Who to watch: Oregon v. Kansas State (Fiesta Bowl)

Fiesta Bowl

Thursday, January 3, 8:00pm EST

ESPN

Run Kenjon Run!

Oregon

Kenjon Barner, #24, Senior, RB

Confession: my actual favorite player in this game is Marcus Mariota, who I think blows Collin Klein out of the water and gives Johnny Football Manziel a run for his money.  But, Mariota is just a RS freshman, so I’ll digress…

The Oregon Ducks offense is incredibly high powered (duh) and spreads the ball around to expose a defense’s weakness.  That said, some weeks guys get their touches, other weeks they don’t.  When Kenjon Barner got the ball for the Ducks, the results were absurd.  In seven different games he scored 2+ rushing touchdowns while averaging at least 5.9 yards per carry in each game.  For the season, when evaluating his premier game performance, Barner’s average stat line checks in at:

24.7 carries

152 yards

(6.14  yards/carry)

2 rushing touchdowns

These marks are all near the best in the country, and as an overall package, I’d rank Barner with UCLA’s Franklin and UNC’s Bernard as the most dominant on-field producers in college football.  Tonight, Oregon faces the #17 run defense in the NCAA.  It will be fascinating to see how Barner fairs against them.

And for the record, I have no interest in Collin Klein as a pro prospect.

Marcus Football

Johnny Football Fever is taking America by storm!  By most accounts Johnny Manziel will become the first freshman to ever win this Heisman trophy this weekend over Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o and Kansas State QB Collin Klein.  But what if I told you that the soon-to-be first freshman to ever win the Heisman isn’t even the best freshman QB in America?

Huh?

Read on.

Meet Marcus Mariota.  He is the starting quarterback of the Oregon Ducks.  Like Johnny Manziel, he is also a redshirt freshman QB on a top 10 team.  Similar to Johnny, Marcus is a dual-threat QB who ran the ball about 100 times this season.  What he and Johnny don’t have in common is a plane ticket to New York City.  How is this possible?  No, seriously, how?

Ok, maybe you’re not ready to knock Johnny down a peg, so let’s look at Collin Klein.  At the very least, why is Collin Klein a  Heisman finalist?  Yes, let’s start there.  Let’s start by examining the case for Marcus Mariota over Collin Klein.

To win the Heisman, players need to play great in the biggest games.  Let’s cut straight to the chase and examine Mariota v Klein against the four toughest defenses on their respective schedules (using Phil Steele’s Pass Efficiency Defense ratings)

Avg Rank of Opponent’s Defense:

  • Mariota- 10.75   (arizona state, stanford, washington, oregon st)
  • Klein- 23   (texas, oklahoma, tcu, texas tech)

# Games with 2+ TD passes

  • Mariota- 1/4
  • Klein- 0/4

Passes/ Game

  • Mariota- 24.3
  • Klein- 19.5

Completion %

  • Mariota- 63.9 %
  • Klein- 62.8 %

Passes per TD  (lower is better)

  • Mariota- 13.86
  • Klein- 78

Passes per INT  (higher is better)

  • Mariota- 48.5
  • Klein- 39

Passer Grade in My System  (anything over 95= potentially elite prospect)

  • Mariota- 96.2
  • Klein- 86.6

Rushing

  • Mariota- 37 rushes, 349 yards (9.4 YPC)
  • Klein- 72 rushes, 296 yards  (4.1 YPC)

Total Touchdowns

  • Mariota- 9
  • Klein- 7

By pretty much every measure, Mariota wins out over Klein, either as an effective passer or an explosive runner.  I CANNOT WAIT to see Oregon face Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.  As you’re watching that game, remember this article when you’re surprised by how excellent Mariota plays.

But what about Mariota v. Manziel?  Again, we’ll look at their four toughest games.

Avg Rank of Opponent’s Defense:

  • Manziel-  8   (Florida, Alabama, LSU, SMU)
  • Mariota- 10.75   (Arizona St, Stanford, Washington, Oregon St)

# Games with 2+ TD passes

  • Manziel- 2/4
  • Mariota- 1/4

Passes/ Game

  • Manziel- 38.3
  • Mariota- 24.3

Completion %

  • Mariota- 63.9 %
  • Manziel- 62.8 %

Passes per TD  (lower is better)

  • Mariota- 13.86
  • Manziel- 25.5

Passes per INT  (higher is better)

  • Manziel- 51
  • Mariota- 48.5

Passer Grade in My System  (anything over 95= potentially elite prospect)

  • Mariota- 96.2
  • Manziel- 83.3

Rushing

  • Mariota- 37 rushes, 349 yards (9.4 YPC)
  • Manziel- 55 rushes, 303 yards  (5.5 YPC)

Total Touchdowns

  • Mariota- 9
  • Manziel- 9

By my count, that’s a pretty even race with the underlying numbers revealing VERY similar talents.

If and when Johnny Manziel wins the Heisman this weekend, be happy for him.  I will be.  The kid came out of nowhere to have a phenomenal season.  That said, don’t be surprised if one year from now it is Marcus Mariota who hears his name called as the Heisman Trophy winner for the 2013 season.