Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has now won the sixth Heisman Trophy in program history after his excellent 2017 campaign.
As the season got into the late stages, Mayfield became the odds-on favorite in a season in which other national title contenders didn’t have an obvious choice. The voting results bore that out.
But make no mistake, Mayfield certainly earned this award with his play on the field.
Mayfield’s not just good, he’s been historically good for the second season in a row.
-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.
Oklahoma’s offense leads the nation in yards per play and yards per game. Its offense is also the most efficient and explosive according to advanced stats, and having Mayfield as the triggerman is a big reason why.
Baker Mayfield's Path to the Heisman Trophy was one of a kind
The Oklahoma Football legend had one of the most unusual Heisman journeys ever!Posted by SB Nation College Football on Saturday, December 9, 2017
Mayfield’s mighty outspoken off the field, too.
Mayfield’s not gonna give you the Tim Tebow choirboy image or Lamar Jackson’s quiet persona. The newest member of the Heisman fraternity is in your face and fueled by brashness.
That manifested itself in planting the flag in Ohio State’s field after the win earlier this season ...
... and rocking this shirt before the Texas Tech game (a direct jab at fans who thought his transfer from Lubbock wasn’t cool).
And yeah, even grabbing his crotch on TV.
He apologized for it, and it’s water under the bridge now, but the punchy playing style is who he is. If you’re a Sooners fan, then he’s your guy. If you’re not, then he’s the player you love to hate. But that doesn’t bother him.
Speaking of Lamar Jackson ...
He has lower interception and sack rates and a higher completion rate, and he’s probably going to rush for more than 1,600 yards again after the bowl.
In the offseason, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino made a point of making Jackson more of a pro-style quarterback, whatever that means. We were all a hair worried that it would neuter the electric quarterback.
It hasn’t. Jackson has sacrificed a little bit of rushing and gotten definitively better through the air.
But Jackson didn’t win the award partially because of how the Heisman voters trend toward rewarding standout players on title contenders. There wasn’t one last year when Jackson won, but there is this year in Mayfield.
Stanford had another player in New York but went home empty-handed again.
Stanford has now had four players finish second in the Heisman voting since 2009, and Andrew Luck did it twice.
Running back Bryce Love — who has had an incredible season on basically one leg the last five games — also came close this time. But one wonders what would happen if the award had better regional distribution in its voting policies, in addition to weaker competitors in specific years.
There are 870 media members who vote on the Heisman, but only 145 of them are in the “Far West” region. Stanford plays a lot of games awfully late at night, when national media members based in the Eastern time zone are less likely to be tuned in. There’s only been one Heisman winner who played in the Pacific time zone over the last decade (Marcus Mariota in 2014).
As for who wasn’t in New York, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was noticeably absent for the Heisman ceremony.
Barkley exploded out of the gates as the de facto favorite early in the season, but as Penn State trailed off in the season, Barkley wasn’t able to overcome the hole in his game:
Despite the explosiveness, he’s averaging only 5.7 yards-per-carry (54th nationally among all players with 100 or more carries), and at 16.6 rushes per game, Penn State isn’t relying on his legs alone to power its offense.
But enough about who didn’t win it, and back to who did.
Adjusted for how much he threw the ball, his 41:5 touchdown-interception ratio is probably more impressive in context, as is his 71 percent completion percentage.
But now comes the biggest two challenges of his season in which he’ll try to do something that’s eluded many Heisman winners: A postseason performance as impressive as his regular season ones were. If he can do that in two games, he’ll add a national title right next to his new stiff-arming prize.