Biggest story-line of Rose Bowl week? Baker Mayfield's cold
Baker Mayfield has a cold — or something like that — and it has become the biggest story in an otherwise quiet week leading up the Rose Bowl.
Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy winning quarterback was at practice Friday as the second-ranked Sooners prepare for the Rose Bowl semifinal of the College Football Playoff against No. 3 Georgia, but for the second time in three days he missed media availability.
School spokesman Michael Houck said Mayfield was not feeling well, but other than that there was no official word on his condition three days before the Sooners play the Bulldogs in Pasadena. The winner of the Rose Bowl advances to the Jan. 8 title game against either Clemson or Alabama.
A handful of Oklahoma offensive players and co-offensive coordinator Cale Gundy met with reporters Friday at a downtown Los Angeles hotel. As the starting quarterback, Mayfield was required by the CFP to be part of the media session, though in cases of injuries and illnesses exceptions are made.
The other Oklahoma players all toed the company line when asked about Mayfield.
"You'd have to talk to Coach (Lincoln) Riley tomorrow about that," center Erick Wren said. "That's not something I want to hit on today." Rose Bowl media day, when all the players and coaches from each team are made available to reporters, is Saturday.
Mayfield also did not make the Sooners' trip to Disneyland on Wednesday. Riley was asked about Mayfield's absence and condition, but left it at a decision to not bring the quarterback to amusement park.
Mayfield has been at practice every day.
On Friday, a warm and sunny day in Southern California, Mayfield was going through throwing drills with Oklahoma's other quarterbacks during the 15-minute part of practice at Stub Hub Center, the temporary home of the Los Angeles Chargers, that was open to the media.
In shoulder pads, helmet and shorts, Mayfield zipped about a dozen passes to receivers before all the position groups convened for scrimmaging and the practice was closed. Mayfield chugged Gatorade and spoke briefly with Oklahoma trainers after throwing.
That Mayfield is showing up to practice could be a good sign that whatever is bothering him is not too serious. Most of the major preparation and game plan installation for a bowl game is usually done before a team arrives at the bowl site. For Mayfield, a senior who has started 47 games in his career, missing a practice this week probably wouldn't be that big of a problem.
Mayfield has completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns this season.
He started every game for Oklahoma this season, except for the regular-season finale against West Virginia, when he was benched for the first series by Riley for inappropriate sideline behavior the week before in a game against Kansas.
Backup Kyler Murray started against the Jayhawks before giving way to Mayfield. Murray is a former five-star recruit who transferred from Texas A&M after his freshman season and sat out last year. He was 18-for-21 passing this season for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 142 yards on 13 carries.
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker laughed when he was asked about Mayfield being sick and missing the interview sessions.
"Really, in a game like this you expect him to be at his best," Tucker said. "We want him to be at his best. That's part of the challenge and the competition factor, and this is what it's all about."