Flashback to Week 6, and the idea of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield winning the Heisman Trophy seemed laughable. That week, Mayfield threw for 211 yards and a season-worst one touchdown as the Sooners’ undefeated season fell by the wayside to a vastly inferior Texas team.
However, six weeks later, Mayfield’s Heisman candidacy is no joke. The junior quarterback has been on an absolute tear since that stunning loss on Oct. 10 and now needs to be viewed as a top contender for the most prestigious award in college sports.
Although not even his best statistical game of the season – and that’s saying something – Mayfield had his most important performance of the year this past week. Oklahoma took on then-No. 6 Baylor on Saturday and needed a win in order to get themselves back in the College Football Playoff conversation.
It was Oklahoma’s first game against a top-20 opponent this season and the biggest stage Mayfield has played on during his career. He thrived under the bright lights, throwing for 270 yards (70.6 completion percentage), rushing for 76 yards and scoring four total touchdowns in the 44-34 Oklahoma victory.
Mayfield made a number of critical plays during the contest, but none bigger than his seven-yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Flowers that put Oklahoma up 10 with 4:47 left to go in the game. Initially unable to find a receiver and with Baylor’s pass rush coming, Mayfield bought himself some time with his feet and eventually threw a strike to Flowers for the game-icing touchdown.
Talk about a Heisman moment.
Still, Mayfield’s most impressive pass of the night came with 8:53 in the second quarter. Faced again with a swarming Bears pass rush, Mayfield stood tall this time and delivered a 39-yard bomb to Sterling Shepard to put Oklahoma up 13-6.
Video: Mayfield to Shepard for 6 to go up 13-6. Check that crazy pylon cam shot. https://t.co/JswDX6WHYj— Max Olson (@max_olson) November 15, 2015
Mayfield simply picked apart the Bears secondary, and the Sooners are now an impressive 9-1 on the season.
After his special day against Baylor, Mayfield is up to 3,082 yards passing (70.2 completion percentage), 301 yards rushing, 31 touchdowns passing, six scores on the ground and just five interceptions. His 183.9 efficiency rating ranks second in the nation behind only Baylor quarterback Seth Russell, who’s out for the remainder of the season due to injury. He also ranks top-five in passing touchdowns (tied for fourth) completion percentage (third) and yards per attempt (second).
Thanks to Mayfield’s dominance, the Sooners are right in the mix for the College Football Playoff. They have two difficult games to finish the season – No. 15 TCU at home and No. 8 Oklahoma State on the road – but Mayfield has Oklahoma looking like the best team in the Big 12 right now.
If the Sooners are able to pull off those wins, Mayfield will have quite the Heisman case. He plays the right position (13 of the last 14 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks), he’s putting up dominant numbers and he'd be on one of the highest ranked teams in the country. That's essentially the blueprint to winning the Heisman.
While seemingly out of the question six weeks ago, Baker Mayfield has a prime chance to put himself in Oklahoma lore forever and become the Sooners’ sixth Heisman winner.
The Heisman frontrunners:
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Henry is doing his very best to separate himself from the pack. The junior from Yulee, Florida hammered Mississippi State’s defense to the tune of 204 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the Crimson Tide’s 31-6 win Saturday. Henry has rushed for more than 200 yards in three of his last four games and is up to a ridiculous 1,458 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns rushing on the season.
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Clemson struggled a bit with Syracuse on Saturday, but that wasn’t on Watson. The sophomore quarterback had one of his bigger games of the season, throwing for 360 yards, rushing for 105 and racking up four total touchdowns. While still very good, Watson’s season-long numbers are less impressive than Mayfield’s (2,593 yards passing, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions); however, Watson’s Tigers are undefeated and appear to be a lock for the College Football Playoff. Therefore, Watson gets the slight edge over Mayfield at the moment.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma