Is Baker Mayfield a lock for the 2017 Heisman Trophy?

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Baker Mayfield
NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Baker Mayfield /

Baker Mayfield came back for one more season as quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners for one more gallant run at the pot at the end of the college football rainbow: a national championship.

Ten games into the 2017 season, the former walk-on has things going his way, with the Sooners sitting alone at the top of the Big 12 standings and all-but assured of a spot in the conference title game and likely to move into one of the coveted top-four positions when the College Football Playoff rankings are revealed Tuesday night.

Oh, and by the way, Oklahoma without question would not be in this position were it not for the fighting spirit and exceptional play of Mayfield, its fearless leader and field general, and his refuse-to-lose approach to the game.

In addition to another Big12 championship (Oklahoma’s third consecutive conference crown with Mayfield at quarterback) and a spot in the College Football Playoff, which carries with it a shot at a national title, Mayfield also has in his sights another trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation. This year, however, he wants to be the one up on stage receiving the trophy instead of applauding the winner from the front row in the audience.

Mayfield has flirted with winning the Heisman Trophy in each of the last two seasons, finishing fourth in the balloting in 2015 and third in 2016. But this season, the Sooner quarterback has charged out to what many of those in the know believe is an almost insurmountable lead in the Heisman race, which is headed into the homestretch with just three weeks to go.

Mayfield has been turning heads around the college football world in each of his first two seasons at Oklahoma for his uncanny ability to allude trouble and extend plays, with both his feet and his arm, and his incredible throwing accuracy. Last season, he set a new NCAA ingle-season record for passing efficiency (196.4), smashing the previous mark by almost five points.

Heading into the 2017 season, you couldn’t blame Sooner fans for wondering how it could possibly get any better for Mayfield. Well, it has…and how. The OU quarterback is having his best season yet and his numbers are staggering: No. 1 in the nation in completion percentage (71.2), passing efficiency rating (202.1), passing yards per attempt (11.9), passing yards per completion (16.7) and passing plays of 20 or more yards (62). He ranks second in the country in total offense (379 yards per game) and passing yards per game (355.9) and is third in passing touchdowns (31).

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

Mayfield and the Sooners have won 31 of the 36 games in which he has started at quarterback over the past three seasons.

As in any college season, this year’s Heisman watch list has been extremely fluid. The leading candidates – running backs Saquon Barkley of Penn State and Bryce Love of Stanford and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner – have traded off times at the top of the list. Until just two weeks ago, the front runner seemed to change every week depending on which candidate had the better weekend performance.

That all changed the last weekend in October. Mayfield passed for 281 yards and four touchdowns in the Sooners’ 49-27 win over Texas Tech. That same week Penn State lost at Ohio State, with Barkley being held to 44 rushing yards and 23 more receiving, Love sat out Stanford’s game against Oregon State.

All of a sudden, Mayfield charged to the top of the Heisman watch list. And he has been widening that lead since then with a 598-yard, five-touchdown performance against Oklahoma State and leading the Sooners to the decisive win this past weekend over TCU, one of the country’s best defensive teams.

At this point Mayfield’s Heisman lead appears so large that it would take a complete bomb out the next two weekends (vs. Kansas and West Virginia) and in the Big 12 Championship for him to lose it.

Much like the Sooners, Mayfield controls his own destiny, and probably Oklahoma’s as well, from this point on in what remains of the 2017 season. Play well and win out and the Sooner super quarterback will reap all the rewards, and then some, that served as his incentive for returning to give it one more old college try.

Call it three’s charm. After two consecutive years as a Heisman finalist, it’s finally Baker Mayfield’s turn. The officials of the Heisman Trust can begin engraving the name of another Oklahoma quarterback (the third in 14 years) as a recipient of college football’s most prestigious individual award.

Baker Mayfield, winner of the 2017 Heisman Trophy.