By Teddy Greenstein
I don’t like the chalk. Favorites are not my favorite.
I prefer underdogs, especially where the Heisman Trophy is concerned. I take pride in having not voted for the last two winners.
Derrick Henry in 2015? Sure, he chewed up a zillion yards after Nick Saban set him to “annihilate.”
I swam against the Tide and voted for Christian McCaffrey. When McCaffrey racked up almost four football fields’ worth of yards during the Rose Bowl, I beamed. (Sorry, Iowa fans.)
Last year brought two spectacular candidates. Lamar Jackson ran like an All-America tailback (1,571 yards) and posted some sick passing stats (3,543 yards, 30 touchdowns). But Louisville played only two ranked teams. One was Clemson.
On that day, Deshaun Watson fired five touchdown passes, including two in the final eight minutes to flip an eight-point deficit into a 42-36 victory. Watson threw for 4,593 yards last season, and the Clemson coaches joked that they said “wow” so often in their headsets, it must have broken a record.
Watson got my first-place vote (you list three on the ballot) and, as you might have heard, won his final two games. The victims: Ohio State and Alabama.
Jackson, meanwhile, completed 10 of 27 passes with no scores in the Citrus Bowl against LSU.
I won’t pretend I’ve been a sage every time I’ve passed on the Heisman favorite.
Remember Dennis Dixon? Oregon fell apart so spectacularly after Dixon got injured in 2007, losing three straight after an 8-1 start, I treated the Heisman like an MVP vote. I was one of only 17 who selected Dixon over Tim Tebow (462 first-place votes) and Darren McFadden (291).
I was one of two voters _ yeah, two _ who viewed Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate as the most outstanding in 2009. Was the other one former Irish Heisman winner Tim Brown?
In 2012 I could not vote for that entitled punk Johnny Manziel. Manti Te’o got my nod _ and when Alabama flattened him in the BCS title game, I felt as if I had been catfished.
All that is a loooooong way of explaining my feelings regarding the 2017 race, which figures to be as close as Usain Bolt versus The Fridge.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was a human headline in 2017. He got arrested in February for public intoxication and tried to outrun the police in Fayetteville, Ark. (“Not very fast,” was an actual scouting report from one of the cops.)
He torched Ohio State and tried to plant an Oklahoma flag in Ohio Stadium’s artificial turf. (Insert the facepalm emoji.)
While the Sooners were throttling pitiful Kansas, Mayfield hurled some f-bombs at the Jayhawks bench while, um, adjusting his jock strap. (Hey, Michael Jackson never lost any Heisman votes after he grabbed his crotch.)
Here’s some other stuff to know about Mayfield:
_ After achieving the highest passing efficiency rating in FBS history in 2016 thanks to a 70.9 percent completion rate, 40 touchdowns and eight interceptions, he bettered it this fall (71 percent, 41 TDs, five picks).
_ He was hyper-reliable in 2017, with his “worst” statistical performance coming in a 49-27 victory over Texas Tech (22 of 34, 281 yards, four TDs, one pick).
_ Kansas deserved to be ridiculed after its captains left Mayfield hanging during the pregame handshake and took cheap shots at him during the game.
_ Mayfield, viewed as too short and scrawny out of high school in Austin, Texas, began his career as a Texas Tech walk-on. He won the job in fall camp as a true freshman and started eight games. But he left Lubbock before bowl season, showing up at Oklahoma unannounced.
Mayfield might be as cocky as Manziel, but he is anything but entitled.
So about my Heisman selection?
We check a box pledging to keep it confidential until the award is handed out at the end of ESPN’s show Saturday. So I can’t tell you that I voted for Mayfield.
But I think I can reveal my view that sometimes, a favorite deserves to be a favorite.