Georgia's invitation to play Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day was just a few hours old Sunday when Bulldogs second-year coach Kirby Smart was asked if his team had faced anyone like Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield.
"No," Smart quickly responded with a laugh. "We haven't played against any Heisman Trophy winners or anybody of that caliber at that position. He is really talented, because he can hurt you in so many ways."
Mayfield has not won this season's Heisman Trophy quite yet, as voting for college football's most prestigious award ended late Monday afternoon. The Heisman ceremony will take place Saturday night at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City, and the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder from Austin, Texas, is the overwhelming favorite over his two fellow finalists: Stanford running back Bryce Love and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was last year's winner.
In his three seasons with the Sooners, Mayfield has thrown for 12,005 yards with 117 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, so there is the "career achievement" aspect to his Heisman candidacy. And this year he has completed 262 of 369 passes (71 percent) for 4,340 yards with 41 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Oklahoma will head to Pasadena leading the nation with 583.3 yards a game and ranking fourth in scoring at 44.9 points per contest.
"He's just such a good athlete," Smart said. "He's got a thicker build, and yet he can stretch and extend plays. He's extremely explosive, and he's not afraid to make any throws. It's almost really like when you watch Brett Favre back in the day, but obviously Baker is a better athlete.
"He's got the gunslinger mentality that he can make all the throws, and he enjoys the game. I've enjoyed watching the games he's played and the passion which he plays with. It's really what college football is all about."
The Heisman Trophy has been all about quarterbacks in recent seasons, with that position claiming six of the last seven awards. Three of the last six quarterback winners — Auburn's Cam Newton (2010), Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel (2012) and Florida State's Jameis Winston (2013) — were also known for off-the-field controversies during their college days, and it's no different with Mayfield.
After a 31-16 win at Ohio State on Sept. 9, Mayfield planted an Oklahoma flag at midfield, and he was caught on camera grabbing his crotch while yelling across the field at the Kansas sideline during the second half of a 41-3 rout of the Jayhawks on Nov. 18.
Late Sunday night, Baker sent a message via Twitter that read, "To whoever posted my cell number, bravo, but I got it changed! And to the Georgia fans that had the kind words of encouragement, I applaud your creativity."
The Bulldogs have faced a Heisman Trophy winner once before in a bowl game, and it didn't go well for them. In the Sugar Bowl after the 1976 season, Pittsburgh running back Tony Dorsett rushed 32 times for 202 yards and a touchdown in leading a 27-3 rout that resulted in a national championship.
Georgia has a 2-6 record all-time against teams with who would be that year's Heisman Trophy winner, with the wins coming over South Carolina (George Rogers) in 1980 and Florida (Tim Tebow) in 2007. The most recent loss came two seasons ago against Alabama and running back Derrick Henry, who had 26 rushes for 148 yards and a touchdown in the Crimson Tide's 38-10 triumph in Athens.
Mayfield began his career at Texas Tech in 2013, when he completed 64.1 percent of his passes and threw for 2,315 yards, but he decided to transfer to Oklahoma after one year. The Sooners were coming off a 45-31 stunning of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl under the guidance of redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, who riddled the Tide for 348 yards and four touchdowns, but Mayfield envisioned an opportunity despite the competition and seized it.
"It doesn't amaze me now that I've seen Baker Mayfield," Smart said. "He's not one who is going to lack confidence in himself. He's done a heck of a job leading that team, and you see the same thing in the way he plays, because his confidence level is really high.
"Why should he be bashful about coming in and competing? There are good quarterbacks everywhere, and the best quarterbacks I've been around came in and were not afraid of the competition."
Protective order filed
A protective order has been filed against Oklahoma redshirt sophomore running back Rodney Anderson.
According to the Oklahoman, the emergency protective order was filed by a university employee, and a hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 18. Anderson has rushed for 960 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.