COMMENTARY | The best college football player over the past two seasons has not been Johnny “Football” Manziel of Texas A&M University. Nor has it been Teddy Bridgewater of the University of Louisville. While both have posted glittering statistics and received plenty of national recognition, the best has been Marcus Mariota of the University of Oregon.
From the start of his college career, this sophomore sensation has been great almost beyond belief. Every time I’ve seen him he has played near perfect football. Curious to know if my instincts were correct — that he has been the best of the three — I researched and compared his 2012 and 2013 statistics versus those of Manziel and Bridgewater. Mariota exceeds the other two in six crucial statistical categories. He has:
- · won the most games (19);
- · posted the highest winning percentage (95 percent);
- · completed the most touchdown passes (51);
- · thrown the fewest interceptions (6);
- · been sacked the least (25); and
- · gained the most average yards per run (8).
To be fair, in three statistical categories Mariota posted numbers below the other two. Last season, for example, Manziel ran for 21 touchdowns versus Mariota’s five. This season Mariota has completed 62 percent of his passes whereas Manziel and Bridgewater have connected on 73 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Combining this season and last, Mariota has passed for 4,728 yards, well below Manziel’s 5,995 and Bridgewater’s 5,931.
Mariota has thrown 51 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions
All three quarterbacks are going to be first round draft picks in the National Football League. Each is having a splendid college career. But when you look at what Mariota has done so far, he’s been especially stellar. Who was the last college quarterback to pass for 51 touchdowns and 6 interceptions through his first two seasons? The answer is virtually no one. You can’t pass much more effectively than that.
Even superb players succumb to mediocre games once in a while. But Mariota doesn’t. Unlike most quarterbacks, he breaks loose for long touchdown sprints. He is as fast — and in many cases faster — than the majority of defensive backs and wide receivers. When he’s not sprinting past them, he’s throwing accurate passes to flummox them. Defenses can’t stop him. He’s got too much talent.
While I’m partial to Mariota as the trio’s best, I am aware that Manziel is also a prodigious talent. I don’t recall ever seeing a college quarterback more elusive in the open field who could consistently throw accurate passes all over the field. And I know Bridgewater throws the ball with uncanny precision.
But combining effectiveness, consistency, running ability, explosiveness, and winning, Mariota bests the other two. Given how great Manziel and Bridgewater have played, this is a monumental achievement.
Mariota’s speed is striking for a quarterback. His best time in the 40 yard dash has been 4.42 seconds, which is almost as fast as Manziel’s 4.34. Mariota’s time is comparable to most college wide receivers and defensive backs, who are typically the fastest college football players. Mariota stands about four inches taller than Manziel making him, based on height, a more attractive pro prospect. Bridgewater, about the same height as Mariota, may be the best pure passer of the three but is not nearly the running threat of the other two.
But let’s stay in the moment. We should savor how dazzling these three have been in college. Later this season, it’s likely Mariota’s undefeated and second-ranked Ducks will play unbeaten and top-ranked Alabama in the national title game. If he upsets the defending national champions, he will become Marcus Football. He will show why he is the nation’s best college quarterback.