The rookie quarterbacks spent this week downplaying the matchup. Winston compared their situation to thoroughbreds who respect the other's speed, but aren't into showing off.
"It's like two horses at a racetrack," Winston said, via The Tennessean. "When the alpha sees another alpha they just -- (horse noise) - and they go on about their business."
Equine comparisons aside, the duo will forever be linked. Fair or unfair, how they perform Sunday and into the future will be dissected in relation to the other's performances, even if they'd rather you not talk about their matchup.
"I don't play defense, so I don't play against Jameis," Mariota told local reporters earlier in the week. "Obviously people will continue to make that debate, but you can't focus on it."
Through the preseason, Mariota looks the more polished product (102.9 passer rating), while Winston flashed the boom-or-bust potential most scouts predicted. On Sunday we'll get to see how each rookie signal-caller fairs when the live bullets count for 60 minutes.
Whether they like it or not, their performances will always be compared on some level, especially when they share the same patch of grass on a Sunday afternoon.