Baker Mayfield will be entering his second season as the starting quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners, and the bar has been raised pretty high after finishing fourth in last year's Heisman Trophy standings with 334 total points, including 34 first-place nods. His betting odds to win the 2016 Heisman have been set at +900 by MyBookie behind the likes of Leonard Fournette, Deshawn Watson and Christian McCaffrey.
One big thing in his favor right off the bat is that he does play quarterback. Former Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the Heisman last season, and going all the way back to 2006 he was just the second player to win this award outside the quarterback position. Also in his favor is a bit of precedent with former Sooners' quarterback Sam Bradford winning the Heisman in 2008.
That being said, Mayfield is still going to have to win the 2016 Heisman as the nation's top college football player on the field. After missing the entire 2014 season due to eligibility issues after transferring from Texas Tech, he took over the reins as the Sooners' starter in 2015 and made the most of the opportunity. Mayfield ended last season with 3,700 passing yards and 36 touchdown throws on 395 attempts. He had a completion percentage of 68.1 percent, and he was intercepted only seven times for a total quarterback rating of 81.7, which was ranked ninth in the nation. Showing some solid mobility with his legs, he added 405 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground on 141 rushing attempts.
More importantly in the eyes of the Heisman voters, Mayfield's performance in 2015 was one of the big reasons why Oklahoma made it into the College Football Playoff as one of the top four teams in the nation with an 11-1 record in the regular season. The Sooners went on to lose to Clemson 37-17 in the CFP Semifinals, and Mayfield did not have his best day on the field with a pair of costly interceptions, but most college football experts would agree that Oklahoma exceeded expectations last year.
Fresh off that impressive run, the Sooners have been opened as prohibitive-135 favorites to win the Big 12 again this season. Their futures odds to go on and win a national title are set at +900, which are currently the fifth-best on the board. Looking at this year's schedule, Mayfield will get a chance to build some momentum with the Heisman voter's right out the gate in the Sooners' season opener against Houston on Sept. 3 in a national broadcast showdown at NRG Stadium.
Week 3 could be a make-or-break game for both Oklahoma's playoff chances and Mayfield's Heisman hopes with Ohio State coming into Norman to take on the Sooners. Things do not get any easier from there with a road game against TCU followed by neutral-site game against Texas on Oct. 8 in the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
If the Sooners somehow survive this early gauntlet undefeated, they would probably be ranked No. 1 in the nation with Mayfield at the very top of the list with the Heisman voters. However, this would be a very big if. Even with a loss during that run, he will have a chance to close out the season on a strong note with games against Baylor at home, West Virginia on the road and the Sooners' traditional rivalry game against Oklahoma State on their home field this Dec. 3.
I think that Mayfield is one of the top football players in the nation heading into the 2016 season, but he has some stiff competition ranked ahead of him on the list of Heisman contenders. Another drain on the value in his Heisman odds is the Sooners' brutal schedule, which could end up working against his chances to win.
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