It was a sunny day in November at Jones AT&T Stadium. Patrick Mahomes’ second game as a starter would prove to be his coming out party. A struggling Oklahoma squad came to town attempting to salvage a lost season while the Red Raiders looked to Mahomes to lead them into the future. Mahomes did not disappoint.
The sophomore absolutely shredding the Sooner secondary by tossing four touchdowns with no interceptions. The Red Raiders ultimately lost the game but they found their man. In the wake of losing walk-on Baker Mayfield to transfer and injuries to Davis Webb, Mahomes became the next commander-in-chief of the Texas Tech offense.
Fast forward to 2016 and Mahomes is primed to bring Tech over the hump and into the Big 12 title conversation. In order for the Red Raiders to do so, Mahomes must be not only the best quarterback in Texas — a state that includes Greg Ward, Jr. (Houston) and Seth Russell (Baylor) — but the best quarterback in the conference. Something he is more than capable of doing.
In a little over a season’s worth of play, Mahomes has blistered the secondaries of the Big 12, throwing for 52 touchdowns and only 19 interceptions. He’s a matchup nightmare for any defense no matter how talented. He has the arm to make any throw, he has the accuracy to put the ball in tight windows and he has the legs to scramble and pick up good yardage. Other teams have yet to figure out exactly how to stop him.
Texas Tech’s schedule sets up to showcase Mahomes’ talent. A primetime game in the desert against Arizona State is the perfect opportunity to not only establish Mahomes as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league but possibly even a Heisman campaign. The Sun Devils return one starter to a secondary that gave up the most yards passing in the entire country — 338 yards per game. While Arizona State will surely look to improve in pass defense, the likelihood that improvement will come by week 2 against Mahomes is too tall a task.
Not to mention that West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas all have to travel to Lubbock. Tech’s tougher road games in conference are against TCU and Oklahoma State, and they’ll have to throw down with Baylor in Arlington, TX. However, the schedule is very nice for the Red Raider faithful.
It could very well come down to the showdown against Oklahoma. Former Red Raider Baker Mayfield will make his first and only return to Jones AT&T where Texas Tech will be looking to give him a warm greeting. Mahomes will obviously see this as an opportunity to leave no doubt who the best quarterback in the league will be.
There are times when great quarterbacks lift up teams with otherwise average units. It is no secret that Texas Tech’s defense is still poor. They cannot stop the run or get the stops necessary to avoid shootouts week in and week out. It is possible however that Mahomes leadership and play can elevate his teammates across the board. Maybe not for an entire season but for individual games.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury knows how to cater to his quarterback’s strengths. For all his defensive lacking, Kingsbury understands how to bring out the full potential of Mahomes in the pass-happy Red Raider offense. That includes the motivation of being the best quarterback in the conference.
Mahomes vs Russell. Mahomes vs Rudolph. Mahomes vs. Mayfield. These are heavyweight fights. This is what makes the Big 12 such an exciting conference.
Texas Tech is an interesting squad. Many fans don’t give them much of a shot to win the conference but understand how much of a trap they are. They have the ability to beat any team on their schedule. Will that ability translate into 10+ wins. At this point — without seeing any defensive improvement — its difficult to see that. But Mahomes is special. Special players have those weird, indescribable abilities to make strange things happen.
With Mahomes at the helm, a Red Raider rampage of the Big 12 may not be such a strange occurrence after all.