Pretty simple at this point.
It’s Baker Mayfield … and then everyone else.
The Oklahoma quarterback has distanced himself that much from the rest of the Heisman field.
Yes, indeed. Even from Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who, let’s face it, being a running back in a massive struggle to average 100 yards per game on the ground all season, always was an against-the-grain kinda candidate for college football’s top individual award.
Great talent, sure. Productive in alternate ways, sure. Exciting, definitely. But in terms of effective in his primary role, no, not so much.
Anyway, this ain’t about Barkley – not totally at least. That hype machine has been outta whack since a monster game at Iowa back on September 23 was followed up with a combined 346 rushing yards in the next five outings on 86 carries – a highly pedestrian 4.0 yards per tote that gets positively pathetic when you take out his one throw-in highlight-reel run of each week.
Take away those five that totaled 190 yards and the dude was averaging 1.9 yards per carry.
Sorry, there are not enough kickoff returns and catches outta the backfield in a season to offset that con against a candidate.
Mayfield, conversely, has been money in every game this season – even in a losing effort to Iowa State, which saw him complete 24 of 33 passes for 306 yards and two scores (with no picks), and run for another 57 yards and a score on 11 carries.
For 2017, he leads the country in passer rating (201.6), completion percentage (71.7), yards per passing attempt (11.9), he’s second in the nation in passing yardage (trailing Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph by 88 yards with 58 less passing attempts) with 3,226 and is tied for third in passing TDs with 28.
In outdueling Rudolph this past Saturday to win Bedlam, 62-52, he posted 598 yards and five TDs passing and another TD running.
In reality, Rudolph likely was his chief competition for the honor as he was the only player whose success, both individually and as leader of a team, truly matched, or compared at all, to Mayfield’s this fall.
Barkley, in all sincerity, hasn’t proven worthy of the accolades he has received since, oh, the Lions left Iowa City. Stanford running back Bryce Love had the numbers, but the Cardinal have underachieved a bit and following a missed game due to injury the speedster only mustered 69 yards on the ground this past weekend.
Notre Dame’s Josh Adams was starting to be seen as a guy to overtake Barkley as recently as a week ago, but the Irish running back got hurt against Wake Forest this past weekend and only rushed for 22 yards on five carries. Plus, keeping it real, he had been running behind a ridiculously good offensive line – a type that Barkley certainly cannot relate to running behind.
Put it this way, ND’s ground game hardly suffered once Adams went down Saturday. “Everyone else” somehow managed to combine for 358 rushing yards and four scores on 41 carries.
To give you a better grasp of “value,” or importance, consider this: Love missed Stanford’s game two weeks ago and the Cardinal mustered only 81 yards on 27 carries as a team. Love himself had been averaging 198 yards per game on the ground.
Thing is, it’s really not a contest anymore. Mayfield has the production, the efficiency, the big-time plays and even arguably the biggest win of the season under his belt (topping then-No. 2 Ohio State in a Week 2 blowout) to beat everyone else.
Perhaps a mind-boggling stat guy such as Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate or the younger, smaller version of Mayfield – quarterback McKenzie Milton of unbeaten Central Florida – may challenge down the stretch.
Just don't count on it. Mayfield is that far in front ... and deserves to be.