The Eagle’s Kellis Robinett and The Oregonian’s Aaron Fentress continue a 10-part series comparing Oregon and Kansas State ahead of the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. on ESPN, Ch. 32. Go to Kansas.com/wildcats for past matchups.
Oregon: Marcus Mariota
Stats: Mariota (6-4, 211, fr., Honolulu) lived up to advanced billing by passing for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns with six interceptions. He also rushed for 690 yards and four touchdowns on 98 carries (7 yards per carry). Named Pac-12 freshman offensive player of the year, Mariota led the conference in passing efficiency (165.4, fifth in FBS) and became the first freshman quarterback to be named to the conference’s first team since USC’s Todd Marinovich in 1989.
The buzz: Mariota is the best fit for Oregon’s spread-option offense since Dennis Dixon was a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2007 and the redshirt freshman has put up Dixon-like numbers in his first year as a starter. Mariota is a great runner but prides himself in being a passer first. He’s made few mistakes this season but is scary cool under pressure for a 19-year-old. His backup, sophomore Bryan Bennett, can step in with quality experience.
K-State: Collin Klein
Stats: Collin Klein was a Heisman Trophy finalist for a reason. The senior quarterback threw for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns with only seven interceptions while rushing for 890 yards and 34 touchdowns. After a strong junior season that left him without any individual awards as a quarterback, he was named to the Big 12’s all-conference team and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award as a senior.
The buzz: Klein is most effective on designed running plays where he has at least one lead blocker to follow. But he can also gain big yardage on delayed scrambles and with his arm. His best games this season came against West Virginia and Texas Tech, when both defenses went all-in against the Wildcats’ running game and he connected for big plays downfield. He doesn’t have the strongest arm or prettiest throwing motion, but he gets the ball where it needs to be and can be deadly when he has time in the pocket.
The Oregonian’s Aaron Fentress says
Edge to Kansas State. Mariota is the better passer and probably faster than Klein, but experience counts for something and Klein, a senior, has that working in his favor.
The Eagle’s Kellis Robinett says
Edge to Kansas State. Mariota is one of the top young quarterbacks in college football, but Klein has more experience and has proven himself over a longer period of time.