Stats & Info: Marcus Mariota

SEC leads tight race in Power Rankings

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
1:36
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Joe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesWith a new college football postseason format comes a new trophy for the national champion
With the dawn of the college football playoff, conference strength will be examined more closely than ever before.

As the selection committee has noted, strength of schedule will be a factor in their decision making process. That means that both out-of-conference and in-conference schedules will be examined.

Tom Osborne, former Nebraska coach and a member of the selection committee, noted, “A lot of teams are going to be at the mercy of the strength of their conference.”

After all, at least one of the Power Five conferences will not have a team selected into the playoff.

Given the increased importance of conference strength, it is time to bring back ESPN Stats & Information’s conference power rankings.

What are the Conference Power Rankings?
Over the past few years ESPN Stats & Information has published weekly rankings of the FBS conferences during the college football season. The formula was originally crafted by then-Analytics Specialist Albert Larcada and has been adapted over the years.

In 2014, the formula is an equal blend of the rankings from the AP Poll (including the others receiving votes section) and ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI).

The AP Poll will not only add a human element to the rankings, but it will also measure the relative strength of the top schools in each conference. Conversely, the Football Power Index will measure the relative strength of every team in the country to determine conference power from top to bottom. For more information on FPI, click here.

The AP Poll and FPI will be weighed equally and the results will be calculated on a 0-100 scale in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the FBS.

SEC Leads Preseason Rankings
It should not be surprising that the SEC leads the conference power rankings after finishing at the top of these rankings in all four years of their existence.

The SEC begins the season with eight teams ranked in the preseason AP Poll, including five teams ranked in the top 13.

After having the most players selected in the NFL Draft for an eighth straight year, the SEC is ready to reload with more ESPN 300 players signed in the past two years (235) than the next two conferences combined.

However, the Pac-12 is gaining ground. After finishing last year in a distant second (14.1 point differential), the Pac-12 begins the 2014 season just 4.1 points behind the SEC as the top conference in the FBS.


USA TODAY SportsHeisman hopefuls Marcus Mariota (left) and Brett Hundley (right)


A lot of the Pac-12’s strength is based on the projected strength of its offenses. Ten of 12 starting quarterbacks from the Pac-12 return in 2014, including Heisman favorites Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley.

In comparison, only six of the SEC’s 14 starting quarterbacks from a year ago return, which leaves gaping holes for top teams such as Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M.

Some believe that this is the first time in years that the Pac-12 makes a legitimate run at the SEC for the top conference in the nation.

Elsewhere in the rankings, the Big 12 comes in as the third-best conference in the country, largely because of its depth in comparison to the Big Ten and ACC.

Many would expect the Big Ten to slide in the rankings after the news of Braxton Miller's injury. The conference actually did not take too big of a hit because Ohio State remained in the top 15 in FPI even when accounting for its new starting quarterback.

However, the component of these rankings that measures the AP Poll remained unchanged. To give an idea of what a drop in the AP Poll would mean: if Ohio State falls to 10th in the AP Poll, the Big Ten would lose an additional three points in the conference power rankings.

Among Power Five conferences, the ACC is considered the weakest by both the AP Poll and FPI. That means that if the top four conferences place a team in the playoff, it would leave the ACC on the outside looking in. Yet, there is a lot more that goes into those decisions, including the fact that the ACC has the clear No. 1 team in the country. Florida State received 57 of 60 first place votes in the AP Poll and has by far the best chance (39 percent) to finish the season undefeated according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

However, what if Florida State loses a conference game? Does the relative strength of the ACC come into play? Similarly, what if Marshall from Conference USA or Houston from the American Athletic Conference finish the season undefeated? Does the fact that they played in weaker conferences exclude them from the playoff?

All of these questions may arise throughout the season. Stay tuned after an exciting Week 1 of non-conference matchups that could significantly impact the conference power rankings going forward.


Ohio State's Braxton Miller back for 2014

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
12:53
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBraxton Miller could become Ohio State's winningest quarterback since 1960.
The 2014 college football season has the potential to showcase one of the most talented groups of quarterbacks in recent memory. Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty are all being talked about as potential first-round NFL draft picks, while Braxton Miller and Everett Golson have the chance to solidify their place in their respective school’s storied histories.

In preparation for the 2014 season and in conjunction with interviews conducted by ESPN CFB analyst Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. Today, we take a look at Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.


A look back at 2013
Braxton Miller had an outstanding junior season, becoming the first player in Big Ten history (since 1990 when the award was first given) to win the Offensive Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons. He was the only Power Five conference quarterback to throw for at least 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards last year. If Miller can accomplish that feat again, he will join Colin Kaepernick and become the second FBS quarterback in the past 10 years to reach those thresholds in three seasons.

Miller has rushed for at least 100 yards in 14 games since the start of 2011, second most among FBS quarterbacks. He had five such games last season, which tied for fourth among FBS quarterbacks. Miller has always been a prolific rusher, but he’s also improved as a passer every year at Ohio State. Miller’s completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns have increased every season.

He was more willing to operate from the pocket last year. He attempted 85 percent of his passes from the pocket, nearly 20 percentage points higher than in 2012. His 19 touchdown passes from inside the pocket were tied for the most in the Big Ten with Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.

A look ahead to 2014
With another 11-win season, Miller will pass Art Schlichter for the most wins (36) on record at Ohio State (the school first kept such records in 1960). Assuming Miller stays healthy, he has a good chance of passing Schlichter.

According to the ESPN Football Power Index, Ohio State has the best chance (41 percent) of winning the Big Ten, nearly 20 percentage points better than Wisconsin, and is projected for between 10 and 11 wins heading into bowl season. The Buckeyes have won 24 consecutive regular-season games, four shy of tying the Big Ten conference record.

The Buckeyes have big shoes to fill. They must replace six of 11 starters on offense, including league-leading rusher Carlos Hyde and four starters from an offensive line that combined for 135 starts.

