When the Heisman Trophy is awarded this Saturday, it will almost certainly go to Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield, despite his antics on and off the field, has put together an incredible season, throwing for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns and five interceptions while leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.
That has earned the Sooners a date with the Georgia Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. When the teams take the field in Pasadena, Calif., it’ll be strength vs. strength when Oklahoma’s offense is facing Georgia’s defense.
The key to the game will be whether the Bulldogs can slow down Mayfield — something no team has done this year.
No, the Sooners haven’t faced a defense like Georgia’s yet, but Mayfield torched Ohio State’s defense for 386 yards and three touchdowns on Sept. 9 in Oklahoma’s victory.
Mayfield is the scariest player the Bulldogs have faced to date, and here are just a few things that make the likely Heisman winner so dangerous:
He spreads the ball around
Three Oklahoma receivers — Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb — have 40 or more catches this year, with Brown’s 981 yards and Andrews’ eight touchdowns leading the way.
The Bulldogs have some talent in their secondary, but they’ll have their hands full trying to contain all of the weapons in the Sooners’ receiving corps.
He gets the ball downfield
Mayfield leads the country with 75 passes of 20-plus yards. When it comes to making big plays, he’s in a class with Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, UCF’s McKenzie Milton and Memphis’ Riley Ferguson.
Georgia’s defense has only allowed 30 pass plays of 20 or more yards, so something has to give in the Rose Bowl.
If the Bulldogs can keep Oklahoma’s speedy receivers in front of them, they’ll have a chance to advance to the title game.
He can make plays with his legs
No one is going to confuse Mayfield for Alabama QB Jalen Hurts anytime soon, but he can gain yards rushing when the situation calls for it.
Mayfield ran 85 times for 310 yards and five touchdowns this year, putting up a season-high 69 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas State.
Georgia’s defensive linemen must keep Mayfield in the pocket, or it could be a long day for the Bulldogs.
He has a great running back
If there’s one thing the Bulldogs know, it’s that having a strong backfield really helps quarterbacks. For Georgia, running backs Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift make play-action passes very effective for true freshman QB Jake Fromm.
Mayfield also benefits from a strong backfield, especially since sophomore RB Rodney Anderson has stepped up in recent weeks. Anderson has run for 960 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, providing Mayfield with a legitimate play-action threat in the Sooner backfield.
However, he’s currently facing some serious charges, as a protection order was filed against him this week, and it is reportedly for a rape case:
Emergency protective order filed against OU running back Rodney Anderson. In filings, petitioner lists her relationship to Anderson as a victim of rape.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) December 5, 2017
That’s definitely something to keep an eye on in the weeks leading up to the Rose Bowl.
He’s at his best in clutch situations
The Sooners have been in a few close games this year, and when Oklahoma has had its back against the wall, Mayfield has come up big.
He threw a big game-winning touchdown against rival Texas on Oct. 14 and also led late touchdown drives in wins against Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
The Bulldogs’ best chance of advancing to the national championship game will be to put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter. If Mayfield has a chance to lead the Sooners on a winning drive, he has shown that he can do it.
That’s what should scare Georgia fans the most.