There's a disconnect between what the Heisman Trophy is and what it claims to be.
The words on the ballot say the Heisman is "awarded to the outstanding college football player in the United States," as long as he's eligible.
By that criteria, the vote is easy: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield leads the nation in yards per pass and completion percentage and broke his own NCAA record for single-season passing efficiency (203.76). The fact that he's doing it for the College Football Playoff-bound Big 12 champions is a bonus that made him the runaway favorite for the final month of the season.
But the Heisman Trophy Trust's mission statement isn't so simple. It says the award "recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
If you accept the final part of that criteria, the decision becomes more complicated. Mayfield infamously taunted Kansas by grabbing his crotch; the action drew a reprimand from the Big 12, led the Sooners to strip his captaincy on senior day and caused him to be benched for two whole plays the next week.
It wasn't the first time Mayfield's actions drew public scrutiny. He had to apologize after trying to stick a Sooners flag at Ohio State to celebrate a 31-16 win in September. And in February, he was charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in an early-morning incident in Arkansas.
That doesn't sound like exhibiting "the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
I do not care.
Mayfield topped my Heisman ballot, followed by Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford running back Bryce Love. I also considered Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb and UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton.
The Heisman isn't the only athletic honor that tries to transcend on-field achievements. Baseball Hall of Fame voters are asked to consider a candidate's integrity, sportsmanship and character in addition to his ERA or batting average. Some voters have cited that part of the ballot as a way to avoid supporting known or suspected steroids users.
The Heisman is different, because our ballots say nothing about character. It's a good thing, too, because I don't feel qualified to evaluate players' integrity.
I don't pretend to know the character of any of the players I cover, let alone the ones I only watch from afar. I don't know whether the charitable events they attend are done out of a sincere desire to help others or to boost the image of themselves or their programs. I don't know what they do when there are no cameras around. I don't know whether Jackson fighting with Kentucky players or Chubb spitting on the Florida State logo were heat-of-the-moment mistakes or indicative of something worse.
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I do, however, know what they have accomplished on the field.
Mayfield is having one of the most prolific passing seasons in the history of the sport (41 touchdowns, five interceptions, 4,340 yards). Jackson is averaging more yards per carry and more passing yards per game while throwing fewer interceptions than he did during last year's Heisman season. Love rushed for almost 2,000 yards with a Division I-A record 12 carries of at least 50 yards despite a nagging ankle injury.
All three are clearly outstanding college football players. And when it comes to the most prestigious individual award in sports, that, fortunately, is all that matters.
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.