Miller might have to shoulder more of the load. In the past, he has stepped up when his team needed him. Miller enters 2014 with six career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, including three last season. The six career game-winning drives are the most among returning FBS quarterbacks and five more than any other returning quarterback in the Big Ten.

One area in which Miller needs to get better is on third down. He ranked in the bottom third of the FBS in Total QBR (47.1) and completion percentage (50.9) on third down. Only Michigan’s Devin Gardner and Purdue’s Danny Etling were sacked more on third down than Miller (12) among Big Ten quarterbacks. Only two of the past 10 national championship quarterbacks have had a third-down QBR less than 70 in the season they won the title.

Oregon's Mariota looks to take next step

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
10:59
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Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsMarcus Mariota threw 31 touchdowns and four interceptions last year for Oregon.
The 2014 college football season has the potential to showcase one of the most talented groups of quarterbacks in recent memory. Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty are all being talked about as potential first-round NFL Draft picks, while Braxton Miller and Everett Golson have the chance to solidify their places in their respective school’s storied histories.

In preparation for the 2014 season, and in conjunction with interviews conducted by ESPN CFB analyst Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. Today we examine Marcus Mariota, who enters the 2014 season with a career 23-3 record for Oregon.


A Look Back at 2013
Marcus Mariota’s numbers speak for themselves. Boasting a career 23-3 record as a starter, Mariota has thrown for 63 touchdowns compared with 10 interceptions. Add his 14 rushing touchdowns, and Mariota has been a dynamic force on offense and a real challenge to opposing defensive coordinators since taking the helm in the 2012 season.

Mariota posted a Total QBR of 88.0 last season, which trailed only Heisman Trophy-winning Jameis Winston. It was the second consecutive season Mariota ranked second in the FBS in Total QBR behind the eventual Heisman Trophy winner.

Mariota made great strides as a passer last season, improving his yards per attempt and his touchdown-to-interception ratio from 2012. He was especially impressive on his downfield passes, completing 58.1 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer, best among Power Five Conference quarterbacks and 16 percentage points higher than in 2012.

Mariota’s prowess running the zone read helped the Ducks lead the Pac-12 in rushing each of the past two seasons. He improved his efficiency on designed rushes, increasing his average by almost three yards per designed rush from 2012. Mariota’s 11.8 yards per designed rush was at least three yards better than any other Power Five Conference quarterback.

Mariota was a different quarterback, however, after he suffered a sprained MCL in a Week 11 loss against Stanford. Before the injury, Mariota had a 92.9 Total QBR, on pace to be the third-highest single-season Total QBR in the last 10 seasons. After the injury, his Total QBR dipped to 78.3 (excluding the game vs. Stanford) and he threw all four of his interceptions in Oregon’s last four games of the season.

Additionally, Mariota was less efficient on designed runs after the injury. He averaged 13.4 yards on four designed rushes per game before hurting his knee, but he totaled four designed rushes for 11 yards in the remaining three regular-season matchups, including none against Utah in the week after his injury.

Can Mariota fight off his Cardinal demons?
Mariota’s glorious career does have one glitch: he and the Ducks are 0-2 against the Stanford Cardinal compared with 23-1 against all other teams.

Stanford’s ability to keep the Ducks’ offense off the field and to contain their outside runs made it tough to open up passing lanes for Mariota. The Cardinal kept the Ducks narrow, limiting their ability to get out in open spaces.

Mariota and the Ducks will have an early test in the second week this season when they host Michigan State, the team that beat Stanford in last season's Rose Bowl. Mariota’s performance against the Spartans could be a good barometer of his progression as a complete quarterback.

Top stats to know: Alamo Bowl

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
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Oregon and Texas will clash in an Alamo Bowl (ESPN, 6:45 pm ET) that represents the end of an era for a significant figure in college football. What are the top stats to know from this game?

1-- This will be Mack Brown’s swan song as head coach of the Longhorns. Since 1950, Texas has had seven different head coaches. In that span, Darrell Royal is the only one to win his final game as head coach.

Brown is just nine victories behind Royal for most in program history. But since 2010, Texas has the fifth-best win percentage (.600) among FBS programs in the state of Texas.

2-- Oregon has scored 73 offensive touchdowns this season, including 48 on drives lasting 2 minutes or less. The Ducks’ 48 touchdowns on such drives is the second most in the FBS behind Baylor (57) and three more than they had all of last season.

The Ducks’ average touchdown drive has lasted 1:50, fourth fastest in FBS.

Oregon has four players with at least 500 yards rushing, each of whom average at least six yards per carry. Oregon is the only FBS team this season with that distinction, and only four other teams even have three such players.

Oregon has 337 touchdowns over the last four seasons. That number may not mean much, until you consider this: that’s 46 more than any other team in that span (Baylor, 291).

3-- Texas is currently on pace to allow the second-most yards per game in program history, surpassed only by last season. A big night by Oregon would push this season to the worst in Texas football history.

Texas has allowed 189 fewer rush yards per game in its wins compared to its losses. The biggest issues have been big plays and rushing quarterbacks. In their four losses, the Longhorns have allowed 44 rushes of 10 yards or more, and opposing quarterbacks have averaged more than 109 rushing yards per game.

4— How do you beat the Ducks? One team that has developed a pattern of knocking off Oregon is Stanford. Since 2009, the Cardinal have three wins over the Ducks – and have followed a similar pattern in each victory: They’ve held the ball for at least 37 minutes, rushed at least 46 times, and rushed for at least 200 yards.

5— Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has a total QBR of 85.7 this season, second in FBS behind Jameis Winston (89.0). He had a total QBR of at least 95 in four games this season, matching Bryce Petty for the most such games in FBS this season.

Mariota has excelled throwing the deep ball, completing 57 percent of his passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield, the highest rate among players from automatic-qualifier conferences with at least 50 such attempts.

Stats to know: Baylor & Oregon are amazing

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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Icon SMIMarcus Mariota and Bryce Petty have racked up points and stats all season.
Oregon and Baylor will each try to remain undefeated on Thursday night. Below are 15 need-to-know stats in preparation for their games.

