Baker Mayfield Not a Heisman Finalist; So What?


As the college football regular season was winding down, Baker Mayfield was prominent among the names of college players who were on the watch list for the coveted Heisman Trophy.

That is, until it wasn’t. All season long, there have been four or five names on the list of viable Heisman candidates. The names themselves have come and gone – it’s a long season, after all – but it seems that there were always four or five players throughout the course of the 2015 season who were considered worthy of college football’s top individual prize.

When the list of the three Heisman finalists for this season came out earlier this week, Baker Mayfield’s name was not among them. Although Mayfield’s numbers this season – 2nd nationally in passing efficiency, 6th in passing touchdowns and 6th in points responsible for per game – are certainly worthy of Heisman consideration, the fact is, he didn’t command enough votes from those casting Heisman votes to warrant a trip to New York for Saturday’s official presentation ceremony.

Nov 21, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Mayfield will publicly tell you that it is an honor just to be considered in the company of other Heisman hopefuls, but you’ve got to believe that privately and deep inside he feels slighted. Especially when one of the finalist is the quarterback for the team Oklahoma plays in one of the national semifinal games in the College Football Playoff.

When you compare the 2015 stat lines for Mayfield and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, they are very comparable. Watson has thrown for a little over 100 yards more than Mayfield and has doubled the OU signal-caller’s yards on the ground (887 to 420 for Mayfield), but everything else is close to a wash. One other strong factor that tips the vote Watson’s way is that he quarterbacked an undefeated and No. 1-ranked them this season.

My prediction is that the 2015 Heisman will go to running back Derrick Henry of Alabama, but if Watson were to sneak in and snare the Heisman away from the other two finalists, it will set up a very interesting quarterback competition in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

I imagine Mayfield will go into the game with a little more edginess than usual because of not being invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony. And if you ask me, that can be a good thing in the added motivation it will provide for Mayfield to do well in the important Playoff matchup with Clemson. Given all this, if Watson were to win the Heisman, it might be even better for the Sooners.

When Jason White and Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy in 2003 and 2008, respectively, Oklahoma did not play all that well in national championship game appearances that same season. Call it random bad luck if you like, but some would argue, including this writer, that all the pomp and circumstance that goes with the Heisman and all the follow-up publicity events associated with it creates a huge distraction that, at the very least, takes the Heisman winner’s focus away from football and the bowl preparations the rest of his teammates are going through.

The same result occurred the year Chris Weinke of Florida State won the Heisman. His Seminoles very playing No. 1 Oklahoma and Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel for the BCS Championship. We all remember what happened in that game.

Mayfield was in New York City anyway, because he was up for other individual national awards, but that is over now, and he can get his mind back where it needs to be, and that is getting mentally and physically ready to take on top-seeded Clemson in the College Playoff.

Mayfield certainly doesn’t need to have to prove anything. His season numbers and Oklahoma’s success on the field this season strongly speak for themselves.

If anything, the pressure will be on Watson to live up to the high exaltations that come with being a Heisman finalist. You can ramp up the expectations and pressure even more for the winner.

If Mayfield continues to grow and progress like he has this year, in his first season back after having to sit out his entire sophomore year, there is no reason why he wouldn’t be on the Heisman watch list again in 2016.

Think of it this way: It just may turn out that Baker Mayfield’s loss will result in Oklahoma’s team gain – this year, anyway.