Oregon Football: Can Ducks' QB Marcus Mariota Be College Football's Best?

Can Marcus Mariota Be the Best QB in 2014?

5/1/14 in NCAAF   |   chris901   |   24 respect

Nov 29, 2013; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers defensive end Devon Kell (94) runs after Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY SportsIf a quarterback throws a touchdown pass but nobody is in the stands to see it, does it still score any points?

This paradoxical question might seem similar to the question of whether a tree in a forest makes a sound if nobody is around to hear it. It is similar, but it also might seem irrelevant to college football.

It is not.

The ability of a player attains value through recognition. That ability gains recognition from prominence in the sport. For example, a player who is in a small program in Montana will not get the same recognition as a player from a big-time Division I school, no matter how talented. 

This factor plays into whether Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks truly can become the best quarterback in college football. Mariota has the blessing of both athletic talent and being in a premier program. He lights up the statistics sheet, and his team attracts enough attention for people to notice what he is doing.

It is for this reason that Mariota will be the best quarterback in college football this year. 

Mariota followed up his rookie season with an equally strong offensive performance in 2013. He decreased his interception total from six to four and threw over 30 touchdown passes once again. More importantly, Mariota ran for nine touchdowns as opposed to five in his first college season. 

Defenses get headaches trying to contain Mariota because he can score in multiple ways. Mariota’s dual-threat ability will become more vital early on this season with the loss of wide receivers Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins, and running back De’Anthony Thomas. Anytime a team loses key players like these, especially its top receiver as Huff was, there is an adjustment period in which the team must rely on its other stars. 

However, Mariota’s talent is easily great enough to lead the Ducks through this transition period, which makes his case even stronger for being the best quarterback in college football. Also, the transition period won’t last long at all. Mariota is still surrounded by key role players like Byron Marshall (who led the team in rushing touchdowns last season) and wide receiver Bralon Addison (who was second only to Huff in receiving touchdowns in 2013) to give Mariota a reliable target on every down. 

Dec 30, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) warms up before the game against the Texas Longhorns at Alamo Dome. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY SportsThe Ducks have a talented returning roster and they have finished near the top of the Pac-12 in each of the last six years. There is no reason to believe they won’t continue their success this season, which means they will attract enough attention to give Mariota the recognition he needs. 

His only competition for the best quarterback in college football will be 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston. His Florida State Seminoles are coming off of an NCAA championship season, which garners attention unrivaled by any program heading into the 2014 regular season. If Winston throws close to 40 touchdowns again, and the Seminoles win the majority of their games, Mariota will have to put up even higher numbers than he has already to earn the title of the best quarterback in the NCAA. 

Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron are both taking their services to the NFL, so they won’t threaten Mariota for attention and in ability as they would have in the past. Sean Mannion of the Oregon State Beavers is capable of putting up high passing numbers (he threw for over 4,600 yards in 2013, which was second in the nation). However, Mannion is more careless with the football, having thrown 46 interceptions in three years. Mannion also is not a dual-threat quarterback like Mariota. 

The tools are there. The attention will come. If Winston fails to match his numbers from last year and the Ducks succeed as a team, all the pieces will be in place to crown Mariota the best quarterback in college football.

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