1-- Baylor is averaging an FBS-high 63.9 points and 718.4 yards per game. The Bears are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989, respectively

2-- Oregon has scored at least 42 points in each of its first eight games this season. The Ducks are the fourth team in the last 100 years to start a season with at least 42 points in eight straight games.

3-- Baylor has scored 22 touchdowns in drives lasting one minute or less, eight more than any other FBS team this season. In the last 10 seasons, there have only been six teams that have scored more than 22 touchdowns in one minute or less in an entire season.
4-- Oregon has an FBS-high 59 offensive touchdowns, including 41 in two minutes or less. The Ducks’ 41 touchdown drives in two minutes or less is four fewer than all of last season when they led the FBS with 45 such touchdowns.

5-- Baylor is averaging more points in the first half (42.1) than 115 FBS teams average for a game. In the first half, the Bears average a FBS-low 15.9 seconds per play and their average touchdown drive lasts 1 minute, 19 seconds.

6-- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown an FBS-high 225 pass attempts without an interception this season. Dating back to last season, Mariota has thrown a Pac-12-record 293 passes without an interception.

7-- Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is averaging 13.9 yards per pass attempt, on pace to be the highest rate for a qualified quarterback in the last 10 seasons. The deep ball has been key for Petty. He has 19 completions and 10 touchdowns (both the most of anyone in an automatic-qualifier conference) on passes thrown 25 yards or longer.

8-- Oregon averages an AQ-high 7.5 yards per rush on zone-read plays, including 5.2 yards before first contact. On such plays, Mariota is averaging 13.7 yards per rush and has six touchdowns.

9--Petty leads the FBS with a 95.3 opponent-adjusted QBR. The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Johnny Manziel last year.

10-- Oregon is the only team in the FBS that ranks in the top five in ESPN’s new offensive and defensive efficiency. The Ducks have ranked in the top five in offensive efficiency each of the last three seasons.

11-- Baylor is on pace to have the highest offensive efficiency in the last 10 years. Offensive efficiency measures an offense’s contributions to its team’s opponent-adjusted scoring margin per game.

Through seven games, Baylor’s offense is adding about seven more expected points towards its net scoring margin, more than any other offense has for an entire season since 2004 (as far back as our data goes).

12-- Oregon quarterback Mariota has posted a Total QBR of 90 or higher in six of his eight games, tied with Petty for the most such games in the FBS.

13-- Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk is averaging 9.1 yards per rush, second in the FBS behind Mariota. Seastrunk has made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 39 percent of his rushes, the highest percentage among AQ running backs with at least 75 carries.

14-- Oregon has forced 23 turnovers and scored 100 points off of its opponents’ turnovers this season. Since the start of last season, Oregon leads the FBS with 63 takeaways and ranks second with 288 points off turnovers.

15-- Baylor has had an average in-game win probability of 86 percent across all of its plays this season, best in the FBS. Oregon ranks third with an 83 percent average in-game win probability.

Winston, Florida State among best of week

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
1:10
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Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY Sports
Jameis Winston threw for a career-high 444 yards in Florida State's blowout win over Clemson.
Week 8 featured upsets and surprises as nine ranked teams lost, including five at the hands of an unranked opponent. Louisville, Texas A&M and Georgia all had more than a 90 percent chance of winning midway through the third quarter before blowing double-digit leads. Conversely, Clemson, LSU, UCLA and Florida never held a lead Saturday.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the Week 8 action.

Best individual performances
Marcus Mariota had a 97.4 opponent-adjusted QBR in Oregon’s 63-28 win against Washington State. He completed 10-of-12 passes and ran for a touchdown in the first quarter. As a result, his Total QBR never fell below 95 in the game. Mariota leads the nation with a 96.6 opponent-adjusted Total QBR this season.

Jameis Winston posted a 97.0 opponent-adjusted QBR after throwing for a career-high 444 pass yards and accounting for four touchdowns in Florida State’s 51-14 win at Clemson. Entering the game, Clemson’s opponents had a Total QBR of 27, ninth-best in the FBS. Winston is the first player in the last 10 seasons to throw for at least 300 pass yards and three touchdowns in each of his first four conference games.

Bryce Petty had a 96.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Baylor’s 71-7 win against Iowa State. He has posted an opponent-adjusted Total QBR of 75 or higher in all of his games this season. No other player in the FBS can make that claim (minimum five games played).

AJ McCarron posted a season-high 95.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Alabama’s 52-0 rout of Arkansas. McCarron completed 71 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and his Total QBR never dipped below 85 in the game.

Explaining Jordan Lynch’s Total QBR:
Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch set the FBS single-game record for rush yards by a quarterback (316), but his Total QBR was ONLY a 85.5. Why? QBR is a rate stat, meaning it measures efficiency.

Lynch gained 471 yards of total offense, but he was involved in 62 passing or rushing plays (7.6 yards per play).

To put that into perspective, Mariota, the nation’s leader in opponent-adjusted QBR, is averaging 10.3 yards per play this season. Furthermore, Lynch threw a costly interception from the Central Michigan 15-yard line with the score tied. That interception decreased Northern Illinois’ win probability by 12 percentage points and took 3.5 expected points off the board.

For a full list of Total QBR leaders for the season and Week 8, click here.

Best team performances
Offense-- Florida State gained 565 yards of total offense and scored 51 points Saturday against Clemson. The Seminoles’ offense added 25.3 expected points in the game, meaning they contributed about 26 net points towards their 37-point victory. Adjusted for the strength of Clemson’s defense, which had allowed 16.2 points per game entering Saturday, Florida State had the highest opponent-adjusted offensive EPA of Week 8.

Defense—Baylor’s average margin of victory this season is a ridiculous 48.5 points per game, and both its offense and defense deserves credit. On Saturday, Baylor held Iowa State to seven points and 174 total yards (2.9 yards per play). As a result, its defense added 27.5 expected points, the most for any defense in Week 8. Overall, the Bears lead the nation in both offensive and defensive expected points added this season.

