The Big 12 conference is defined by big plays and high-powered offenses more than any other conference in college football. It is also defined by its playmakers, who are among the best in the country.
This season has been no exception.
These players have lit up scoreboards and made huge plays that made everyone’s mouth drop. No other conference can boast the playmaking talent that the Big 12 has, especially on the offensive side of the ball. While some of these studs throw the ball, some catch it and some run with it, they all are among the nation’s best when it comes to making huge plays.
There is great difficulty in making a list like this. Twenty players could have easily made this list with another 10 also having a strong case for it. The Big 12 is a loaded conference, and as such it required a separate slide for a few of the honorable mentions.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
The redshirt senior has completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,009 yards and is likely on pace to have 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season.
John Hubert, Kansas State
Collin Klein gets most of the Kansas State hype, but John Hubert is a big part of that success. The 5’7” junior has rushed for 722 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012.
Nick Florence, Baylor
The Baylor signal-caller has thrown for over 2,600 yards this season and accumulated 22 touchdown passes. He’s also rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns.
Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
Quinn Sharp will likely be the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year for the second consecutive year this season. He has made 15 field goals and is averaging 46.8 yards per punt.
Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
Kenny Stills has settled nicely into the No. 1 receiver role for the Sooners. He has a good chance to break the 100-catch and 1,000-yard marks by the end of the season.
Joe Bergeron, Texas
Joe Bergeron may not get the bulk of the carries for the Longhorns, but he does do most of the scoring. The sophomore has rushed for 15 touchdowns in just eight games this season.
2012 Stats: 31 tackles, 7.5 sacks
Even in a conference primarily known for its offenses, a defensive player had to make the list.
Devonte Fields may only be a freshman, but he is also a big part of why the TCU Horned Frogs have been so competitive this season, despite playing in a new conference and suffering major turmoil at the quarterback position.
The TCU defense has been well-respected for years, but now it has a star.
Fields is already turning heads as a freshman, and there is no telling where he will be a few years from now. He’s had at least half a sack in every game but one this season, and his season is far from being over.
2012 Stats: 29 catches, 453 receiving yards, 356 kick return yards, four total touchdowns
Collin Klein is an amazing player, but he does also have another huge playmaker to throw the ball to.
Tyler Lockett has major skills, both as a receiver and a kick returner. Kansas State plays the field position game better than anyone, and Lockett’s return game plays a huge factor in that.
His 453 receiving yards may seem small compared to some of the other players on this list, but it is important to remember the run-first offense he plays in. When looking at him through that prism, you realize just how impressive his stats are.
2012 Stats: 48 catches, 574 receiving yards, three touchdowns
As a freshman last season, Josh Stewart worked his way up the depth chart behind Justin Blackmon and the rest of the Cowboy receivers. This season, he has clearly positioned himself as the No. 1 receiver on this Oklahoma State offense.
There are few inside receivers as good as Stewart is now, and it is frightening to think what he can become if he continues on this path. His speed and route running are already very good. If he can continue to work on his hands and become even more of a security blanket, he will be among the nation’s best receivers soon enough.
2012 Stats: 60 catches, 1,203 receiving yards, nine touchdowns
As you can already probably tell, this list is full of talented receivers. Terrance Williams is among those players and he certainly is not the last one you will see on this list. The senior has been the biggest reason why the Baylor offense has continued to march on even after the departures of Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright.
It appears right now that he will be playing on Sundays as well soon enough. He leads the Big 12 in receiving yards per game and he does so by almost 60 yards per contest. The race for best wide receiver in the conference is a tight one, but Williams has definitely put himself at the front of the pack.
2012 Stats: 59 catches, 800 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns
Stedman Bailey is an integral part of the West Virginia offensive machine that has been rolling for most of the season. Dana Holgorsen has a habit of turning receivers into stars, and Stedman is the most recent player to benefit from his system.
However, to call him a system player would be an insult. Even in a high-powered offense like that of the Mountaineers, it takes a lot of talent to put up the types of numbers that Bailey has this season. He is on pace to shatter the 1,000 yards mark, and 1,500 yards is not far out of reach.
2012 Stats: 70.7 percent completion rate, 2,540 yards, 30 touchdowns
Seth Doege has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Texas Tech’s senior signal caller has been very good this season and has no doubt earned himself a shot at playing as a professional next year.
Texas Tech’s resurgence as a football program has as much to do with Doege as with anyone. He has been incredibly efficient, throwing for more touchdowns so far than any other Big 12 quarterback. He may not be one of the biggest names, but do not be surprised if he earns All-Big 12 honors this season.
2012 Stats: 74.3 percent completion rate, 2,417 yards, 26 touchdowns
A few short weeks ago, Geno Smith would have been at the top of this list, and there would have been no doubt about it. His play has come back to Earth recently, but there is no arguing the fact that he is one of the best playmakers in the Big 12 and the nation.
Despite the couple of bad games he has had, Smith has still maintained a fantastic completion rate. He has not been great by his own standards, but he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Let us not forget that last season, Robert Griffin III overcame a few bad games to win the Heisman Trophy. The same fate is not out of the question for Smith.
2012 Stats: 891 rushing yards, 154 receiving yards, nine touchdowns
Joseph Randle came into this season as the best running back in the Big 12, and he has lived up to that billing.
Not only is he leading the conference in rushing, but he is doing so by over 150 yards, despite playing in one less game than the player in second place.
Largely overlooked last season while having to share the spotlight (and the ball) with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, Randle is now the clear star on this team. He is fast and strong and can make a big play happen almost at will.
2012 Stats: 74 catches, 788 receiving yards, 90 rushing yards, nine touchdowns
It might be a surprise to see Tavon Austin this high on the list, especially considering that he is higher than his quarterback Geno Smith. What will explain he is higher is this: Austin leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yards, averaging 201.9 yards per game.
That is an astounding figure. There are teams that have trouble averaging that many yards. Austin does it all, catching, rushing and returning. He is the best playmaking cog on his team and is among the nation’s most versatile players.
2012 Stats: 70.9 percent completion rate, 1,630 passing yards, 634 rushing yards, 28 total touchdowns
Could I have put anyone else in this top spot?
Collin Klein has a firm lead in the Heisman race right now, and his Kansas State Wildcats will play in the BCS National Championship if he continues to play the way he has so far this season.
No other dual-threat quarterback has been so dominant since Tim Tebow, and you can make a solid case that Klein is already better than Tebow was. Klein is a leader and a playmaker. Though he may be an understated guy, he deserves the top spot on this list.