Why Baker Mayfield should win the Heisman Trophy

Thursday December 8th, 2016

This is the fourth in a series of posts arguing why each of the five Heisman Trophy finalists deserves the award. For more, here is SI's case for Jabrill Peppers, Deshaun Watson and Dede Westbrook.

So you’re looking for a Heisman Trophy winner, and you want it to be a quarterback. You’d prefer someone with a penchant for clutch plays, a guy who can stuff a stat sheet while leading his team to big wins. I know exactly who it should be: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.

What, you thought I was going to talk about one of those other QBs, the ones in the ACC? No, thanks. I’ll stick with the guy who is not turnover prone (38 touchdowns to eight interceptions compared to someone else who has coughed up the ball 15 times) and the guy who got better as the season went on (a combined 457 passing yards and seven total touchdowns in his last two games, both Sooners wins, as opposed to a different quarterback, who lost to Houston and Kentucky. Kentucky!) Did I mention that Mayfield leads in the country in passing efficiency, at 197.8? Oh, and also completion percentage (71.2). And yards per pass attempt (11.1), too.

I know the beginning of the season was rough, when Oklahoma lost 33–23 at Houston and then essentially got slaughtered at home against Ohio State in a 45–24 butt kicking. Mayfield wasn’t great in those games, but his defense was considerably worse. What we should really focus on is how much better he got, leading the Sooners to nine consecutive wins and the Big 12 title, a testament to his leadership and poise.

Also the numbers: In a conference loaded with offense, Mayfield dominated, leading the Big 12 in passing touchdowns (31), completion percentage (73.5) and pass efficiency (208.8) during conference play. He isn’t necessarily known as a runner—he finished the season with just 143 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns—but he is one hell of a scrambler. Mayfield buys time in the pocket so he can whip a pass downfield and move the chains for the Sooners, who have the third-best offense in college football, by the way.

 

About that offense. You’ve probably heard a lot of praise, and rightfully so, for a guy catching a lot of Mayfield’s passes. Yes, fellow Heisman finalist Dede Westbrook is the best receiver in college football this season. Mayfield himself calls his 6-foot, 174-pound teammate “the most dangerous man in college football” and hey, I get it. But, uh, who was throwing all those dimes to him? Oh yeah, Mayfield.

Come to think of it, Mayfield is surrounded by ballers. His numbers are that much more impressive when you consider that he had not one, but two running backs who went over 900 yards this season (Joe Mixon is at 1,183 yards and counting; Samaje Perine and 974 so far).

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Mayfield constantly hands the ball off, but when Oklahoma needs a hero, he’s the guy it leans on. Take, for example, the Texas Tech game, when the Sooners found themselves in a shootout. It was Mayfield, playing in front of a Lubbock crowd that hates him, who came through big that day. He threw for a school-record seven touchdowns, completing 27 of 36 passes for a career-high 545 yards.

I don’t want to hear complaints about Texas Tech not playing defense. When the game is on the line, you need a gamer. That’s what Mayfield is. He’s also the best quarterback in college football this year and deserving of being named the most outstanding player.

The voters got it wrong last year, not even giving Mayfield an invite to New York. That much has been amended. Maybe this year they’ll get it right and give him the trophy. And if they mess up, good news: Mayfield’s coming back again. And as the saying goes, the third time is a charm.

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