Special Teams—Alabama blocked a field goal and forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half of its 52-0 win against Arkansas. The Tide’s special teams unit contributed 12.1 expected points, the most of any team in Week 8. Alabama is averaging 5.8 expected points added per game on special teams this season, most of any team in the FBS.

Looking ahead to Week 9

Oregon hosts UCLA (7 PM ET, ESPN) on Saturday in a game that will feature one of the top offenses in the nation looking to continue its success against one of the Pac-12’s best defensive units.

Oregon has scored at least 45 points in each of its first seven games of the season. They are the first major college football program to do that since Harvard in 1887. UCLA, which has the second-best scoring defense in the Pac-12 (19.2 PPG), hasn’t allowed more than 27 points in a game this season.

Tune in on Saturday to see of the Bruins can slow the Ducks offensive pace and jump back into the BCS discussion.

Stat your case: Mariota or Winston?

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
11:15
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AP Photo, Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota and Jameis Winston have been nearly flawless in 2013.
With his dominant performance against Clemson, Jameis Winston has jumped into Heisman contention.
SportsNation

After 8 weeks, which QB deserves to win the Heisman more?

  •  
    44%
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    56%

Discuss (Total votes: 11,027)


In the latest ESPN Heisman Watch, Winston and Marcus Mariota are the top two Heisman candidates.

After eight weeks, who deserves to win the Heisman?

Why Mariota should win the Heisman
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is averaging 363 yards of total offense and has accounted for 28 touchdowns this season. He ranks in the top five of most statistical categories without even attempting a pass in the fourth quarter in five of Oregon’s seven games.

Mariota is a threat on the ground and through the air; he is the only player in the FBS that is averaging at least 10 yards per rush and 10 yards per pass attempt. Similarly, he is the only player that has at least 15 pass touchdowns and seven rush touchdowns.

When passing the ball, Mariota does not turn the ball over. He has an FBS-high 197 pass attempts without an interception. In comparison, Winston has thrown three interceptions in 157 attempts. Dating back to last season, Mariota has thrown a Pac-12-record 265 passes without an interception.

When running, Mariota implements the zone read to perfection. The Ducks have called a zone-read play on 56% of their carries and have averaged 7.5 yards per rush on such plays. When Mariota keeps the ball, Oregon averages 13.7 yards per rush and has six touchdowns. It is unfair to compare Winston to Mariota on this type of play because Florida State rarely runs a zone read. However, it is important to note that Winston is averaging 3.1 yards per rush and has three rush touchdowns compared to 10.1 yards per rush and nine rush touchdowns for Mariota.

As a result of his offensive efficiency noted above, Mariota leads the nation in opponent-adjusted QBR (96.6). The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Johnny Manziel last year.

-Sharon Katz

Why Winston should win the Heisman
Heisman winners generally play well in their teams’ most important games, and Jameis Winston has had his two best games of the season against top-25 opponents.

Against No. 3 Clemson and No. 25 Maryland, Winston averaged 418.5 pass yards per game and accounted for nine total touchdowns. Florida State won by a combined 100 points in those games.

He is averaging 380.8 pass yards in four career ACC games with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions. He is the first player in the last 10 seasons to pass for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns in each of his first four conference games.

Winston makes crowd-pleasing plays. He averages 5.7 completions per game of at least 20 yards, the fourth most in the FBS. He completes an AQ-high 61.8 percent of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer. That is about 12 percentage points higher than Mariota and at least 11 percentage points higher than each of the last three Heisman winners during their Heisman-winning seasons.

Winston also does not get rattled by pressure. He is completing 71.2 percent of his passes when opponents send five or more pass rushers, the fourth-highest percentage among BCS AQ quarterbacks. Winston ranks second among AQ quarterbacks in yards per attempt (12.5) and touchdowns (9) on passes against the blitz.

-- Rob Nelson

These quarterbacks will have several chances to separate themselves the rest of the season. Mariota will face back-to-back top-15 opponents as Oregon faces No. 12 UCLA and No. 6 Stanford in its next two games. Winston will take on North Carolina State, which handed the Seminoles their first loss of the season last year, followed by No. 7 Miami.

Heisman favorites exhibit unique skills

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
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Marcus Mariota, Tajh Boyd, and Johnny Manziel make up the top three spots in ESPN’s latest Heisman Watch. All three quarterbacks are off to a strong start, leading their respective teams to a combined 17-1 record and top-seven ranking in the AP Poll.

Mariota leads the nation in opponent-adjusted Total QBR (97.0) and Manziel ranks sixth at 88.3. Boyd ranks 41st in opponent-adjusted QBR, but he has the opportunity to add another signature win to his record when Clemson hosts Florida State on Saturday.

Each quarterback has showcased a unique skill that has given the opposing defensive coordinators fits all season.

What attribute sets each of these quarterbacks apart?

Tajh Boyd – Downfield Passing
Boyd has 138 completions of 20 yards or more since the start of the 2011 season; only Fresno State’s Derek Carr (141) has more such completions. The key to these big plays has been Boyd’s downfield passing

Boyd is one of four AQ quarterbacks that has completed more than half of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer since the start of last season. He has an FBS-high 23 touchdowns on passes of this distance, including 16 touchdowns after a play-action fake. All eight of his touchdowns on passes of 20-plus yards this season came off play action.

After losing his top target, DeAndre Hopkins, to the NFL after last season, Boyd has shown that he can spread the field on these deep passes.

Last season, Hopkins had more than twice as many targets (30) and receptions (18) on passes of 20 yard or longer than any other receiver. This season, Boyd has targeted six different receivers, and no receiver has more than nine targets or four receptions.

Johnny Manziel – Improvisational Skills
Johnny Manziel has demoralized plenty to opposing defenses with his ability to extend plays. Since the start of last season, he leads AQ quarterbacks in every scramble category by a wide margin. He has 548 more scramble yards and six more scramble touchdowns than any other AQ quarterback during that time.

When scrambling, Manziel has also kept his head up to find his receivers. He has completed 58 percent of his attempts while scrambling out of the pocket in the last two seasons, the highest completion percentage among AQ quarterbacks (minimum 20 attempts).

