Mighty Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota at Wyoming Game

He’s commonly referred to as “Super Mariota” or “MariGOATa” (GOAT is short for “greatest of all time”) and for good reason. Oregon’s Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota may very well be the most efficient quarterback in the history of college football. Seriously, Mariota is on a path that few have traveled.

Mariota’s 170.85 career Passing Efficiency Rating (PER) is second all time to former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford (175.62) . He’s also challenging Russell Wilson’s single season PER mark of 191.78; Mariota was at 191.00 heading into the Stanford game, but saw his PER drop to 187.2. Even after throwing an interception against Stanford, his 187.2 PER would still be the fourth highest rating of all time for a single season.

Shall we dive more into the numbers? Mariota has 89 career touchdown passes with just 12 interceptions. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Oregon’s Senior Associate AD of Marketing and Public Relatons, Craig Pinters, tweeted out a chart showing just how on point Mariota has been.marcus mariota chart

Not a shabby list. There are nine Heisman winners and eleven Super Bowl championships amongst this group. But it’s Oregon’s Marcus Mariota that sits at the top (and by a fairly substantial margin I might add). What’s perhaps most impressive is that the chart doesn’t even illustrate the other half of Maroita’s arsenal…his legs.

The truth is that Mariota’s ability to run allows the Ducks’ offense to perform at such a mind-blowing level. Oregon builds its entire offense around the zone-read, and it’s the threat of Mariota sprinting down field that keeps opposing defenses honest. In each of the past two seasons, Mariota has run for over 700 yards while averaging seven-plus yards per carry. He’s toned it back a little bit this season (most likely due to his knee injury for the last half of the 2013 season, and there hasn’t been a need to risk re-injury), but it’s clear that the wheels are still there. The Oregon quarterback had his best rushing performance of the season last week against Stanford running for 85 yards and two touchdowns.

Mariota on the run

Gary Breedlove

Mariota on the run  

I bring all this up for a couple of reasons. The first is how blessed we’ve all been to watch Mariota over these last three seasons. To call him “special” would be an understatement. He’s been absolutely phenomenal and statistically speaking, he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks in college history. The second is to discuss his Heisman candidacy.

ESPN (or E”SEC”PN as they’re being called by everyone who doesn’t live in the southeastern region of this country) currently has Mariota listed second on their “Heisman Watch.”  Granted, Mississippi State’s  Dak Prescott is only winning by one vote.

Is Prescott having a fantastic season? Yes, by all accounts, but the truth is he doesn’t really stack up against what Mariota’s done this season.

Prescott Passing: 61.1 Comp %, 2025 yards, 16 TD, seven Int, 157.8 Rating. Rushing: 725 yards, 5.3 yards per carry, 10 TD.

Mariota Passing: 68.1 Comp %, 2541 yards, 26 TD, 2 Int, 187.2 Rating (highest in nation). Rushing: 410 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, seven TD.

Prescott became a dark horse candidate and then the Heisman front runner after defeating LSU (No. 8 at the time), Texas A&M (a very overrated No. 6) and Auburn (then No. 2) in three consecutive weeks. We know now that Texas A&M had no business even being ranked, and LSU wasn’t deserving of the No. 8 ranking they held earlier this season. Prescott has also struggled throwing the ball in the last three games; he had three touchdowns and five interceptions.

Mariota, on the other hand, has been the best quarterback in the country throughout the entire season. As mentioned earlier, he boasts the nation’s highest Passer Efficiency Rating at 187.2. His 10.2 yards per pass attempt are second in the nation; his 68.1 completion percentage is good for sixth in the country. USC’s Cody Kessler is the only other quarterback in the nation to throw 25 plus touchdowns with less than three interceptions. ESPN has a stat called Total Expected Points Added (Total EPA); Mariota leads the country with a whopping 75.2. The next closest quarterback is Cal’s Jared Goff at 61.9l; Prescott is sixth at 51.4.

While his numbers have been amazing, not even they can give Mariota his due credit. The Oregon quarterback has come up big when the Ducks have needed him most. Mariota’s signature Heisman moment may very well have come early in the season in the showdown with Michigan State at Autzen Stadium. The outlook was bleak as Oregon was down 27-18 and facing a 3rd-and-11 when it happened. Michigan State brought the house and got pressure on Mariota as soon as he received the ball. He dodged three Spartan defenders, scrambled left and pitched the ball downfield to Royce Freeman who would pick up the first down. Oregon would go on to score 28 unanswered points to win 46-27.

Mariota escaping from Michigan State

Kevin Strobeck

Mariota escaping from Michigan State

Two weeks later Oregon would need all five of Mariota’s touchdown passes in a 38-31 victory over Washington State. Then, following the heartbreaking loss to Arizona, Mariota came up huge against UCLA. He threw two touchdowns and added two more on the ground.

Then there was last week against Stanford. The Cardinal have destroyed Oregon’s championship aspirations in each of the last two seasons. But Mariota wasn’t going to allow that this year. The Ducks’ quarterback dazzled, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also had his top rushing performance of the season picking up another 85 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Oregon has had phenomenal success over the past six seasons, but this one could top them all. Oregon looks poised to play in the inaugural College Football Playoff, and the Ducks may very well have their first Heisman Trophy recipient in Marcus Maritoa.

Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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Tyler Robinson

Tyler Robinson

Tyler graduated from the University of Oregon's journalism program back in the spring of 2010. Tyler has loved the Ducks since the days of his youth, and that love has only grown as he's gotten older. Outside of Oregon football Tyler dives deep into Major League Baseball every year, and considers himself to be a baseball historian of sorts. He also has a Black Labrador named "Page" after Jimmy Page of the mighty Led Zeppelin. In his spare time he enjoys fishing, golfing, and snowboarding even if his skills are questionable at best in those areas.