Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota is projected to be one of the top prospects in this year's NFL draft should he leave Eugene early.
CBS Sports has Mariota as the third-ranked player overall and the No. 2 quarterback, trailing only Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.
But for Mariota to maintain his high draft stock, he has to prove in Saturday's regular season finale against the Oregon State Beavers that his showings against Stanford and Arizona are not characteristic of his true nature as a signal-caller.
Once thought to be the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, Mariota has looked spotty in the Ducks' two losses this season. Against Stanford, Mariota was unable to put up any points on the board until the fourth quarter. Then against Arizona, he threw two picks (his only two of the entire season) in a game where the Oregon offense looked stagnant all day.
Those showings were certainly not indicative of Mariota's play throughout the year. The Oregon gunslinger has 3,656 total yards and 36 total touchdowns. Before the Arizona loss, he hadn't thrown an interception all season. And he completes nearly 65 percent of his passes.
Against the Beavers though, Mariota needs to have a similar showing to the one he had against Utah following Oregon's loss to the Cardinal. In that game, he completed 73 percent of his passes for 288 yards and threw for three touchdowns in a 44-21 blowout.
That game proved that Mariota can respond well to a loss, and that's absolutely what he needs to do this week. Oregon State ranks just 67th in the nation in pass defense, so Mariota should have plenty of opportunities to air it out against the Beavers.
The Beavers also rank a lowly 95th in scoring defense (31.7), so the Ducks and their high-flying offense should put up a lot of points.
The Beavers' lack of ability to stop the air attack also provides an opportunity to silence the critics who say he is a system quarterback.
According to Mariota's draft profile on CBS Sports, his lone weakness is being "Limited scheme-wise likely to an offense catering to a dual-threat quarterback."
Oregon State possesses one of the best scoring offenses in the country, putting up 34.5 points per game. That means the Ducks could get into a shootout with the Beavers, forcing Mariota to rely on his passing abilities to outscore Oregon State.
If Mariota proves against Oregon State that he can beat teams with his arm, and his arm alone, that will have teams salivating to draft him early in the first round.
Mariota is undoubtedly one of the best quarterbacks in the country. But NFL scouts don't want to just see numbers. They want to see winners. With Mariota down to possibly just two games left at the college level, he has to prove that his spotty showings against Stanford and Arizona aren't who he really is as a quarterback.