He has 18 more such completion and six more pass touchdowns than any AQ quarterback in that span.

Marcus Mariota – Efficiency
As the anchor to Oregon’s high-octane offense, Mariota leads the nation in opponent-adjusted QBR this season and has yet to commit a turnover. With Mariota under center, the Ducks score a touchdown on 57 percent of their drives, 30 percentage points higher than the FBS average, and average 8.6 yards per play with, second-best behind Baylor with Bryce Petty at quarterback (minimum 100 plays at quarterback).

Mariota efficiency is due in part to his ability to make plays with his arm and legs.

Mariota leads the FBS in yards per rush (10.4) and is tied with Mississippi State’s Dan Prescott for most rush touchdowns (8) by a quarterback.

The Ducks have utilized his running ability in their zone-read scheme. With Mariota at quarterback, the Ducks have called a zone-read play on 44 percent of their carries and have averaged 6.7 yards per rush. Mariota has kept the ball 17 times on such plays, averaging 11.3 yards per rush and scoring five touchdowns.

Mariota is also averaging more than 10 yards per attempt on passes. He throws a touchdown on 10.3 percent of his pass attempts, fifth best in the nation and almost twice the national average of 5.4 percent.

He has a Total QBR of 90.6 on just pass plays, sixth best in the nation and leads the nation in Total QBR (99.6) on rushes.

Mariota, Kelly, McCoy among best of week

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
9:16
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Week 7 featured upsets and surprises as seven ranked teams lost on Saturday, with four of those losses at the hands of unranked opponents.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information will look back at some of these upsets and look ahead to next weekend’s matchup between Florida State and Clemson.

Best individual performances

Marcus Mariota had a 98.3 opponent-adjusted Total QBR in Oregon’s 45-24 win at Washington. Mariota was responsible for 454 total yards and four touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter. He leads the nation in opponent-adjusted Total QBR (97.0) this season and has posted an opponent-adjusted Total QBR of 98 or higher in three of six games.

Taylor Kelly posted a career-high 98.1 opponent-adjusted Total QBR in Arizona State’s 54-13 win against Colorado. Seven of Kelly’s nine completions gained at least 15 yards as he averaged a career-high 25.9 yards per completion.

Case McCoy had a 90.3 opponent-adjusted Total QBR in Texas’s 36-20 win against Oklahoma, his highest in a qualified game in his career (a player must have at least 20 action plays in order for it to be a qualified game).

McCoy completed 13-of-19 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the first three quarters.

Other interesting Total QBRs

Zach Mettenberger’s QBR (46.7 Total QBR): Mettenberger completed 9-of-17 passes for 152 yards against Florida, including four completions of at least 20 yards. Mettenberger finished with a 46.7 Total QBR.

But that measure doesn't tell the whole story.

When accounting for the defense that he faced, Mettenberger's opponent-adjusted Total QBR jumped to 88.9, ninth-best in Week 7.

Entering the game, the Gators had allowed the lowest Total QBR (13.0) of any defense, and their opponents had completed 46 percent of their passes. Mettenberger's performance was significantly better than those who faced the Gators earlier this season.

Bryce Petty’s QBR (69.0 Total QBR): Petty had the highest pass efficiency rating (237.1) of Week 7 in Baylor’s win against Kansas State, but he ranked 31st in Total QBR.

Why?

Petty had seven dropbacks on third down, but failed to convert a first down on any of those dropbacks. It is important to note that Petty had two completions for 19 yards on third down, but neither of those completions resulted in a first down, which is accounted for in Total QBR.

For a full list of Total QBR leaders for the season and Week 7, click here.

Best team performances

Offense –- Oregon: The Ducks gained 631 yards and added 24.3 expected points on offense in their 45-24 win against No. 16 Washington. Entering the game, the Huskies had allowed 286.8 yards per game, and no opponent's offense had contributed more than five expected points to their team's net scoring margin. In the last two seasons, Oregon’s offense has a +49.4 offensive EPA against the Huskies and the Ducks have won by a combined 52 points in those games.

Defense –- Texas: The Longhorns’ defense added 17 expected points toward its scoring margin against Oklahoma by forcing turnovers, controlling field position and limiting the Sooners to one offensive touchdown.

It was the Longhorns’ highest defensive EPA in a game against a BCS-AQ team since they added 24.4 against California in the 2011 Holiday Bowl. Texas entered the game with the second-worst defensive EPA (-13.78) in the Big 12 behind Iowa State (-13.8).

Special teams –- Iowa State: The Cyclones contributed 16.3 expected points on special teams in their 42-35 loss at Texas Tech, the most by a team in a game this season.

That means that if Iowa State’s special teams unit had an average game, the Cyclones would have lost by about 23 points. In addition to a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown in the first quarter, Iowa State began its drives 11.2 yards closer to the goal line than Texas Tech did.

Looking ahead to Week 8

Florida State travels to Clemson (8 PM ET, ABC) in a top-5 matchup with conference and national title implications.

The game features two of the top quarterbacks in the nation; Florida State’s Jameis Winston ranks fourth in opponent-adjusted Total QBR (91.3) this season, and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd finished with the fourth-highest opponent-adjusted Total QBR (81.8) last season.

A major component of success for each quarterback has been the deep ball. Winston is completing 68.3 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer, best among BCS AQ quarterbacks (min. 15 attempts), and Boyd leads all AQ quarterbacks with 10 touchdowns on passes of that distance.

Florida State and Clemson both rank in the Top 10 in defensive EPA on passing plays, so it will be a battle of strengths in Death Valley on Saturday.

Aggies overcome odds to beat Rebels

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
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Below are some storylines from Week 5 of the college football season using ESPN’s new set of analytical storytelling metrics for college football. For more background on these metrics, read Dean Oliver’s primer on all of them and his explanation of college Total QBR. For complete college Total QBR information, go here.

