South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney found out on opening night that when the Heisman spotlight shines bright, every snap matters.
Not most of them. All of them.
Another SEC star will find that out on opening weekend, but this time, the player may not be able to dig out of the hole if he stumbles.
That player? Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.
His accolades during his first three seasons between the hedges are well documented: single-season passing touchdown records in back-to-back seasons (35, 36), a second-place finish in last season's national passing efficiency ratings, consecutive SEC East titles and within five yards of a berth in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
But two numbers continue to haunt Murray: three and 11.
As in, he's 3-11 against teams that finish in the Top 25. One of those wins came last year over Florida, when he only completed 50 percent of his passes and threw three picks in one of the sloppiest games of the season.
Georgia won't run a formal Heisman campaign for Murray because that will take care of itself. Formal or informal, Saturday night is make-or-break time for Murray's Heisman chances.
If he lights up Clemson's defense and leads Georgia to a big road win over a top-10 team in the season opener with all eyes on him, it won't just vault him into the conversation; it will vault him near the top.
After Clowney's conditioning issues from Thursday night—some of which were caused by a stomach virus, per Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com—the door is open. Murray certainly has what it takes to waltz on through, especially if his performance solidifies Georgia as a true national title contender.
Conversely, a bad performance—or even a win in which he struggles, as with Florida last year—would effectively end any of his Heisman chances. It's only one game, but that career record is going to be brought up ad nauseam Saturday night no matter what.
We saw with Clowney and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel that we build players up to tear them down.
It's not right, but it's what happens.
A bad night versus the Tigers, coupled with that Top 25 monkey hanging on his back, would plant the seed of doubt in enough voters to prevent Murray from hoisting the hardware. He'd be fighting an uphill battle in the minds of voters against a host of superstars from around the country, perhaps even Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
That's too much traffic.
There's more on the line Saturday night in Death Valley than national title implications and conference pride. Murray's chance for the Heisman—and perhaps even his legacy—hangs in the balance.
What a great way to kick off the season.
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