The Heisman Trophy winner gets most of the fanfare but the Oregon Ducks qualified for the National Championship because they are loaded with NFL talent. In fact, this year's class could be the most gifted in the university's rich history.
Scouts crave opportunities like this to compare players on an apples-to-apples level; it is among the reasons why the Senior Bowl practices (and those in other all-star games) and the workouts at the Combine are so valued. "Vince Young against Matt Leinart in the 2006 Rose Bowl was close," one 20+ year talent evaluator said, "but this game is even bigger."
The 2015 Rose Bowl is an NFL scout's dream with two talent-laden teams led by future first round quarterbacks. The talent extends far beyond Mariota and Winston, however, as nearly two dozen Florida State and Oregon prospects are currently projected by NFLDraftScout.com as potential 2015 draft picks.
Despite losing 34-20, Demon Deacons cornerback Kevin Johnson once again demonstrated the big play moxie to intrigue NFL scouts, notching his seventh career interception and recovering a fumble, each of which led to Wake Forest touchdowns.
Marcus Mariota may have won the battle of the Heisman candidates but he certainly had some help in this one as an Oregon offensive line that had surrendered 12 sacks the previous two games blanked UCLA. The biggest difference? The healthy return of senior left tackle Jake Fisher.
A loss to the Arizona Wildcats at home hurts Oregon's playoff chances. Also painful? Four of the Ducks' best players -- QB Marcus Mariota, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, DE Arik Armstead and DE Tony Washington -- each play a role in the stunning defeat.
Quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston may be the headliners but a strong class of defensive linemen could prove the real story of the 2015 NFL draft. With the NFL and NCAA seasons under way, Senior Analyst Rob Rang projects what may happen in the first round.