Poor Marcus Mariota.
The redshirt freshman quarterback is lighting up scoreboards across the country yet his accomplishments are being second-guessed and shot down because he doesn't have a nickname like Optimus Klein or Johnny Football.
Because he plays in a conference that isn't the SEC or the Big 12. Because nobody outside the West coast even knew who he was prior to September of this year. Or October.
Because anyone can succeed in Chip Kelly's gimmicky offense so, dammit, he's a system quarterback.
Because he wouldn't have those eye-popping numbers against an SEC team. Because the Ducks have played no one, PAWWWWL.
Because the Oregon Ducks have played the majority of their games while everyone east of the Mississippi River was asleep—even most night owls don't have the Pac-12 Networks as part of their cable television package.
Mariota hasn't gotten the respect he deserves. How many sportscasters have even correctly pronounced his name? Mary-oh-TAH? Mare-EE-o-duh? Mar-ee-oh-ta?
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny "Football" Manziel, on the other hand, is getting the majority of attention because he is simply amazing. Because he plays in the SEC and that conference gets prime time coverage by ESPN and CBS.
Because he just proved that a dual-threat quarterback can beat the best team in the SEC.
Auburn's Cam Newton wasn't a fluke. Neither is Johnny Manziel or Marcus Mariota.
Most of the SEC elite viewed Manziel's success as cute, but just wait until he faces a "real SEC" defense such as Alabama's. Manziel's response to that was a 29-24 victory over Alabama and a cursory slamming of his fist on the EASY button as he strolled out of Tuscaloosa with nary a scratch on his body.
What Manziel did against Alabama certainly gave his team legitimacy. It gave his 2013 Heisman campaign a head of steam. It also opened the door of respect for the Oregon Ducks.
Those tree-hugging, flashy uniformed, no-defense, pass-happy Ducks. That's their reputation despite the fact that the Ducks are a rushing team—the third best rushing team in FBS.
But while Manziel's feats of strength have captured almost all of America's attention, that has also prompted Mariota's feats of wonder to suddenly get re-examined.
Maybe football fans have been overlooking that kid in Eugene? Maybe they should re-evaluate their dismissive attitude toward the Ducks' offense? Maybe they need to admit that a high-octane, no huddle, prolific offense is not only fun to watch, but difficult to stop by even the best defenses the SEC has to offer.
Maybe it's time to grab some popcorn and and watch Mariota in action.
See Marcus Mariota pass.
See Marcus Mariota catch.
See Marcus Mariota run.
Run, Marcus, run.
Does playing Duck-Duck-Goose with Mariota scare the wits out of defensive coordinators? Probably, and that's why he could be the best quarterback in college football.
Mariota has three more years of NCAA eligibility left and, while he doesn't have a catchy nickname, maybe he'll never get one.
This particular water fowl doesn't want to be associated with anything construed as gimmicky.
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