahoma State and TCU finished with 10 victories and are matched in some of college football’s top bowl games this season.
While the league still needs help from its second tier in the standings this season – Texas, West Virginia and Texas Tech – to take a step forward on the national scene, a playoff team was a victory for the Big 12. And with plenty of talent returning at Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU next season, the conference should be poised to take another step forward in 2016.
With the regular season completed and bowl season starting on Dec. 19, it’s time to recap and look back at the 2015 campaign. Athlon Sports offers its awards and honors the best players in the league with the first and second all-conference teams for the Big 12:
Big 12 2015 Season Awards
Offensive Player of the Year: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
From walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech to Heisman contender at Oklahoma. Mayfield’s career path is one of the most interesting storylines of the 2015 season, as the Texas native – along with coordinator Lincoln Riley – was the catalyst behind an improved Oklahoma offense. Mayfield threw for 3,389 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushed for 420 yards and seven scores. The junior’s ability to escape the pocket was also a huge asset in keeping plays alive downfield for an Oklahoma offense that averaged 45.8 points per game.
Runner Up: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Defensive Player of the Year: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Billings suffered an ankle injury against West Virginia in late October, but the junior continued to dominate the line of scrimmage. In 11 games, Billings recorded 14 tackles for a loss, including five over Baylor’s final three contests. Additionally, Billings finished the year with 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble and three quarterback hurries. The junior’s ability to dominate the interior of the line is a big reason why Baylor’s defensive front was one of the best in the Big 12 this year.
Runner Up: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Coach of the Year: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
A strong case could be made for TCU’s Gary Patterson after all of the injuries and roster turnover the Horned Frogs had to overcome in 2015. However, Stoops earns the nod as Athlon Sports’ Big 12 Coach of the Year. Stoops pushed all of the right buttons with staff and personnel changes after an 8-5 record last season, guiding the Sooners to an 11-1 mark in 2015 and a Big 12 title.
Runner Up: Gary Patterson, TCU
Freshman of the Year (Offensive): Mike Warren, RB, Iowa State
Warren is a building block for new coach Matt Campbell to look forward to in 2016. The redshirt freshman was one of six Big 12 players to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in 2015, finishing with 1,339 yards and five scores on 227 carries. Warren also ranked third in the league by averaging 111.6 yards per contest posted one 200-yard game (Texas Tech).
Runner Up: Connor Williams, OL, Texas/Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Freshman of the Year (Defensive): Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Coach Charlie Strong is searching for the right mix and players on offense, but some of the pieces are starting to fall into place on defense for the Longhorns. Jefferson is a rising star in Austin and should push for All-America honors next season. As a true freshman in 2015, Jefferson played in 11 games and recorded 61 stops. Seven of Jefferson’s tackles went for a loss, while forcing one fumble and three pass breakups.
Runner Up: Ty Summers, LB, TCU
Coordinator of the Year: Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
Riley was the perfect hire for an Oklahoma offense looking for a spark and a return to an Air Raid-style of attack. After a successful stint at East Carolina, Riley was hired by Bob Stoops after the 2014 season and guided the Sooners to an average of 47.2 points in Big 12-only matchups in 2015. Oklahoma averaged 6.95 yards per play and led the conference with nine plays of 60 yards or more.
Runner Up: Kendal Briles, OC, Baylor/Tony Gibson, DC, West Virginia
Newcomer of the Year: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
In addition to offensive player of the year honors, Mayfield takes home the Athlon Sports Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award. The Texas Tech transfer finished third among Big 12 quarterbacks by averaging 317.4 total yards per game and led the conference with a quarterback rating of 178.86.
Runner Up: Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma/Demond Tucker, DL, Iowa State
Breakout Player: Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
Mahomes finished 2014 by throwing 14 touchdown passes over Texas Tech’s final three games. The sophomore picked up where he left off this season, throwing for 4,283 yards and 32 scores. He also rushed for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns and led the Big 12 by averaging 356.9 passing yards per game.
Runner Up: Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia
Big 12 2015 Postseason All-Conference Team
QB Trevone BoykinTCU
DeAndre WashingtonTexas Tech
RB Mike WarrenIowa State
RB Shock LinwoodBaylor
WR James WashingtonOklahoma State
WR Jakeem GrantTexas Tech
WR Allen LazardIowa State
Wendell Smallwood (RB)West Virginia
AP Winston Dimel (FB)Kansas State
Tyler OrloskyWest Virginia
C Ty DarlingtonOklahoma
OT Joseph NoteboomTCU
Cody WhitehairKansas State
OT Le'Raven ClarkTexas Tech
OL Joey Hunt (C)TCU
OG Boston StiversonKansas State
Emmanuel OgbahOklahoma State
DE Jordan WillisKansas State
DE Jamal PalmerBaylor
DT Davion PiersonTCU
DL Josh CarrawayTCU
LB Malik JeffersonTexas
LB Jordan BurtonOklahoma State
Nick KwiatkoskiWest Virginia
LB Peter JinkensTexas
CB Xavien HowardBaylor
Daryl WorleyWest Virginia
CB Kevin PetersonOklahoma State
DB Jordan Thomas (CB)Oklahoma
S Jordan SternsOklahoma State
K Clayton HatfieldTexas Tech
Nick O'TooleWest Virginia
P Austin SeibertOklahoma
Morgan BurnsKansas State
KR Jakeem GrantTexas Tech
PR Daje JohnsonTexas