Baker Mayfield’s health a concern for Playoff game with Georgia

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 25: Quarterback Baker Mayfield
NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 25: Quarterback Baker Mayfield /

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield is still battling what he describes as flu-like symptoms as the Oklahoma Sooners continue their preparation for the biggest game of their season in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day against SEC champion Georgia.

College football’s most decorated player this season met with the media briefly on Saturday and, with a noticeably raspy voice, told reporters that he hasn’t been limited in any football-related activities. He’s just trying to get his strength back, he said, before Monday’s Rose Bowl game.

It’s not a question of whether Mayfield will play on Monday, but rather what condition the Sooners’ triggerman and team leader will be in to face one of college football’s best teams and the country’s fourth-best defense in one of two Playoff semifinal matchups on Monday.

Mayfield says he hasn’t been limited in practice, but the truth is he hasn’t gone through the kind of drills he would have if his respiratory issues and general stamina had been normal. Several ESPN reporters did say that they didn’t see any noticeable drop off in the accuracy and strength of his passes during the team’s practice sessions this week.

Will the Sooner Magic Man be a full strength when Oklahoma takes the field on Monday? Probably not, but we all know that he is as fierce a competitor as there is in the college game. You better believe that he will show up on Monday and give it everything he has in him. He may not be at 100 percent health-wise, but it is not a stretch to say that Mayfield, even at 80 percent, is better than most college QBs are at their best.

Mayfield said he wasn’t planning on attending the planned Rose Bowl Media Day on Saturday, which would be consistent with his absence from a couple of other media appearances this week, but after he saw on television all the questions that were being asked of his teammates and coaches about him in the Saturday morning ESPN coverage he felt it necessary for him to be there to answer questions.

The Oklahoma third-year starting quarterback told reporters he “realized this isn’t about me. It’s about Oklahoma. My teammates shouldn’t have to answer questions on my behalf.”

And that is an important point. It isn’t all about Mayfield. At times like these, it isn’t at all uncommon for the entire team to rally behind their wounded warrior and step up their game because of it. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Mayfield’s teammates pick it up and play better in Monday’s Rose Bowl in support of their under-the-weather leader who has brought them this far.

OU head coach Lincoln Riley also met with the media on Saturday and, naturally, was asked about his ailing quarterback. His fire burns really hot, as you all know, Riley said. No, I’m not concerned. He’ll be out there.

Even before the 2017 season started, Mayfield said: 

"“I didn’t come back to win a Heisman, I came back to win a national championship title.”"

He’s too close to achieving that goal. Don’t expect some flu-like symptoms to alter his course, or the Sooners’ quest for the ultimate college football prize.