Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes should put up huge numbers in 2016 and is +3300 on Sports Interaction college football odds to win the award in the coming season.
Mahomes Tops In Lone Star State
The state of Texas has some very good quarterbacks coming back this year. I already did Heisman previews on Houston's Greg Ward Jr. and Baylor's Seth Russell -- sorry, Texas A&M and UT don't have Heisman contenders at the position. But I fully expect Mahomes to lead the nation in passing yardage in 2016 if he stays healthy simply because of the pass-happy system he plays in at TTU. Plus the Red Raiders are going to have to score/throw a ton to be competitive because they figure to struggle defensively again.
Texas Tech was 7-6 last season, a moderate disappointment under coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is on the hot seat entering this year. TTU, which was second in the nation in scoring, passing, and total yards, couldn't beat any good teams. It was 0-5 against ranked clubs. That defense allowed 55 points in a loss to No. 3 TCU, 63 in a defeat to No. 5 Baylor, 63 in a blowout loss at No. 17 Oklahoma, 70 in a home loss to Oklahoma State and 56 in a Texas Bowl loss to No. 20 LSU. Texas Tech twice lost games in which it scored at least 50 points -- only three times did a Tech game feature fewer than 80 points -- and it's probably going to more of the same on that side of the ball. The Red Raiders ranked 126th nationally in rush defense and total defense (547.7 yards allowed per game). Defensive coordinator David Gibbs somehow is back, but a few defensive assistants were canned on that side of the ball.
Mahomes, in his first year as the full-time starter, completed 364 of 573 passes (63.5 percent) for 4,653 yards (fourth in the nation and most in Big 12 since 2011), 36 touchdowns (No. 6 nationally) and 15 interceptions. And while I wouldn't compare Mahomes as a running threat to someone like Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Heisman favorite on college football odds entering the season, Mahomes did rush for 456 yards and 10 touchdowns -- he did this will playing through a knee injury and splitting time last spring by also playing baseball. Mahomes, whose father is a former big-league pitcher, has given up that sport and is fully healthy.
Some have compared Mahomes to former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel (but not socially, which is a good thing). With another 2,816 yards in 2016, Mahomes would surpass former quarterback Seth Doege and become the third all-time career yardage leader at the school behind Graham Harrell (15,793 yards) and Kingsbury (12,429 yards).
Mahomes lost star running back DeAndre Washington (1,492 yards, 14 TDs) and top receiver Jakeem Grant (90 catches, 1,268 yards, 10 TDs), but if you are looking for a breakout Big 12 star in 2016 consider receiver Derrick Willies, a 6-3, 225-pounder who was the top JuCo receiver recruit in the nation. Last season, Willies caught 49 passes for 1,115 yards and 14 touchdowns for Trinity Valley CC in Texas. He led the country in yards per reception (23.6).
Looking Ahead To 2016
It's common knowledge these days that a Heisman winner is going to come from a very good team. So can the Red Raiders potentially contend for the Big 12 title? Remember, this is the last year the Big 12 won't have a conference title game. TTU is +4300 on college football picks to win the conference.
All Big 12 teams currently play every other conference team so there are thus only three non-conference games on Texas Tech's schedule. It will destroy Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 3 and Louisiana Tech on Sept. 17, both in Lubbock. A trip to Arizona State on Sept. 10 will be a challenge.
The good news in the conference is that Texas Tech doesn't have to visit either Oklahoma or Baylor; the game vs. the Sooners is Oct. 22 in Lubbock and vs. BU is the regular-season finale at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. If the Red Raiders could pull those two out, and they could easily be 6-0 entering the Oklahoma game, they would have a shot at the Big 12 title. The toughest tests would be Oct. 29 at TCU and Nov. 12 at Oklahoma State.
TTU has a wins total of 6.5 on college football odds. Mahomes will likely need at least 10 wins to get a trip to New York. Since 1976, Texas Tech has had one season with at least 10 victories: 2008 when it finished 11-2 and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP Poll.