- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Both Fiesta Bowl quarterbacks earned first-team all-conference honors. Both are dual threats. Both are humble guys who inspire effusive praise from coaches and teammates.
Mariota, a willowy 6-foot-4, 196 pounds, is a redshirt freshman running an up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Klein, a sturdy 6-foot-5, 226 pounds, is a senior running an offense that is in no hurry to snap the ball. The Ducks rank 100th in the nation in time of possession; Kansas State is 19th.
Mariota and Oregon own the first half, averaging 31.3 points before the break. That’s more than 73 FBS teams average in all four quarters. Kansas State ranks second in the nation (behind Louisiana Tech) with 23.4 points per game in the second half.
Mariota is a good runner but is primarily a passer. He ranks sixth in the nation in passing efficiency, having thrown 30 touchdown passes with six interceptions. When he runs -- 690 yards, four touchdowns -- it's all about speed.
Klein is a good passer but is primarily a runner. He is ranked 15th in the nation in passing efficiency with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Meanwhile, Klein and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball are the only two FBS players who have more than 40 rushing touchdowns over the past two season.
Klein averaged 13.2 designed running plays in Big 12 games this season. When he runs -- 890 yards, 22 touchdowns -- it's more about power. He is one of four FBS players with more than 200 rushing yards in the red zone, and he gained 35.7 percent of his red zone yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Klein, deeply religious and newly married, is the unquestioned leader of a team making its first BCS bowl appearance since 2003.
"When he talks, people listen," tight end Travis Tannahill said. "He's definitely the rock of our team."
Mariota is a young hurler from Hawaii who yields to a senior class that will be playing in its fourth BCS bowl game in a row. That said, Mariota's poise and playmaking have certainly earned him a seat at the leadership table, a place he often takes without a lot of talking.
"Any time you're around him, he's always going to give you positive energy," center Hroniss Grasu said. "It rubs off on you. It shows on the field how calm he is. He doesn't make too many mistakes in games or practice."
Another difference: Klein took time to develop. In fact, he played receiver in 2009 before breaking out at quarterback in 2011. Mariota has been a quick study -- and remarkably so.
"It took him about a week to figure out what we do," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "He's never really made the same mistake twice. He's great at understanding and grasping the reason why we do something and moving forward. The amazing thing is he's only a redshirt freshman. So how far can he go? It's been an amazing thing to watch. A really special, young talent."
Klein was a Heisman Trophy finalist this season. Mariota seems on track to be one in the future. Both admit the hoopla that surrounded them this season didn't feel real. At least, Mariota called it "unreal" and Klein called it "surreal."
Yet neither seems to have gotten caught up reading headlines about him, particularly Klein, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated.
"When you talk to Collin, for Collin, it's not about Collin," Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said. "For Collin, it's about his teammates and being the best teammate that he can be, to be the quality leader of our program and care about each and every person in our program."
Mariota sees the similarities as well as the differences.
Said Mariota, "From watching him, he's a good leader and a humble guy. That's someone I'd look forward to meeting."
That will happen Thursday night in the Fiesta Bowl. The player who does what makes him special better is likely to be on the winning team.
11hCraig Haubert and Tom Luginbill
11hCraig Haubert and Tom Luginbill