Originally written on The Duck Stops Here  |  Last updated 11/18/14
It's interesting that the Ducks two stars, Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota, both defy nicknaming. I'll never forget the Cal game last year. Barner breaks off a 68-yard touchdown run and Rece Davis, doing the call on ESPN, exclaimed, "He doesn't need a nickname, he's just GONE. Gone, Kenjon Barner." For Mariota, "The Flyin' Hawaiian" seems stagey and faintly racist, like it was cooked up by a Hollywood press agent or a wrestling promoter. "Super Mario" doesn't fit either--you can't picture the smooth, composed Mariota in a bushy mustache and blue overalls with an 8 on the front, although it would make a good Heisman promotion poster.  "8MM" seems too violent, more like the handle of a gansta rapper rather than a polite, mature kid from a good family who also happens to be a superb athlete. Down in Texas they have Johnny Football, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. Duck fans may remember that Manziel was originally an Oregon verbal commit, one who backed out when the Ducks landed Mariota. The Aggie superstar has captured the imagination of fans and pundits with his swashbuckling style, running around with the football at his side like a gunslinger or the good Brett Farve (before all his ridiculous James Brown comebacks and weird cell phone pictures), improvising, scrambling and confounding SEC defenses. He vaulted into the Heisman Trophy conversation with an upset win over Alabama. Although Manziel makes the highlight reel every weekend with his spectacular ad libs, Marcus Mariota is a better quarterback. NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT Marcus Mariota 180 251 2164 71.7 8.62 28 5 177.0 Johnny Manziel 225 336 2780 67.6 5.70 18 6 151.2 Even with 85 more throws, Manziel trails in TD passes by 10. His TD-to-interception ratio is 3-to-1 while Mariota's is over 5-to-1. Mariota averages over 8.6 yards per attempt and Manziel is below 6. Super Mario is more efficient and gets sacked less often than the 6-1, 200-pound Manziel, who has been tossed down 21 times during A&M's 8-2 season. The Aggies have two conference losses, and in those two games, Johnny Football threw three interceptions and no touchdowns. Mariota struck for four tds on the road against USC two weeks ago, and followed that up with six td strikes against the Cal Bears last week. Without an interception. In fact, in Mariota's last four games he has 13 tds and no picks, with three quarterback game ratings of over 200. Through 10 games Mariota is on pace for the most impressive statistical season by a freshman quarterback ever. He processes information quickly, has tremendous composure, and learns from his mistakes. His numbers as a first year starter demolish those of any previous Duck great, and some of the legendary names in football. Regardless of styles, schemes and rule changes, it's mind blowing to consider where Mariota's start rates in the annals of college football. Here are a few examples: Johnny Unitas (6-1, 194) University of Louisville, 1951: 46 of 99 passes for 602 yards and nine touchdowns. Unitas threw 27 tds in his entire college career. He weighed 145 lbs. as a freshman. Dennis Dixon, junior season, 2006: CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT Dennis Dixon 197 322 2143 61.2 6.66 12 14 120.7 Dixon was spectacular in his final season as a Duck, but his freshman season he threw just 15 passes, and as a sophomore he threw for 777 yards when thrust into the starter's role when Kellen Clemons suffered a broken ankle. Mariota's learning curve is dramatically accelerated when measured against DD's. Darron Thomas completed 61.5% of his passes as a first-year starter, 30 tds and 9 interceptions. Mariota runs better, throws better and is far more consistent. Jeremiah Masoli's career quarterback rating at Oregon was 130. As a redshirt freshman Mariota has had just one GAME with a rating lower than that, and he's at an outstanding 177 for the season. It's not even close. Barring injury, he'll be the most productive quarterback in Oregon history. As a first-year starter, it's off the charts spectacular, historically amazing. Certainly credit has to be shared with a marvelous offense, a terrific supporting cast and great coaching, but Mariota's uncommon composure and even temperment makes him a wonder among redshirt freshman. He may even put together three more superb games and steal the Heisman Trophy.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Panthers coach replaces break-in victims’ Christmas presents

Cardinals Bruce Arians benches Logan Thomas on Christmas Day

Richard Sherman: Marshawn Lynch having MVP season

Curt Schilling tweeted advice to Johnny Manziel

Aaron Rodgers buys TVs for Packers teammates

Harbaugh smiled when asked about Michigan's bday tweet

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jackie Robinson West Little League accused of cheating

Police: Fire that burned down McClain's home 'suspicious'

Furniture store will refund purchases if OSU wins title

What each NFC team in the hunt should ask for from Santa

Is SI ashamed to mention Jameis Winston on its cover?

Kobe Bryant disappointed Lakers didn't get Rajon Rondo

Q&A with Rich Eisen; TNF, DirecTV and living in LA

Is the NFL playoff system heading south?

WATCH: Quincy Acy ejected for throwing punch at John Wall

Billy Beane did not want to trade Josh Donaldson

Peyton Manning plans to be back with Broncos next year

WATCH: Blazers announcer botches Damian Lillard call

WATCH: P.K. Subban disguises himself, surprises kids for Xmas

Baseball cards: a fan's love for the ultimate stocking stuffer

Packers game is a career defining moment for Stafford

A look inside Jason Grilli's contract with the Braves

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

WATCH: Bahamas Bowl ends on insane Hail Mary play

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Q&A with Rich Eisen; TNF, DirecTV and living in LA

Dan Le Batard sums up Miami's relationship with LeBron

Is the NFL playoff system heading south?

WATCH: Announcer botches call

Police: McClain fire 'suspicious'

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

Bahamas Bowl ends on crazy Hail Mary

49ers OT Davis takes shot at coordinator

Will FIFA ever care to change?

Top storyline for each Week 17 game

40 great Christmas-related sports names

Nick Mangold and dealing with feelings as a sports fan

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.