What’s the one passing statistic that put Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield over the top in the 2017 Heisman Trophy race?
Was it his 4,340 yards? His 41 touchdowns, compared with only five interceptions? His national-best 71 percent completion rate? His never-before-seen 203.8 pass efficiency rating? His 11.8 yards per attempt, which is a whopping 1.3 yards better than anyone else this season and easily the high mark of all time?
It was all those things and more, of course. No one number or accomplishment lifted the 22-year-old senior to Heisman No. 83, but the full package — which includes leading his team into the College Football Playoff for the second time — made him an overwhelming winner.
Mayfield received 732 first-place votes — the fifth-most in Heisman history — and totaled 2,398 points, easily outdistancing fellow finalists Bryce Love of Stanford (1,300) and 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville (793). What a climb it has been for the former two-time walk-on, first at Texas Tech and then, in 2015, at Oklahoma.
“There’s something to be said about having to earn it,” he said.
Mayfield is the 15th quarterback to win the award in the 2000s, joining fellow Sooners Sam Bradford (2008) and Jason White (2003). The other three were running backs. No defensive player has won it since cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997, and no offensive non-quarterback or running back has won it since wide receiver Desmond Howard in 1991. Both of those players starred at Michigan and doubled as electrifying return men.
“This is unbelievable for me,” Mayfield said from the podium. “Being up here among these greats, it’s something that words can’t describe.”
For his next trick, Mayfield will attempt to topple No. 3 Georgia in a New Year’s Day playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Sooners are gunning for their first national title since 2000, former coach Bob Stoops’ second year at the helm. Stoops’ successor, Lincoln Riley, is in his first season as head coach after being promoted from offensive coordinator.
The most recent quarterback to win the Heisman and a national title in the same season was Florida State’s Jameis Winston in 2013. Auburn’s Cam Newton (in 2010) and USC’s Matt Leinart (2004) were the previous two to pull that off.
Mayfield’s parting message to fans Saturday night: “Don’t ever give up.”
My Heisman top three was, in order, Mayfield, Love and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. It was the sixth time in my seven years as a voter that my first-place vote went to the eventual winner. The exception was in 2015, when Alabama running back Derrick Henry won but my No. 1 vote went to Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
A super seven
Some names to keep in mind for the 2018 Heisman race:
1. Taylor:He’ll be only a sophomore. Where do the Badgers find all these bell-cow running backs?
2. Kelly Bryant, QB, Clemson:Easily one of the MVPs of the current season, he’ll be an old pro in Year 2 as Watson’s successor.
3. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama:So much talent, so much experience, so much team success.
4. Trace McSorely, QB, Penn State:He’s probably the most Mayfield-like quarterback in the country.
5. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia:Nick Chubb and Sony Michel can’t gobble up his carries after they’re gone, can they?
6. Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona:He’s already sixth in the nation — and tops among quarterbacks — in rushing as a sophomore. A Vince Young-like athlete.
7. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State:Can he go where predecessor J.T. Barrett never quite went?
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.