Raw skill set
Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are distinctly different from a physical standpoint.
Agile and nimble, Mariota (6-foot-4, 219 pounds) is as much a threat to run as he is to throw. Winston (6-4, 230) is more plodding, although he can run when needed. His preference is to stay in the pocket, however.
Both quarterbacks have strong arms and exhibit the ability to recognize when to put a little extra on passes and when to take some velocity off throws, although Winston is probably more accurate when everything around him is working.
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While Mariota is more athletic, Winston is a better passer, making this a tossup.
Winston has been hurt by inexperience around him this season. As a result, he leads all Power 5 conference quarterbacks in interceptions with 17.
Mariota is on pace to have one of the most efficient seasons in the history of college football. His passer rating of 186.11 is due to finding open targets (68.3 completion percentage), hitting big plays (10.2 yards-per-attempt leads FBS) and being careful with the football (38 touchdowns to two interceptions).
Mariota’s running ability adds to his prolific stats. Mariota has 53 touchdowns this season; 34 teams in the country have scored more touchdowns. Let that sink in: Mariota has accounted for more touchdowns by himself than 94 teams.
Both QBs have gotten here because of their ability to lead and carry their teams.
Mariota is beloved by his teammates and is considered a cerebral player by all accounts. He has thrown for 101 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in his career – that level of efficiency does not come simply because of the system he is in, but rather an ability to routinely make the right reads and play within the confines of an offense.
Winston also is considered a leader, and teammates have shown a willingness to support Winston no matter what is going on off the field. Players go all out for him.
Winston has been at his best this season when his team has needed him the most. He has gotten more efficient as games have gone on, exhibited by his 167.05 passer rating in the fourth quarter. The sophomore also has a passer rating of 194.26 when FSU is down by 15 points or more.
Mariota has not been tested in late-game situations that much this year, which deserves to be recognized. That being said, he has faltered some in tight contests throughout his career: Mariota is 2-3 in games decided by seven points or fewer and has a passer rating of 133.7 in his four career losses. That is not a terrible rating, but it shows an inability to lift his team to wins when playing below his usual standards.
Winston is 25-0 as a starter. There’s a good chance this category will come into play more than the other two mentioned above on Thursday.