Baker Mayfield continues to improve for Sooners
Much of the preseason hype in the Big 12 centered around Baylor and TCU, and aside from a couple of shaky moments from each, neither has given any reason to think it won’t be right in the mix to win the conference championship.
Oklahoma has been treated as something of a distant third, and for most of the Sooners’ win over Tennessee Saturday, it looked like it was going to suffer an early-season loss. But the Sooners turned things around for an overtime victory — and suddenly look a lot more like conference contenders.
The biggest reason? QB Baker Mayfield hasn’t even really hit his stride yet.
There was an obvious disparity between Mayfield’s early-game struggles and impressive late-game performance. His final stat line of 49 percent completions, 4.8 yards per attempts, three touchdowns and two interceptions is far from ideal, but he led the Sooners to touchdowns on each of their final four possessions, including all three of those TD passes and a rushing touchdown. He was 11-of-14 (79 percent) during that stretch.
His early-game struggles reflected his performance in OU’s 41-3 Week 1 win over Akron, during which he earned a negative grade of -0.8.
Up-and-down QB play is obviously not ideal, but it’s important to point out that there’s room for Mayfield — who came into this season with some considerable hype — to get better these next few weeks, and better match up with what is an impressive supporting cast around him.
Speaking of which, this defense showed potential to be exceptionally good. The Sooners dismantled the Zips’ offense in Week 1, with standout performers at every level. DE Charles Walker was dominant in the running game in just 25 snaps, earning a very strong +5.6 grade in just 25 snaps. Fellow DE Charles Tapper (+4.3) also performed well, as did NT Jordan Wade (+3.1), LB Dominique Alexander (+2.9) and CB Zack Sanchez (+2.5). And that’s before even mentioning Eric Striker (+1.6), who was our highest-graded pass-rusher among 3-4 outside linebackers last season. In short, Mayfield has an excellent defense that should keep the Sooners in most games.
Combine that defense with wide receiver Sterling Shepard — who was our No. 16-graded player at his position last season, and running back Samaje Perine — the No. 16-graded player at his position and the No.-6 RB in elusive rating, and Mayfield has all the help he needs to lead Oklahoma to the Big 12 championship game.