Texas A&M comes back to win
Texas A&M and Ole Miss combined for 41 points in the fourth quarter of the Aggies’ 41-38 win. There were five touchdowns, two lead changes and three ties in the fourth quarter.

Texas A&M’s win probability was 73 percent following Josh Lambo’s 37-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Aggies’ win probability fell below 15 percent on two separate drives during the final 12 minutes. They had a 14.7 percent chance of winning before Johnny Manziel completed a 27-yard pass on third down with nine yards to go from their own 26 yard-line with the team trailing 31-24. Then they had a 14.6 percent chance of winning before Manziel ran for 13 yards on a fourth down and seven from Ole Miss’ 45 yard-line with a 38-31 deficit.

Texas A&M is the fourth team this season to win in regulation when it had less than a 15 percent win probability on two separate drives in the fourth quarter.

The Aggies started their final drive with a 52 percent chance of winning the game.

Stanford’s offense struggling
Stanford’s offense added -0.9 expected points toward its scoring margin in its 27-21 loss at Utah. It was the first time that the Cardinal had a negative offensive EPA in back-to-back games since David Shaw became the head coach in 2011. The Cardinal had two turnovers that led to six points for the Utes, doubling the amount of points off turnovers that Stanford had allowed entering Saturday.

Ty Montgomery had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter, his second straight game with a return touchdown. Stanford’s special teams finished the game with an EPA of +2, its third game this season in which it had a higher EPA than the offense.

Kevin Hogan had a below average Total QBR for the second straight game (average = 50). Hogan started off strong with an 82.3 Total QBR in the first quarter, but finished with a 26.6 in the final three quarters.

Business as usual for Marcus Mariota
In Oregon’s 45-24 win at Washington, Marcus Mariota posted a 92.2 Total QBR, 27.1 points higher than the sum of the Huskies’ three previous opponents combined. It was Mariota’s FBS-high fifth game with a Total QBR of at least 90 this season.

Mariota finished the game with 454 total yards and was responsible for four touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter.

He has 852 total yards, 11 touchdowns and no turnovers in his last two games. Mariota and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion are the only two players this season with at least three touchdowns in six games.

Notable quarterbacks
• AJ McCarron posted a 85.2 Total QBR in Alabama’s 48-7 win at Kentucky. McCarron finished with career highs in pass yards (359) and completions of 20 yards or more (8). McCarron has a 91 Total QBR in his last two games, after starting the season with a 67.4.

• Johnny Manziel had a 88.7 Total QBR in Texas A&M’s win. In the fourth quarter, he completed 8-of-10 passes for 126 yards and had six carries for 51 yards and a touchdown.

What makes Baylor/Oregon offenses great?

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
3:13
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Baylor and Oregon both operate at an astounding pace.
Baylor and Oregon are putting up numbers at a historic rate, averaging 780 and 630 yards of total offense, respectively. The two schools are on pace to have the two most prolific total offenses ever in the FBS.

The current record belongs to the 1989 Houston Cougars, who were led by Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware and averaged 625 yards per game.

Quick-strike attacks
Perhaps the most impressive facet of each offense is how quickly each times its scores.

Baylor’s average touchdown drive is 1:18, the fastest in the FBS, while Oregon is the fifth fastest at 1:33. The Bears have 28 touchdown drives that lasted less than two minutes, second to Oregon’s 31. No other FBS team this season has more than 17 such drives.

Baylor and Oregon score quickly because they get a lot of big plays and they play fast. Baylor is averaging an FBS-high 10.8 plays per game that gain 20 yards or more, Oregon is second with 9.6 such plays.

The Ducks average one play per every 19.7 seconds, fifth fastest in the FBS, and the Bears are tied for the seventh-fastest pace at 20.1 seconds per play. The average FBS team runs a play every 24.9 seconds.

The running game
The Ducks and Bears have excellent running games. They both run on roughly 60 percent of their plays, which is 8 percentage points higher than the FBS average. The Bears average the second-most rushing yards per game (347.3) and the Ducks rank third (335.8).

Baylor’s running game is led by Lache Seastrunk, who is an Oregon transfer. He is averaging 11.1 yards per rush, the highest average for any FBS player with at least 30 carries.

Oregon’s running game features one of the most potent zone-read attacks, led by running back De’Anthony Thomas and quarterback Marcus Mariota. On zone-read plays, Thomas and Mariota have combined to average 10.6 yards per rush and have six touchdowns.

Play-action the key for both
Both quarterbacks have flourished in play-action passing. Mariota and Baylor’s Bryce Petty have combined to throw 13 touchdowns and one interception after a play fake.

Petty and Mariota have the two highest opponent-adjusted QBRs this season at 97.7 and 96.8, respectively.

In the past 10 seasons, the highest opponent-adjusted QBR ever posted by a quarterback over a full season was 94.5 by Andrew Luck in 2010.

Petty averages an FBS-high 14.7 yards per pass attempt. He has eight touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer, tied with Stanford’s Kevin Hogan for the most among AQ quarterbacks.

He is third in completion percentage (61.9 percent) on such throws behind Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels (64.7) and Florida State's Jameis Winston (64.5).

Mariota can also throw the deep ball. He has completed a Pac-12 high of 56 percent of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer this season. He has completed at least half of such throws in all but one game (California).

Mariota more heavily relies on his receivers to make plays. He has accrued 61 percent of his pass yards after the catch, 12 percentage points higher than Petty, who is right on the AQ average.

So which offense is better?
These are the two best offenses in college football right now, but which one rates better?

The advanced metric expected points added (EPA) allows us to make that assessment. This stat, also known as offensive or defensive efficiency when looked at on a per-game basis, goes beyond box score data. It looks at every play the offense is on the field to determine exactly how good the unit is in terms of moving the ball, converting drives into actual points and avoiding turnovers.

In terms of offensive efficiency without taking into account competition, Baylor’s offense is first at +36.3 EPA per game, well ahead of Oregon’s +24.2.

Once you adjust for the quality of defenses they’ve faced, it narrows the gap: +37.4 for Baylor, +29.4 for Oregon – Nos. 1 and 2 in the FBS.

