Heisman Watch: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield coming in hot
One of the truths that pops up time and time again in sports is the advantage of what has happened recently versus earlier in the year.
Whether this is done subconsciously or because of a perception that things become more difficult as the season goes on, saving your best stuff for later on usually brings better results than when you come out firing but then cool off a little. That is seen in polls, award voting and a viewer’s overall feelings on a team or player.
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Mayfield was good through the first four games; very good, in fact. He rattled off 1,067 passing yards, threw nine touchdown passes against two interceptions and ran for two more scores.
However, between Mayfield’s Heisman hype coming into the season and Oklahoma’s spot as a top College Football Playoff contender, people needed to see more. Mayfield played well but could have been better, and the Sooners shockingly were just 2-2.
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Then, Games 5-8 came, and Mayfield provided a nice reminder of who he really is.
The redshirt junior began running less, instead staying in the pocket or getting his running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon going. He discovered deep threat Dede Westbrook, who quickly became his go-to target. And he began playing like a true Heisman-caliber quarterback.
The Austin, Texas, native’s numbers in the last four games have been filthy: 90-of-122 for 1,517 yards, 18 touchdowns and three interceptions. He has only run for 80 yards in that span, but as mentioned above, that has helped the offense click better.
His passing efficiency has gone over 200 in three of those games, and the one that didn’t was just behind at 195.7. For a comparison, Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson has not gone over 200 since Week 1.
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Granted, Jackson does as much if not more damage with his legs than his arm, but in terms of who has been a better passer this season, it’s really not close.
Mayfield leads the nation in passing efficiency. He is eighth in passing yards per game, first in yards per attempt (with an incredible 10.9) and fifth in both passing touchdowns and completion percentage.
That last one, completion percentage, is an area where Mayfield holds an enormous advantage over Jackson. Mayfield has connected on 70.9 percent of his attempts this year, while Jackson is just 75th in the country at 58.3 percent.
Behind Mayfield’s resurgence, the Sooners have been storming back up the polls. In the latest AP Top 25, Oklahoma moved up four spots from No. 16 to No. 12. That’s a pretty remarkable climb for a team that was unranked in Week 5.
Baker Mayfield (@OU_Football) has at least 4 TD passes in each of his last three games, the longest active streak of its kind in the FBS.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 30, 2016
And that goes back to the point made at the top: later is better. Oklahoma’s Playoff hopes can’t be considered dead when it is only eight spots from the top four. Yes, its two losses are a big hindrance and it would require a good deal of chaos from some of the teams ahead, but the Sooners have a better shot than anyone in the Big 12 of at least making a New Year’s Six bowl. Would that be the case if their two losses came later in the season rather than the first few weeks?
And the same could be said about Mayfield. Jackson was absolutely shot out of a cannon to start the year but has cooled off considerably. If Mayfield keeps playing at the level he is, the Sooners keep winning and Louisville maybe loses another game or Jackson stumbles, might voters be drawn more to what has happened closer to when the Heisman votes are counted?
The sum of the parts is often better than the whole, and Mayfield’s consistency has added up to a pretty remarkable season. But we’d be remiss if his game against Texas Tech two games ago wasn’t brought up.
Yes, it was against the third-worst worst defense in the country in terms of yards per game, but Mayfield was unbelievable against the Red Raiders. He was 27-of-36 passing for 545 yards and seven touchdowns in one of the most impressive performances in years. It’s hard to pick out the most impressive statistic from that night, but it might be his 15.1 yards per attempt.
His 266.3 passing efficiency (minimum 20 attempts) was the highest this season — yes, even higher than Jackson’s six-touchdown half against Charlotte in Week 1. The seven passing touchdowns were also the most anyone has registered this year.
Last week, despite his second-lowest passing yardage total of the season, he threw for four more touchdowns against Kansas. He was only needed for two and a half quarters because the lead was so large, providing an explanation for “only” having 236 yards — which would still rank in the top 50 nationally as an average.
Mayfield had as much hype as anyone coming into the season, and for a while it looked like that might be nothing but wind. But now he has come flying back into the Heisman picture, and he seems to have no intentions of slowing down.
He might need to give it his all on the final lap to pass Jackson, but passing is what Baker Mayfield does best.
- Week 1: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
- Week 2: Washington QB Jake Browning
- Week 3: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
- Week 4: Michigan LB/WR Jabrill Peppers
- Week 5: North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky
- Week 6: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
- Week 7: San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey
- Week 8: Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes