USC's Marqise Lee and Clemson's Sammy Watkins are going to be two of the best wide receivers in college football this season, but which one will be better? From past statistical performances to the final prediction, here is the comparison.
Each Player's Best Season
Lee, 2012 (sophomore): 118 receptions, 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns
Watkins, 2011 (freshman): 83 receptions, 1,225 yards and 12 touchdowns
Head-to-head, Watkins had the better yards-per-catch average of the two at 14.76 over Lee's 14.58. However, that's the only aspect where Watkins had an advantage. Lee beat him in total receptions, total yards and points scored.
As far as being a strict threat as a receiver, Lee was far more effective when he played at his best.
Each Player's Worst Season
Lee, 2011 (freshman): 73 receptions, 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns
Watkins, 2012 (sophomore): 57 receptions, 708 yards and three touchdowns
Between their worst seasons, Lee had the better season by far. With 400 more yards, eight more touchdowns off just 16 more receptions, the competition isn't even close.
Plus, there is another major point in Lee's favor: His worst season was during his freshman season. He got better as a sophomore. The 2013 season will shed more light on the situation, but it looks like the ACC may have already figured out Watkins.
Lee was on the receiving end of one of the country's best quarterbacks in both years: Matt Barkley. He went 246-of-387 for 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions during Lee's best season. That means Lee was responsible for over half of Barkley's passing success.
Lee was decidedly less effective in games without Barkley, but so were the rest of the Trojans. The team went 0-2 in the games when he didn't suit up. This is a major issue for Lee, as Barkley will not be back in 2013.
Watkins has Tajh Boyd coming back, and that's a huge point in his favor compared to Lee. Boyd went 298-of-499 for 3,828 yards, 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in Watkins' best year.
Watkins has a familiar face coming back under center, and that gives him a huge theoretical advantage over Lee for 2013.
Since there was marked improvement in Lee from 2011 to 2012, he has clear momentum in his favor. It's easy to look at the quarterback situations and call Watkins the clear winner.
However, that wouldn't be accurate. Watkins had a slight quarterback disadvantage compared to Lee in 2012, but Lee absolutely schooled him on the stat sheet. Clemson will have the better overall record and more prestigious bowl game after this fall, but Lee will absolutely own the statistical comparison in January.
Verdict: Marqise Lee will have the better 2013 season.
*Stats courtesy of cfbstats.com and NFL Draft Scout, unless noted otherwise.