While both offenses have been prolific thus far, this shows that Baylor's offense has contributed eight more points per game to the scoring margin than Oregon's, even after taking into account the tougher slate of defenses Oregon has faced.

The Bears have the edge at the moment. Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Elite QBs living up to top billing

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
4:26
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AP Photo/Rod AydelotteBaylor’s Bryce Petty is one of many QBs who lived up to high expectations in Week 6.
Below are some storylines from Week 6 of the college football season using ESPN’s new set of analytical storytelling metrics for college football. For more background on these metrics, read Dean Oliver’s primer on all of them and his explanation of college Total QBR. For complete college Total QBR information, go here.

Top QBs continue success on Saturday

The top four players in Total QBR entering the day on Saturday lived up to expectations. All four players posted a Total QBR of at least 90 while leading their teams to dominant victories.


Below is a breakdown of these top performances:

• Bryce Petty posted a 97.1 Total QBR in Baylor’s 73-42 win over West Virginia, his fourth straight game with a Total QBR of at least 93. Petty has thrown for at least 300 yards, two touchdowns and averaged 13 yards per attempt in every game this season.

• Marcus Mariota was responsible for a career-high seven touchdowns as he led the Ducks to a 57-16 victory against Colorado. Mariota has posted a Total QBR of 90 or more in four of five games this season.

• Teddy Bridgewater posted his fifth straight game with a Total QBR of 80 or higher in Louisville’s 30-7 win over Temple. Bridgewater was 15-of-17 for 228 yards in the first half and did not have a Total QBR lower than 94 after the Cardinals’ first drive.

• Jameis Winston threw for a career-high 393 yards and five touchdowns against Maryland. Winston had seven completions of 20 yards or longer, including two 21-yard touchdown passes. He now has 27 completions of at least 20 yards, fifth most in the FBS.

Other Notable QBs:

• AJ McCarron posted a 97.0 Total QBR in fewer than two quarters against Georgia State. McCarron completed 15-of-16 passes, including his first 12 attempts. Overall, 12 of his 16 attempts (75%) went for a first down or touchdown, the highest percentage by a quarterback in a game this season.

• Tajh Boyd had a season-high 94.0 Total QBR in Clemson’s 49-14 win over Syracuse. Boyd threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, the most yards by an ACC player in the last 10 seasons. Despite taking three sacks, Boyd posted a 96.5 Total QBR in the first half.

• Zach Mettenberger completed 86% of his passes and posted a 92.1 Total QBR in LSU’s 59-26 win against Mississippi State. Mettenberger now has a 88.6 Total QBR through six games in 2013 after having a 27.2 Total QBR through his first six games of last season.

• Aaron Murray had an 84.7 Total QBR in Georgia’s come-from-behind victory over Tennessee. Murray was 5-of-9 with a touchdown on Georgia’s final drive. Murray has a 96.5 Total QBR when trailing this season, highest in the FBS (min 20 action plays).

Which QBs had the top games in Week 3?

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
11:03
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AP PhotoJoe Southwick and Blake Bell were among the best performers of the past week.
Week 3 of the 2013 college football season will largely be remembered for Alabama’s 49-42 victory against Texas A&M in what became a matchup of two high-powered offenses.

Texas A&M gained 628 total yards and 31 first downs against Alabama, but Johnny Manziel’s two interceptions – each of which dropped Texas A&M’s chances of winning by 12 percentage points – proved too costly for the Aggies to overcome.

For a complete analytical breakdown of Alabama’s victory against Texas A&M, see Analytics Specialist Alok Pattani’s description here.

As significant as Alabama’s win was for the national title race, there were 61 other games involving FBS teams this week. Of those games, which individual and team performances were most impressive?

Best Individual Performances
Taylor Heinicke (99.5 Total QBR) of Old Dominion posted the highest Total QBR of Week 3 after throwing for 406 yards and accounting for five total touchdowns against Howard.

Heinicke helped Old Dominion set a new school record in points (76) in only its third game as a transitioning member of the FBS.

Joe Southwick (98.8 Total QBR) had a career-high Total QBR in Boise State’s 42-20 win against Air Force on Friday. It was the highest Total QBR by a Boise State quarterback in the last 10 seasons, and 1.2 points higher than any game recorded by former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore.

Marcus Mariota (97.5 Total QBR) recorded his third straight game with a Total QBR of 97 or above in Oregon’s victory against Tennessee. In the last 10 seasons, Mariota is the first player (minimum 20 action plays per game) to open the season with three straight games with a Total QBR of 97 or above.

Blake Bell (96.7 Total QBR) threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 51-20 win against Tulsa. Bell’s 96.7 Total QBR was the highest by an Oklahoma quarterback since Sam Bradford posted a 99.0 against Baylor on Oct. 4, 2008. Bell proved to be more than a goal-line “Belldozer” by adding the fourth-most expected points on passing plays of any FBS quarterback in Week 3.

Blake Bortles (94.8 Total QBR) threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns in UCF's 34-31 upset win at Penn State. Bortles converted 5-of-6 passes on third down, including two touchdowns, and completed a career-high six passes of 20 yards or longer against the Nittany Lions.

Best Team Performances
Offense –- Florida State: After trailing 7-3 to Nevada early in the second quarter, Florida State scored 59 straight points to end the game, including 45 points on eight second-half drives. The Seminoles’ offense added 31 expected points in the second half, the most by any team in the last 10 seasons.

Defense –- Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are normally known for their offense, but on Thursday, their defense held TCU to 10 points and contributed about 16 net points toward their 10-point margin of victory.

Texas Tech stopped TCU on 15 of its 18 third- or fourth-down chances and forced a punt or turnover on all six of the Horned Frogs' first-half drives.

Special Teams – Vanderbilt: The Commodores lost 35-25 to South Carolina on Saturday, but it could have been a lot worse if not for their special teams unit. Vanderbilt’s special teams added about 15 expected points, the most of any team in a game this season.

