The wait is finally (almost) over.
After speculating for months about who the best football player among the college ranks has been, the list of names shifted almost weekly, with a scroll of other names being in the discussion following an explosive game. It comes down to Saturday night, when the Heisman Trophy winner is named at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN (live stream at WatchESPN).
Three names that were consistently among the top spot were Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Stanford RB Bryce Love, and Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. Each of the three finalists have had, not only stand out seasons, but careers at their respective institutions and are almost assuredly staring down the possibility of being drafted come spring.
Despite Mayfield’s antics — that have forced him to apologize time and time again — his competitive temperament and leadership qualities will do more to encourage NFL teams to take him in 2018 than not. He finished his senior campaign pretty much claiming the No. 1 spot in almost every single passing category on the board.
He finished 2017 with 4,340 passing yards (a career-high) for a 71 completion percentage (No. 1 in NCAA) and 41 passing TDs (No. 1 in NCAA). He also ranks first in the FBS in yards per attempt (11.8) and adjusted yards per attempt (13.4), not to mention his career total of 14,320 passing yards ranks No. 8 in college football history (since 1956).
Finishing the season ranked No. 2 in the hunt for the Heisman, Cardinal running back Love fought through injuries week after week to compete, and he ultimately led his team to the Pac-12 Championship (even if it wasn’t able to win it).
During the conference title game, Love rushed for 125 yards, marking his 10th game in 2017 with over 100 yards on the ground. He finished the season thiiiis close to breaking 2,000 rushing yards (1,973) and nabbed 17 scores during his junior campaign. His 7.9 yards per carry career average is enough to rank No. 2 in college football history (since 1956).
The second quarterback who will be featured in New York is Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. One of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in all of FBS, he may not have the same resume as Mayfield through the air, but his ground game is hard to ignore. Jackson’s junior campaign featured 3,489 passing yards with 25 TDs, not to mention his 1,443 rushing yards and 17 scores. His season stats were enough to propel him to No. 1 in about every offensive category for the ACC, and on the national level, his 4,932 yards of total offense is enough for No. 1 in the NCAA.
Maybe you really like Lamar Jackson. I do, too. Jackson’s well over 1,400 rushing yards, which is great. But Mayfield’s passing numbers dwarf Jackson’s, and it’s not like Mayfield’s a chump as a runner himself. Mayfield has 310 rushing yards on 85 attempts, and his ground numbers would look good if college football counted sacks as a passing stat.
Jackson has 4,932 combined passing and rushing yards to Mayfield’s 4,650. But Jackson’s used 607 plays to get there. Mayfield’s used 454. The averages make it clear that Mayfield is CFB’s best collector of yardage. He has a passer rating more than 50 points higher than Jackson’s, and both are passers more than they’re runners.