LOS ANGELES -- There are few games as hallowed as the Rose Bowl is in college football lore, and this season's edition has been further enhanced as the host of a first-ever College Football Playoff semifinal game.
Add in the fact that it is the third-ever meeting between two Heisman Trophy winners and it's easy to see why everybody from NFL front offices to casual football fans are undoubtedly excited at the prospect of Oregon's Marcus Mariota (the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner) facing off against Florida State's Jameis Winston (the 2013 Heisman winner) for the sport's ultimate prize.
That includes, by the way, the signal-callers themselves.
"I think (Mariota's) been an amazing guy and an amazing player. To have opportunities to see him on the sideline and watch him personally will be a great experience for all us actually," Winston said Sunday. "I think it's going to be a great battle between the two teams. It's going to be a great game. It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a chance to see a guy as efficient and as talented as he is on the field."
A season ago, it was Winston who took home all of the trophies and had all of the praise being heaped on him for his stellar play on the field. That has not been the case this year. That was especially apparent this week, when the Seminoles quarterback was repeatedly asked about his skyrocketing interception ratio and the development of his young receivers outside of veterans like tight end Nick O'Leary and senior wideout Rashard Greene. Though Winston shook such negative criticisms off like he evades defensive ends, his play lately only further underscored what his opposite number has been able to do in leading the Ducks to Pasadena.
"His efficiency," Winston said of what he admires most about Mariota. "You talk about my interceptions, a guy that has thrown 38 touchdowns and only two interceptions -- that's special. He has all the tools. He's fast, has a great arm and he leads his team. Guys rally around him and he affects everybody around him. I think that's the best thing about him, his ability to perform and affect everybody around him."
That's also an attribute that has served Winston well during the Seminoles' 29-game win streak and one reason why Thursday's game between the two could go a long way in determining which of the quarterbacks is chosen first in a future NFL draft.