Overall, Vanderbilt started its drives 20 yards closer to the end zone than South Carolina did largely because of two fourth-quarter fumbles forced by its special teams unit.

Deeper look at final play of Arizona State-Wisconsin
In potentially the strangest play of the season, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave attempted to center the ball on the Arizona State 15-yard line with about 15 seconds remaining to set up a game-winning field goal attempt. The Arizona State players covered the ball, claiming that Stave was not down and therefore had fumbled.

Although officials ruled Stave down, the ball was not set in time for Wisconsin to spike the ball, stop the clock and attempt a field goal. Just how much did that play cost the Badgers?

In the last 10 seasons, the FBS average conversion percentage on 32- or 33-yard field goal attempts is 76 percent. Accounting for the slim chance of a kickoff return touchdown or turnover, Wisconsin had a 72 percent chance of winning the game prior to Stave’s two-yard loss.

Therefore, as time ran out, Wisconsin’s chance of winning fell from 72 percent to 0 percent, the second largest swing for any play this season behind only the 75-yard rush touchdown by Ole Miss against Vanderbilt to take the lead in the fourth quarter (75 percent swing).

Wisconsin must regroup before taking on Purdue (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC), No. 4 Ohio State and No. 18 Northwestern in the next three weeks.

For a complete explanation of ESPN’s new CFB storytelling metrics, click here.

Top 5 returning college QBs based on QBR

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
9:45
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As an earlier post on our blog noted, the 2013 college football season has the potential to produce one of the top quarterback classes ever.

Either the first or second-team quarterbacks from every conference (prior to conference realignment) except the Big 12 are back this season, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and two-time BCS National Champion AJ McCarron.

From the perspective of ESPN’s new Total QBR metric (details on the NFL version, with the same principles as the college version, here), which quarterbacks are the best of this talented group?

1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (90.5 Total QBR)

Manziel accounted for an SEC-record 5,116 total yards en route to becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel led the nation in Total QBR on third down (98.6), in the first half (90.1) and on rushing plays (94.0). All of these factors contributed to his FBS-leading 90.5 Total QBR.

2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (87.8)

Mariota led Oregon to its fifth-straight 10-win season as a redshirt freshman. He was one of two players in FBS to average seven yards per rush and seven yards per pass attempts last season (min 200 attempts). The other was Manziel.

3. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (81.8)

Boyd was one of the top big-play quarterbacks in the nation last season, completing an FBS-high 48 passes of 25 yards or more. As a result, Boyd posted the highest single-season Total QBR of any ACC quarterback since 2004 (as far back as QBR goes).

4. AJ McCarron, Alabama (81.5)

McCarron won his second-straight BCS Championship last season, and he was much more than a game manager. McCarron posted an above average QBR (above 50) in all 14 of his games last season, and two of the top four games of his career by QBR were his two BCS Championship games. He posted a 90.3 and 95.6 Opponent Adjusted QBR in the 2012 and 2013 BCS Championships, respectively.

5. David Fales, San Jose State (78.3)

Fales led the nation in completion percentage while leading the Spartans to their first 11-win season since 1940. Fales’ accuracy and precision were rewarded by Total QBR, as he had the highest unadjusted Total QBR on pass plays in the nation last season.

Total QBR measures all quarterback contributions to scoring accounting for game context and adjusted for opponent strength. It is based on a 0-100 scale, and 50 is average.

Dual-threat Mariota keys Oregon offense

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
12:04
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Jesse Beals/Icon SMIMarcus Mariota was the Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year in 2012.
The 2013 college football season has the potential to be one of the greatest quarterback classes ever. Eight of the top 10 teams in last year’s final AP Poll return their starting quarterbacks, and every conference except the Big 12 returns either their first- or second-team quarterbacks from last season.

In preparation for the 2013 season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. Today we will look at Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

A look back at 2012
A year ago, Mariota was battling Bryan Bennett for the starting quarterback nod. He finished the year as the Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year, breaking conference freshmen records for completion percentage and touchdown passes along the way.

What separated Mariota from his peers was his ability to use his feet and his decision making. Mariota joined Heisman winner Johnny Manziel as the only two players in FBS last year to average seven yards per rush and seven yards per pass attempt (min. 200 attempts).

This fall ESPN will unveil Total QBR for college, including past season results back to 2004. In that time frame, Mariota’s 2012 opponent-adjusted Total QBR was the highest single-season Total QBR by an Oregon quarterback.

As a result, Oregon's 2012 offense contributed more points to its winning margin (opponent adjusted offensive EPA) than any other Oregon offense during that time.

One of Mariota's toughest opponents last year was his own coach, Chip Kelly, and his reluctance to play him in the second half of games. Only 10 of Mariota's 38 total touchdowns came after halftime. His 16 first-quarter touchdowns were tied with Utah State's Chuckie Keeton for most in FBS last season.

What’s Ahead for 2013?
2013 brings a few changes for the Oregon football program. Kelly, the mastermind behind four straight BCS bowl appearances is gone. Also gone is fifth-year senior Kenjon Barner and his 2,000 yards of offense.

But Mariota's favorite target from a year ago returns in De'Anthony Thomas. Thomas will likely play a bigger role for the Ducks this year, and get more than the 10.5 touches a game he saw last year.

When targeting the speedy Thomas in 2012, Mariota was 45 for 55, his highest completion percentage among all of his receivers who caught at least 10 passes. The 55 passes averaged fewer than 5 yards of actual air distance, and 20 were thrown behind the line of scrimmage. Look for Thomas to get more of these short targets next season as he has averaged more than eight yards after the catch per reception in his career.

Barner's departure will hurt Mariota if Oregon cannot replicate the run threat he brought to Oregon’s offense. Mariota threw 25 of his 32 touchdown passes after a run fake, including nine touchdowns in his last four games. His 25 such touchdowns were the most among all BCS-AQ quarterbacks.

But don’t expect offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Mark Helfrich to abandon the running game either. Over the last two seasons, Oregon has had five players rush for more than 700 yards in a season (most in FBS), including Mariota last year.

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