Baker Mayfield's rise to stardom has not been a normal or easy path. By now, everyone knows his ascension from overlooked walk-on to Heisman finalist. Each year he seems to exceed expectations as he wins awards and breaks records. The Austin native has racked up back-to-back Burlsworth Trophies, is currently on pace to break the NCAA single-season passing efficiency record and still manages to hold a big chip on his shoulder. With all of the accolades that Mayfield has accumulated, it is difficult to find a weakness in his game. However, there is one accomplishment that Baker has yet to achieve that can be checked off in his battle against Auburn: Winning a bowl game.
Yes, that is right. One of the most talked-about and entertaining players in college football has yet to walk home with a victory from a bowl game as the starting quarterback. So, why hasn't Baker won a bowl game yet?
For those of you who just started watching college football or have decided to hop on the Sooner bandwagon for a game, Mayfield started his career at Texas Tech as a walk-on. Mayfield had a very successful season with the Red Raiders, ending the season with the honors of the Big 12 Conference Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. However, even after assembling a 2,315-yard season, Mayfield's injury issues and competition with the other quarterbacks on the roster led to him watching the National University Holiday Bowl from the sidelines. Baker, along with the Red Raider nation, watched as the other freshman QB, Davis Webb, torched the Arizona State secondary and solidified Kliff Kingsbury's confidence in him as the starter as he finished the game 403 yards and four touchdowns. Baker knew that his future at Texas Tech would be limited, and so he needed to find a new place to showcase his skills.
Mayfield arrived at OU under the radar and without a scholarship offer. His lifelong dream to be a Sooner would soon be fulfilled as he was granted a spot on the team, but he would need to sit out a year (and, at the time, lose a year of eligibility). Two years into college, Mayfield would have to watch another bowl game from the sidelines. However, the Russell Athletic Bowl performance by Trevor Knight opened the door for Mayfield to compete for a spot. Knight threw three interceptions against the Clemson Tigers, only passed for 103 yards and mustered a QBR of 1.4 in a 40-6 loss. Baker beat out Knight in an offseason battle for the starting QB position and quickly made his presence known in college football through his fiery passion and loose play. In his debut season with OU, Mayfield led the Sooners to a near-perfect regular season. This allowed Oklahoma to be invited to the College Football Playoff in just the second year of its' existence. Not only was this Baker's first season with the Sooners and OU's first appearance in the College Football Playoff, but this would also be Baker's first chance to play a college football bowl game. It did not go according to plan.
Mayfield and his crew came out swinging in the first half. OU maintained composure against the talented Clemson team, and even managed to march into the second half with a 17-16 lead. However, the Sooners would not see the end zone the rest of the game. Clemson outscored OU 21-0 in the second half, making the final score 37-17. Mayfield still threw for 311 yards, but he also accounted for two interceptions.
What does this mean for the game against Auburn? A win against the Tigers will not only validate this OU team, but it will catapult Mayfield into a senior season filled with high expectations. This game is important for many people on and off the field for OU, but Mayfield has a chance to do something he has yet to do as a starting quarterback. A guy who is known for putting a chip on his own shoulder, you can expect Mayfield will be ready to prove all the doubters wrong. Most quarterbacks who have minimal postseason experience without success would be doubted and confidence would be lost in their ability. However, this is the exact environment in which Baker has thrived throughout his life.