Baker Mayfield is a Heisman frontrunner in the preseason. Here’s what he will have to do to win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
From walk-on to the Big 12 Player of the Year, the legend of Baker Mayfield is right out of a Horatio Alger story. Mayfield started his career as an afterthought for Texas Tech, transferred to Oklahoma, sat out a year, was supposed to work behind Trevor Knight, and then turned into one of the most productive players in college football.
He ran a cranked-up Sooners offense to near-perfection, finishing the season with 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns with just seven picks, while also running for 405 yards and seven touchdowns. It was all good enough to get close in the Heisman mix, but he finished just outside of the top three. This year, what’s it going to take for Mayfield to win the 2016 Heisman?
Step One: Develop a rapport with his receivers
The offense should be a little bit sharper in this second year in the Air Raid – even though the team doesn’t really like that term – but it’s moving on without two of its best receivers. Sterling Shepard was a huge part of the attack, catching 86 passes last year. By comparison, the No. 2 guy – Dede Westbrook – caught 46.
Westbrook is back, along with Penn State transfer Geno Lewis, but the third-leading receiver – Durron Neal – is also gone. The passing game will be great, but to win the Heisman, the numbers must be astronomical. That’ll be a problem because Mayfield has to …
Step Two: Hope the running game doesn’t take over
Great for OU, bad for Mayfield’s Heisman campaign, the ground attack should be devastating. The 1-2 punch of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon is as good as any in the country. Mayfield is the offensive catalyst, but Perine might turn into the better player with the better season.
Step Three: Crush Houston
It’ll be one of the biggest games on the biggest opening weekend in the history of college football. Houston will be looking for legitimacy with a win over Oklahoma, and cranking up the potential for a College Football Playoff run. The Sooners have to squash that and show that they’re about to be back in the mix for the CFP, with Mayfield needing to outplay counterpart Greg Ward Jr. The national attention will be on the quarterback battle, and Mayfield has to be magnificent. If he is, and as long as the stats are nice in the following week against ULM, the stage will be set for …
Step Four: Ohio State
Just win. Even if the numbers aren’t out of this world, and even if Mayfield struggles a little bit, if he’s able to do enough to lead the Sooners to a win over the Buckeyes in one of the biggest games of the season, the campaign will still be on. If he goes bonkers and comes up with a huge performance – again, coupled with a good day in a win over Houston – it might be his Heisman to lose. That is, as long as he can …
Step Five: Stay healthy
Mayfield is listed at 6-1 and 212 pounds, but he’s not quite that tall and he’s not really built to take a big pounding. He’s a fierce competitor and a big-time ball who’ll do whatever it takes to make a play, but that also opens him up to taking shots – especially considering he’s got the attitude that makes defenders want to take his head off. He suffered a concussion against TCU and had to go through the protocol after the Clemson game.
Step Six: Win the Big 12 title … again
He won the Big 12 championship last year and finished fourth in the voting, and he’ll have to do it again to have a prayer of being in the equation. No Big 12 title and no trip to the CFP for a second year in a row, no Heisman shot.
Will Baker Mayfield win the 2016 Heisman?
No. Here’s the problem. He’ll almost certainly get through Step One, but all the rest of the steps are very, very iffy. The other issue is the rest of the Big 12, considering Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, and maybe Baylor’s Seth Russell could have bigger, better stats.
Last year, Mahomes and Rudolph – and Trevone Boykin – all threw for more yards, but Mayfield was more efficient and effective, and he did more to lead the way to a title. He should have another fantastic year if he can stay in one piece, but the ceiling is most likely being a finalist. It’ll take too much to actually win it.