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On December 6, 2016, Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield was a +3300 outside bet on winning the Heisman Trophy. Fast forward just over a year later, and he’s the overwhelming favorite to hoist college football’s biggest individual accolade.
When the finalists for the award were announced on Monday, there were some questions as to whether Penn State running back Saquon Barkley should’ve been invited to New York. While the argument can be made that Barkley should’ve been a finalist, it’ll be hard to find anyone who would say that no one is more deserving of the Heisman this season than Mayfield.
While it may be a forgone conclusion that Mayfield will hoist the trophy this Saturday, it’s important to recognize the accomplishments of the two other finalists joining the Sooner in New York.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
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Recently, the Heisman has been a quarterback heavy reward. But running back Love put himself in the conversation after an incredible year on the field for Stanford, rushing for nearly 2,000 yards.
While Love did fall short of the 2,000-yard mark (1,973 yards), he was as explosive and consistent as any in his position over the course of the season. This year’s Doak Walker Award winner earned his stripes in the backfield battling through the trenches of the Pac-12, averaging 8.3 yards per carry while finding the end zone 17 times on the ground.
Stanford Football @StanfordFball
What @Blovee_20 has done this season is 🔥🔥🔥. Absolutely amazing. #HeismanLove https://t.co/lH626sZDhm
His resume would’ve been even more impressive had injuries not hampered him down the final stretch, but he still gave college football fans some memorable games, like his 301-rushing-yard performance against Arizona State back in September.
Even if Love falls short on Saturday, he can keep his head held high, as he was, without a doubt, the best running back in college football this season.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
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It’s possible that Jackson is being punished for playing on a mediocre Louisville team. After all, his numbers this season are, arguably, more impressive than his Heisman stats from a year ago.
Last season, Jackson burst on to the scene with an incredible statistical season, throwing for 3,543 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 56.2 percent of his passes. This season, Jackson threw for 3,489 yards, 25 touchdowns and five interceptions and completed 60.4 percent of his throws.
Running the ball, Jackson rushed for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. This year? 1,443 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. While the numbers themselves are down, Jackson was more efficient passing the ball and increased his yards per carry average by nearly a full yard when on the run.
Danny Kanell @dannykanell
Favorite Heisman week stat…Lamar Jackson RUSHED for more yards per game than Saquon Barkley. Wow!!
Should the fact that Louisville posted an 8-4 record hurt his chances at a Heisman? Probably not. But voter fatigue can be a real thing, especially when it comes to a guy like Jackson, who doesn’t really have the strength of schedule like Love or Mayfield do.
If Jackson ends up coming away with his second-straight Heisman this weekend, kudos to him—it’s hard to argue that he’s not deserving. But the odds are stacked against him, as previously noted. If he returns for his senior year of college, the window will still be open for Jackson to hoist the trophy again. If not, he’ll surely enjoy a length professional career in the NFL.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
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Jackson’s numbers were eye-popping this season, and his improved efficiency will surely impact a handful of Heisman voters this Saturday. But if we’re talking about efficiency under center, the argument begins and ends with the stellar play of Mayfield.
Mayfield threw for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns to just five interceptions and completed a jaw-dropping 71 percent of his passes this season for the second year in a row. Mayfield’s QBR is a video game-like 203.8, which just so happens to be the best QBR rating in college football history.
Throw in the fact that he can run when he wants to—310 rushing yards and five touchdowns—and Mayfield is as dangerous as quarterbacks come in college football.
Mayfield all but solidified himself as the nation’s top player during the College Football Awards with a clean sweep, courtesy of ESPN:
Davey O’Brien Award ✅ Maxwell Award ✅ Is the Heisman Trophy next for Baker Mayfield? [Photo credit: Allen Kee/ESPN Images] https://t.co/MtCHTmuxb0
He’s this year’s favorite for a reason. Don’t get caught up in his antics outside of the lines when considering Mayfield as a Heisman finalist, because that doesn’t do his game justice.
If the Heisman Trophy is to be awarded to the most outstanding player in college football who exemplifies hard work, determination, passion and leadership, then Mayfield’s the worthy recipient.