Tuesday’s Fiesta Bowl matchup between the UCF Knights and the LSU Tigers features two different, but equally reliable quarterbacks taking snaps for their respective teams.
One is an experienced grad-transfer that continues to rapidly improve by the game, while the other is a quickly rising redshirt freshman that’s shown to be just as much of a threat on the run as the former.
Here’s how the two stack up.
First Impression: The Tigers have been in search for a signal-caller that brings the same kind of spark as Zach Mettenberger did since he departed for the NFL in 2014. They’ve found even better in graduate transfer, Joe Burrow. Between his good decision-making in the pocket and his ability to make plays with his legs, Burrow is a true dual threat and arguably this team’s most valuable player on offense.
Burrow made strides in the 2018 season, edging his way into the LSU record books after previously doing hardly more than sitting on the bench at Ohio State. Orgeron and co. should be very excited about what the quarterback has in store for his next and final season.
Burrow finished the season 198-of-345 passes for 2500 yards, with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. He was just as valuable on the ground, carrying the ball 119 times for 375 yards and seven touchdowns.
Last showing: vs. Texas A&M, L 74-72 (7OT)
He was 25-of-38 passes for 270 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions on the Tigers’ final game of the college football regular season. He also rushed 29 times for 100 yards and three touchdowns.
Bottom line for Tuesday: Facing an undefeated UCF team, Burrow’s offensive line is going to need to do him more favors than they have as of late to put him in the best position to make the right calls. We know Burrow’s gifted on the rush, but he should be running by his own will — not because he was flushed out of the pocket. Considering that UCF is 118th against the run, do expect to see a healthy dose of designed quarterback runs out of a mobile Burrow.
Darriel Mack Jr.
First Impression: Without star quarterback Mckenzie Milton, UCF is left to put its faith in resdhirt freshman quarterback Darriel Mack Jr.
Like Burrow, Mack Jr. has also proven to be a dangerous asset to the ground game. In UCF’s first game of the season against UCONN, he faked a handoff before running over the entire Huskies defense to record the first touchdown run of his college career in a 70-yarder.
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Mack Jr. has drawn multiple comparisons to NFL QB Cam Newton, and will pose a serious threat in the backfield.
Over his eight appearances on the 2018 season, Mack Jr. completed 40-of-70 passes for 522 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also rushed 58 times for 340 yards, with six touchdowns.
Last showing: vs. Memphis, W 56-41
Mack Jr. was 19-of-27 passes for 348 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Knights’ victory over the Tigers. He also totaled 18 rushing attempts for 59 yards and four touchdowns.
Bottom line for Tuesday: Going up against a tough LSU defense, Mack Jr. is in for no easy task on Tuesday. Mack acknowledged earlier in the week that the Tigers would be probably the most most difficult opponent he’d ever gone up against, and he’ll rely on his mobility and strong supporting cast to try to keep his opponent on their toes. Still, LSU has shown a knack for picking young, inexperienced quarterbacks apart and should do the same to Mack Jr. on Tuesday.