You can find Patrick Mahomes' name near the top of every Big 12 passing category.
Completions? Check. Passing yards? Check. Touchdown-to-interception ratio? Check.
The Texas Tech quarterback has been outstanding through two games of the 2015 season. Mahomes is 51-of-86 for 786 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception while leading the Red Raiders to a 2-0 record.
When Kliff Kingsbury’s team travels to Arkansas this weekend, Mahomes could be the key. The Red Raiders got destroyed by Arkansas, 49-28, as the Razorbacks rushed for 438 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago.
And the early returns on the Red Raiders' defense -- which is allowing 5.91 yards per carry and 6.01 yards per play -- don’t exactly give a laundry list of reasons for confidence that Tech can do a complete 180 turn on last year’s result.
Thus as Kingsbury plans for success against the Razorbacks, Mahomes could play a major role. If the Red Raiders' offense starts fast, scores early and often while protecting the ball, Arkansas could find it harder to overpower the Red Raiders with its running game this time around.
“I hope we can start fast,” Kingsbury said when asked if the best defense could be a good offense this week.
True enough, Arkansas -- which leads the SEC with 360 passing yards per game -- could handle being forced to lean on its passing game and chase the Red Raiders if Tech gets an early lead. But if the choice comes down to Tech’s passing attack against Arkansas’ air game, the Red Raiders must like their chances.
Tech's offense has been terrific, averaging 3.8 points per drive and 8.03 yards per play with Mahomes as the trigger man. The sophomore has connected with 10 different Red Raiders with Devin Lauderdale (19), Jakeem Grant (15) and Ian Sadler (13) having double-digit targets as his favorite receivers. It's an offense that spreads the ball around, with the ability to have success against almost any defense as opponents don't have anyone to zero in on.
“It's good to get everybody involved,” Kingsbury said. “Pat does a good job of going through his reads, going through his progressions, not honing in on one guy. I talked about it in camp. We felt like we had enough depth to rotate more bodies through and take some plays off guys, where last year they may have played 60, 70, 80 plays, the most any of those wide receivers played was around 45 last week. That's what we want. We want to keep them fresh, be able to rotate more bodies in, so that's a testament to that.”
Those traits could help the Red Raiders grab an upset win on Saturday, particularly if the offense carries the bulk of the burden while the defense continues to improve. Texas Tech hopes to leave last year's embarrassment behind it when it battles Arkansas on Saturday. And it could be Mahomes, not the defense, that makes the biggest difference.