When he was sacked into a brick wall and arrested by Arkansas cops in February, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield did not figure to be in this position. A trip to jail is not an ideal way to launch a Heisman Trophy campaign.
But time passes, people forgive and forget, and what matters most is winning while putting up sick stats in the process. It also helps when every other Heisman contender falls on his face.
So here we are on the second Saturday of November and Mayfield is facing his final Heisman hurdle. He’s the clear favorite at Las Vegas sports books, with his price ranging from minus-150 to minus-175. Really, there’s only one way he can lose.
One man stands in the way of Mayfield winning college football’s top individual award, and the same man can knock the Sooners out of the four-team playoff picture. It’s Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson, who tends to thrive in the under-the-radar and underdog roles.
Patterson preaches defense, and that makes him a misfit in the Big 12, which has morphed into a video-game league that treats defense like an infectious disease.
For the latest basketball-on-grass example, review the film of Oklahoma’s 62-52 win at Oklahoma State last week. The teams combined for a rivalry-record 114 points and more than 1,400 yards, with the losing quarterback passing for 448 yards and five touchdowns. Mayfield, the winner, passed for 598 yards and five touchdowns while running for another score. He connected with speed burner “Hollywood” Marquise Brown nine times for 265 yards.
Why is college football so popular? There are a variety of ways to answer that question, but it begins with entertainment value. The Sooners scored 62 points in one game. The Cleveland Browns have totaled 63 points in their past five games.
The NFL has turned into flag football, with officials constantly interfering with nonsensical calls. If that’s not bad enough, Roger Goodell and his cutthroat team of attorneys will dominate the news off the field.
The showdown in Norman today pits Mayfield’s seemingly unstoppable offense against TCU’s defensive guru. It’s up to Patterson to devise a scheme to slow the nation’s hottest quarterback and throw the Heisman race into further chaos.
The Horned Frogs rank sixth in the nation in scoring defense (13.9) and allow 4.4 yards per play, best in the Big 12. The Sooners rank third in scoring offense (45.0) and gain 8.6 yards per play. These teams are opposites with one common black eye — shockingly, each team was upset by Iowa State.
TCU will need quarterback Kenny Hill and running backs Darius Anderson and Kyle Hicks to generate more offense than usual to trade scores with Mayfield, who has passed for 3,226 yards and 28 touchdowns. There is no such thing as completely shutting him down.
Patterson pulled off a similar trick in late September, when he led the Frogs into Stillwater and whipped the Cowboys 44-31.
In the teams’ past five meetings, the Sooners won four times, but all five games were decided by seven points or fewer. The line has dropped from 7 early in the week to 6½ at most books. Bet on more 7s resurfacing today. Either way, this is a play on Patterson and the Frogs as road ‘dogs.
The big-game atmosphere in Miami tonight will be phenomenal. Notre Dame was a play at minus-3 this week, but with the number moving to 3½ it’s time to pass.
Saturday’s plays: GEORGIA TECH (plus-3) over Virginia Tech; Michigan State (plus-17) over OHIO STATE; Texas Christian (plus-7) over OKLAHOMA; IOWA STATE (plus-6½) over Oklahoma State; Purdue-NORTHWESTERN (Under 48½); MINNESOTA (-2½) over Nebraska; Iowa (plus-12) over WISCONSIN; Georgia (-2½) over AUBURN; Boise State (-6) over COLORADO STATE; Fresno State (-10) over HAWAII.
Last week: 3-6 against the spread