For the third time in the past six months, Baker Mayfield issued an apology, and for the second time in two months, we're left wondering: how will Heisman Trophy voters handle someone who simply can't get out of his own way?
The process is often criticized for its ambiguity. What, exactly, does it mean to be the "most outstanding" How has that morphed into an award that seemingly excludes certain positions, smaller schools and on, and on?
As a voter and someone who has long covered the award race from summer to ceremony, the vagueness of the criteria is part of the Heisman's charm. But the Heisman Trust's mission statement does put this on the voters -- in the first sentence -- pleading that its winner "best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
Mayfield is tempting the Trust's call to action, adding some insults (and crotch grab) to his trash talking at Baylor, the flag-plant at Ohio State and, of course, his February arrest and charge of fleeing from Fayetteville, Ark., police.
Judging morality isn't part of the job of a Heisman voter. Hence, why Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers won in 1972 with a service station holdup on his record; Cam Newton claiming the award in 2010 with allegations that his father took money from Mississippi State; and Jameis Winston taking the 2013 trophy despite sexual assault allegations.
The difference, though, is that what Mayfield is doing (running from cops aside) is on the field.
The QB's numbers are on line with the 4,700-yards plus the last five winning passers have produced, with Mayfield on pace for 4,792, and he's the FBS leader in passing efficiency at 199.3 (which would break his own single-season record of 196.3 set last season), he has the Sooners in line to make the College Football Playoff and Mayfield enters Thanksgiving weekend as the clear favorite, although he's been benched to start the game vs. West Virginia and has been stripped of captaincy.
That should put him in line for a landslide victory, and there's a distinct possibility that Mayfield still wins handedly barring any setbacks. But there are going to be a number of voters who either knock him down their list of three names on their ballots, or leave the QB off entirely.
Newton was left of 105 ballots in his win and thirteen percent of voters avoided Winston all together. Mayfield will likely pay a similar penalty in the eyes of some of the voting publi, and the best thing going for him right now is that he doesn't have a chief rival to take full advantage of his continued missteps.
For the record, this voter had Newton and Winston both at the top of his ballot, and these repeated incidents won't preclude Mayfield from getting the nod.
The next time we see Mayfield give a heartfelt speech, it should be at the podium as he's named the Heisman winner -- unless he finds a way to let his emotions get the best of him yet again.
Before we dive into this week's risers and sliders in the race, here's a look at the Forecaster's latest projections.
As stated multiple times in this space, the road was paved for Jackson to return to New York as a finalist barring an injury that kept him out multiple games. Since the Downtown Athletic Club invited the first group to New York in 1982, only one returning winner did not earn a repeat trip to the ceremony. That was Florida State's Jameis Winston in 2014, when he made headlines for the crab legs incident and making a sexually lewd comment on campus. So Jackson, the FBS leader in total offense by 37 yards per game at 414.5 and is on pace for more yards (4,974) than when he won the trophy last season. The thought here was that Jackson's inclusion would be a telltale sign of the vote, with Louisville's QB likely being the last of the finalists, hence his inclusion would dictate how many received invites. But as so many others have faded, and Mayfield suffered another self-inflicted problem, Jackson has a legit chance to get the first top-3 finish for a defending winner since Tim Tebow in 2008.
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ON THE RISE: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB
Taylor may be the only player who can sneak in and have a stunning top-3 finish as he and the Badgers just keep marching along. The freshman burned Michigan's 15th-ranked rush defense for 132 yards on 19 carries, marking the first time the Wolverines had let a back hit the century mark since Saquon Barkley on Oct. 21 vs. Penn State. Minnesota shouldn't be much of a roadblock for Taylor, who is sitting on 1,657 yards (third in FBS) and is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award along with Barkley and Stanford's Bryce Love. The Gophers, who are allowing 161.7 on the ground (63rd), just gave up 277 and three TDs to Northwestern.
USA TODAY NETWORKRick Wood-USA TODAY Sports
ON THE RISE: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB
Fifth in the voting way back in his redshirt freshman year of 2014, Barrett has a spotlight game against archrival and he and the Buckeyes have the faintest of hopes of reaching the CFP should they knock off Wisconsin in Dec. 2's Big Ten Championship Game. Revitalizing his campaign and getting Ohio State in the selection committee's good graces is going to mean absolute dominance, and we've seen Barrett both at his best (he threw for 328 yards and four TDs and ran for another 95 yards vs. Penn State) and worst (four picks vs. Iowa) in less than a month's time. The Wolverines defense has been sagging, giving up 340 yards and 325 yards the last two times out, and Top 25 teams have piled up 361 per game (138 less than unranked opponents), making this a perfect stage for the good version of Barrett to deliver a statement -- and, yes, earn some more gold pants.
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FALL GUYS: Kerryon Johnson, Auburn RB
Johnson has been on a roll with no fewer than 137 yards in each of the past three weeks in rising up to 21st in the nation with 1,172 yards and has gone over 100 yards in seven times on the year. But just one of those games was vs. a team with a rush defense ranked higher than 25th, with Johnson getting to Georgia -- sixth vs. ground game -- for 167 yards. No. 1 Alabama is No. 2 vs. the rush, and while they've allowed 151, 172 and 107 on the ground the past three weeks, the Crimson Tide could get that much nastier with Nick Saban suggesting injured linebackers Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis and Mack Wilson could all play Saturday vs. Auburn. That could derail Johnson's budding hopes along with the CFP dreams of the Tigers.
USA TODAY NETWORKAlbert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports
FALL GUYS: Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB
This was the inevitability of Barkley's chase after the Nittany Lions fell out of CFP and Big Ten title consideration. While he rebounded nicely vs. Nebraska, posting his first 100-yard game since Oct. 21 in piling up 158 and three TDs and adding another 66 yards on six receptions, the fact of the matter is that game came against a four-win opponent, and he'll face another one this week in Maryland. Barkley continues to be a strong choice to get to the ceremony, but it doesn't help that while other contenders are playing in spotlight games, he's the victim of Penn State's late-October/early-November slide.
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FALL GUYS: Josh Adams, Notre Dame RB
Adams didn't make the field of Doak Walker finalists after back-to-back forgettable performances vs. NC State and Wake Forest, and and while he did bounce back with 106 yards on 18 carries vs. Navy, it's been nearly a month since Adams found the end zone. Facing off against Love, who seems destined to get a seat the table for the ceremony, will only provide another setback.