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Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: Who Will Prove to Be the Better QB? By Ben Kercheval , Featured Columnist  Dec 15, 2014 Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: Who Will Prove to Be the Better QB? There won't be a more compelling matchup of quarterbacks this bowl season than the one in the Rose Bowl. "The Granddaddy of Them All" features, as anticipated, the latest Heisman Trophy winner, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, and last year's Heisman winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. On top of that, it's likely going to be the final college game for one of them, as the winner will move on to the College Football Playoff championship. Some might be so bold to say that's a decent storyline. Mariota's numbers have been not only eye-popping, but consistent: 68.3 completion percentage, 3,783 yards, 10.2 yards per attempt, 669 rushing yards, 5.72 yards per rush, 53 total touchdowns, two interceptions and a partridge in a pear tree. Winston's numbers are down this season, a reflection of—but not necessarily a reason for—Florida State's inconsistent play. On the year, Winston has a 65.4 completion percentage, 3,559 yards, 8.4 yards per attempt, 27 total touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Which one is primed for the better game?Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis WinstonPlayer Completion % Passing Yards Yards per Attempt Rushing Yards Total Touchdowns Interceptions Marcus Mariota 68.3 3,783 10.2 669 53 2 Jameis Winston 65.4 3,559 8.4 80 27 17 The Case for MariotaHe hasn't had a bad game all year. Not one. That's amazing considering how hit-and-miss the Ducks' offensive line has been this season. Oregon has allowed 2.23 sacks per game, but there was a stretch in late September into October when, because of injuries, Oregon had a hard time keeping a clean pocket for Mariota.  The closest any team has been to making Mariota "just a guy" was Arizona in a 31-24 win over the Ducks in early October. Mariota was still 20-of-32 for 276 passing yards and a pair of scores, but was a non-factor running the ball and forced into two fumbles on sacks. The flip side to all of that is that Mariota has faced just two truly stout defenses: Stanford and Michigan State. The Cardinal and Spartans rank first and 14th in yards per passing attempt allowed, respectively, and second and 12th in points per game allowed. Granted, Mariota played well in both of those games, throwing for 318 yards and three touchdowns against Michigan State and 258 yards with four total touchdowns against Stanford. The results, however limited, indicate he's not a quarterback that thrives only on weaker competition. What makes Mariota so good is his decision-making. Mistakes are a rarity for Mariota, but when he does show signs of being human, it doesn't affect him."He's freakishly smart, especially when it comes to football," Ducks offensive coordinator Scott Frost told Adam Rittenberg of in November. "He sees things and processes things so quickly that he just doesn't make a ton of mistakes." Florida State is decent enough in getting takeaways. The Seminoles defense averages one interception a game; it's holding on to the ball that's a problem for FSU. Athletically, Florida State matches up well with Oregon. Can the Noles finally fluster Mariota? No one has done it yet. The Case for WinstonIt's become impossible to talk about Winston solely as an on-the-field product. If you conducted an approval-rating survey of Winston like you would for a president, the results would be bad. There are a lot of people who don't like him because of his off-the-field antics, if you want to call them that.Of course, those incidents—the shoplifting, the BB gun fight, etc.—are microscopic in the bigger question of whether Winston sexually assaulted a woman two years ago. (The results from Winston's code of conduct hearing should be known within the next few weeks, according to Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel.)As a result, everything Winston does, like push a referee out of the way during a game, gets magnified. How others view Winston as a football player is done through the lens of his personal life. Additionally, the perception of Mariota has become that of an anti-Winston. But make no mistake: Winston is still a top-tier college quarterback. According to B/R's draft guru Matt Miller, Winston would be a top-five selection from a grade standpoint. It's true that Winston has made some bad decisions this season. Though interceptions are a team stat in that a number of things can contribute to them, Winston's four interceptions against Florida last month were mostly, if not all, on him. However, there are a couple of things to consider. The Seminoles didn't have much of a running game until freshman Dalvin Cook emerged in the second half of the season. That was putting pressure on Winston as a passer. Florida State is also breaking in some freshman receivers. While guys like Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane are full of promise, they are going to make freshman mistakes like running the wrong route. That can result in a pick. That said, Winston's ball placement is impeccable. He makes some difficult throws look easy. There's something to be said for that. He's not a gifted runner like Mariota, but he's athletic enough to move around in the pocket and make plays with his feet when he has to. In short: Winston didn't magically morph from the most outstanding player in college football a year ago to a nobody. In fact, Winston went from his worst game of the season against Florida to his best against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game (21-of-30 for 309 yards and three touchdowns). Throw out the season stats mentioned above because this one is a close call. A month to prepare might be Winston's best friend. However, there just hasn't been anything this season that indicates Mariota will be anything other than brilliant. It's a safe choice, sure, but not necessarily one that is indicative of the outcome. The Rose Bowl could actually become a game where an unsung hero, perhaps Cook or Royce Freeman of Oregon, takes over the game. The question will be whether Florida State's defense can do two things: play disciplined, especially against tempo, and shut down Oregon's receivers in pass defense. The Seminoles don't get into the backfield much (1.31 sacks per game, last in the ACC), so Mariota could have plenty of time to throw. The more an offense has time, the more likely it's going to make a play. That's all Mariota has done this year. Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of

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