BOZICH | Lamar Jackson Heisman worthy, but Baker Mayfield will strike the pose
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has produced Heisman-worthy moments this season, but Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield remains the buzz candidate among voters.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – I can’t tell you which three players will get my vote for the Heisman Trophy (rules violation). But I can tell you which guy will win the award (not a rules violation).
It’s Baker Mayfield, the Oklahoma quarterback. He’s the biggest cinch since American Pharoah.
Sports Illustrated featured Mayfield on the cover of its current issue. He appears extremely comfortable striking a familiar pose.
Mayfield leads every Heisman poll from Norman to New York City (with the exception of the 502 precinct).
His 11-1 team is positioned to compete in the national playoff. He’s the buzz candidate this season the way Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was the buzz guy last season.
He’s also Teflon Baker.
Public opinion did not turn on Mayfield after A) his arrest in Arkansas for knucklehead behavior last February; B) his obnoxious planting of the Oklahoma flag at midfield of Ohio Stadium in September or C) his nationally televised cameras crotch-grabbing and cursing during the Sooners’ visit to Kansas two weeks ago.
Even if more baggage tumbles out of Mayfield’s candidacy before Heisman voting concludes Monday, I don’t believe anything can stop his coronation. Maybe if Mayfield throws two or three picks and the Sooners lose the Big 12 championship game against TCU Saturday the race will tighten.
But I doubt it.
I get it.
I understand why Mayfield is the formidable frontrunner. It’s the 37 touchdown passes, the 71 percent completion percentage, the 11 victories (including three over ranked opponents), the name recognition from last season (when he was a Heisman finalist) and other quirks of the Heisman buildup.
Overlook the flag-plant in Columbus and focus on Mayfield’s numbers from that game. Completing 27 of 35 passes (with three touchdowns) while flattening the Buckeyes 31-16 will translate into solid Heisman support. Mayfield has delivered a terrific season.
Here is what I don’t get: Why hasn’t Jackson stirred more love and attention?
He has averaged 411 yards of total offense. That’s 18 more than Jackson averaged last season when he struck the Heisman pose in New York City. It’s the fourth-highest total offense average produced in the last 10 seasons.
It’s also 50 yards per game more than Baker Mayfield.
Jackson has not coasted on his Heisman achievement this season. He has improved his completion percentage and passing yards per game, while maintain his rushing average at 120 yards per game.
With Jackson, Louisville went 8-4. Without Jackson, how many games would Louisville have won? Six? Five?
Answer this question: If you were a defensive coordinator, which opposing player would be more likely to leave furrows in your brow while you study film and prepare your game plan.
David Israel, a former sports columnist in Chicago and Los Angeles who has worked in Hollywood for three decades, said it directly in this tweet:
I don’t believe there is a national conspiracy against Jackson. That’s silly. It’s not how the Heisman process works. I don’t think he is being penalized for the national negative publicity percolating around U of L athletics.
So why is Jackson 15 yards behind Mayfield?
There is not one reason. There is a stack of reasons. I prefer these.
Louisville lost four games. In the Cardinals’ primary national TV moment, Jackson was not spectacular, throwing an interception and completing only half of his 42 passing attempts against Clemson.
A year ago, Jackson dominated the TV screen during his nationally televised performances against Syracuse and Florida State. He was nearly as dynamic in a loss against Clemson. The Clemson game was his stage again this season. Jackson was pretty good, but not great. He needed to be great to deliver the repeat.
Jackson’s passing numbers in Louisville’s four defeats were not Heisman frontrunner numbers: He completed 54 percent of his throws (93 of 172) with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He failed to run for 100 yards three times – two were in the Clemson and North Carolina State defeats.
Voters expected more. Even before this season started, some voters expressed regrets they had voted for Jackson instead of Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson last season, especially after the Tigers won the national title.
Unfair? You bet. Blame human nature.
Group-think turns to the next fancy smartphone, fashionable sneaker or sizzling sports car. Most Valuable Player voters turn from LeBron James to Kevin Durant, from Mike Trout to Jose Altuve, from Peyton Manning to Aaron Rodgers.
In the Heisman voting this year, voters are turning from Lamar Jackson to Baker Mayfield. Even though Jackson is equally deserving of the award.
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