Let’s talk about Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon, who just became one of the most important offensive players in the Big 12, if not nationally.
Mixon, a redshirt sophomore from Oakley, Calif., is expected to play a huge role for the Sooners over the course of these next few weeks. His running back mate, Samaje Perine, was hurt in Oklahoma’s 38-17 win over Kansas State this past weekend and reports coming out of Norman are the 5-foot-10, 235 pound junior will miss as many as three weeks with a hamstring injury.
For many teams in college football, missing a key player such as Perine would be a huge blow, but Bob Stoops and his team have been relying on both Perine and Mixon relatively equally this season. They’ve been part of an explosive one-two punch for the Sooners, with Perine leading the way with 88 carries for 475 yards and six touchdowns, while Mixon now leads the way in yardage with 476 rushing yards and two touchdowns off the strength of 79 carries.
Mixon put up a great game against Kansas State in relief of Perine, rushing 19 times for 88 yards, catching three passes for 34 yards and a touchdown and even throwing a touchdown pass of his own. Mixon currently leads the Big 12 with 178.7 all-purpose yards per game, which is good for sixth nationally. He’s also a dynamic returner for the Sooners, averaging 25.9 yards per kickoff return and 6.2 yards on punt returns.
He’s one of the most explosive players in college football and now the keys to Oklahoma’s backfield are going to be all his while Perine recovers. Of course, dual-threat quarterback Baker Mayfield is expected to be a threat on the ground as well for the Sooners, but for the time being, the Sooner backfield with be the Mixon show.
And that’s certainly a scary thing for opposing defenses.
“We trust Joe,” Mayfield said after the game, talking about Mixon. “We were able to come out there and still run the same plays, even when Samaje wasn’t out there, so that’s why you saw some success in our passing game because those guys were still worried about our run game.”
Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley also has a ton of confidence in Mixon, which leads one to believe that Oklahoma has no problem leaning on him in the backfield for the next few weeks.
“Joe’s capable of anything,” Riley said. “There’s not much that guy can’t do.”
That can only mean good things for both Mixon and Oklahoma’s offensive input.
The thing is, none of this has been unexpected from Mixon. He’s had his off field issues, but his talent on the football field has never been in question.
Mixon is a former five-star recruit. He was ranked as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2014 class, according to the 247Sports Composite, and he was the No. 21 recruit nationally. He had nearly 50 offers with some of the top programs in college football after his commitment, and after a redshirt season in 2014, he flashed his immense potential in Oklahoma’s College Football Playoff run last year.
He rushed for 753 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015 and true to his all-purpose nature, caught 28 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns. Mixon has notched 1,072 all-purpose yards so far this season and he’s on track to add mightily to that total with Perine out, especially considering the opponents.
Up next for Oklahoma is Texas Tech, which sports the second-worst rush defense in the Big 12, giving up 204.83 rush yards per game and 17 touchdowns on the ground. The Sooners will then play Kansas at home and the Jayhawks aren’t much better against the run, giving up 197.17 rush yards per game and 10 rushing touchdowns.
Assuming Perine is only out for three games, Mixon’s last chance to hog the spotlight will come against Iowa State, which has the worst run defense in the Big 12, giving up 231.71 yards per game on the ground.
Those are numbers that probably have Perine salivating, and it’s not a huge stretch to predict that the former five-star is primed to have a few really big weeks for the Sooners as a result. He’ll be going up against three of the worst run defenses in the conference and speaking of, Oklahoma still has a shot to win the Big 12 if it keeps playing winning football.
Look out for the Sooners, and definitely keep an eye on No. 25.