Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is special. His legend can still grow in the Rose Bowl semifinal against Georgia and maybe in the National Championship.
But ahead of all that, it’s worth taking stock of the year the future Heisman winner is having. Mayfield has put together something historic already.
Mayfield’s having the best season ever in a few statistical departments.
- His passer rating (203.8) is the best all-time, better than 2016 Baker Mayfield (196.4) and 2011 Russell Wilson (191.8).
- His yards per attempt (11.8) is the best all-time, better than 1999 Michael Vick (11.4) and 2016 Baker Mayfield (11.1).
The passer rating gap between Mayfield’s current number and Wilson is the same as the gap between No. 3 Wilson and No. 15 Vernon Adams of Oregon.
Those are both among qualifiers who threw at least 14 passes per game.
If he threw as much as some QBs have, he’d break even more records.
- His 4,340 yards are this year’s second-most, currently 52nd all-time. B.J. Symons’ 5,833 at Texas Tech in 2003 are the most. He’d shatter the all-time yardage record if he kept up his current yards per attempt and threw the same 719 passes Symons did in ‘03. Mayfield’s yardage would work out to 8,484. Lol.
- His completion percentage (71) is this year’s best and 27th-best all-time among qualifiers. It’s a good bit off from Colt McCoy’s record 76.7 percent in 2008.
- His 41 touchdowns are this year’s second-most and the 30th all-time. They’re not close to Colt Brennan’s record 58 at Hawaii in 2006. But Mayfield’s thrown a TD every 6.4 passes. Brennan threw one every 9.6.
Some things about Mayfield’s line are hard to put into context.
Any inter-generational college football debate is hard to have, because the game has changed so much and strength of schedule has always been hard to take into account. QBs all have different talent levels around them.
And for all the talk about unimpressive Big 12 defenses, Mayfield still rang up Ohio State’s Big Ten champion defense for 386 yards passing and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Opponent-adjusted S&P+ ranks the Buckeyes’ defense No. 11. Mayfield also lit up TCU’s No. 14 defense in two different games and faced No. 26 Texas and No. 31 Iowa State. See also his 2016 numbers against Auburn.
Besides, if Big 12 defenses are always universally terrible, how come a former walk-on is the league’s only QB to ever approach, let alone top, a 200 passer rating over this many games in a season? We can adjust his stats for competition while also acknowledging they’re amazing, even by Big 12 standards.
But if anyone tells you Mayfield’s not 2017’s best quarterback, stop them.
He’s first in rating, first in yards per throw, second in total yardage, first in completion percentage, second in touchdowns, and easily No. 1 among the top 100 passers by attempts in TD-to-INT ratio. There is no case that anyone’s been as good a passer.
Maybe you really like Lamar Jackson. I do, too. Jackson’s well over 1,400 rushing yards, which is great. But Mayfield’s passing numbers dwarf Jackson’s, and it’s not like Mayfield’s a chump as a runner himself. Mayfield has 310 rushing yards on 85 attempts, and his ground numbers would look good if college football counted sacks as a passing stat.
Jackson has 4,932 combined passing and rushing yards to Mayfield’s 4,650. But Jackson’s used 607 plays to get there. Mayfield’s used 454. The averages make it clear that Mayfield is CFB’s best collector of yardage. He has a passer rating more than 50 points higher than Jackson’s, and both are passers more than they’re runners.
No QB other than Jackson has anything approaching a case.
So, that’s where Mayfield is: 2017’s best QB by far, having what you could argue is the best statistical passing season ever.
And he’s done it while being quintessentially college football: brash, fun as hell, and imperfect. He’s planted OU’s flag at Ohio State’s midfield, threatened to spank Baylor players in his capacity as their “daddy,” and gotten benched for the first two offensive snaps of his senior day for grabbing his crotch while counter-taunting Kansas. That’s all window dressing on his year, but it’s part of the Mayfield experience.
Mayfield’s already put in a 13-game body of work, which is more than anyone played in a season for most of this sport’s history. If his numbers finish lower, it’ll be because elite Playoff defenses did a number on him in the final stages of a 15-game season.
But one of the best years a college quarterback has ever had might just get even better.