Georgia's Aaron Murray: Surprisingly Clutch in Big Games, Ready for a Win?

Andrew HallCorrespondent IIISeptember 5, 2013

CLEMSON, SC - AUGUST 31: Aaron Murray #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates after a first half touchdown against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The disgruntled narrative of choice this week for Bulldog Nation is one of two sentiments:

I don't subscribe to either of those theories. Good teams beat other good teams as Michael Felder pointed out earlier this week. Everyone can't win all the time.

Georgia has come out on the short end more often than not recently, and that's unfortunate for Georgia fans. But I don't think it's a QB or coaching problem.  

Keep in mind: Many of the losses cited by naysayers involve a 2009 team that was rebuilding completely on offense and a 2010 team that was rebuilding completely in every facet (new QB, new defensive coordinator, etc.). Georgia won a total of 14 games over that two-year stretch, and for a team that had so many young players and first-time starters contributing, that was probably about right.

Fourteen wins seems especially appropriate when you consider who left (think of guys like Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, Mohamed Massaquoi, Reshad Jones, Rennie Curran, Asher Allen, Geno Atkins, Justin Houston, Akeem Dent) and who did not pan out (Caleb King, Richard Samuel, Joe Cox, Marlon Brown for three years, etc.).

Murray took over in 2010 but had little help on defense and little talent (outside of A.J. Green who missed the first four games) on offense. The following season, Georgia was 2-4 in games against Top 25 teams, with one such loss coming in a relatively meaningless bowl game. Last year, Georgia was 2-2 against Top 25 teams.  

I'm not completely sold on the notion a team that is coming off a 6-7 season should have been much better than 4-6 against Top 25 teams, especially when two of those losses were "reward" games against elite teams in SEC Championship Games.  

Consider this: If South Carolina had found a way to win the SEC East in both of the past two seasons, Georgia would be 4-4 against the Top 25 (plus the recent loss to Clemson).

Accordingly, I don't think a systemic problem exists in the first place. But if it does, I can't blame Murray. Why not? Take a look at his performance in his last three games against ranked opponents.

 

Stats don't tell the whole story, but at some point completions and touchdowns mean more than how Murray "looks." And I'll be the first to admit, he "looks off" more often than his statistics indicate. In his last three games against Clemson (then ranked 8th), Nebraska (then ranked 16th) and Alabama (then ranked 2nd), Murray has posted a combined passer rating of 161.12. How does that stack up in the real world?  

  • Last season a rating of 161.12 would have ranked seventh in the country. And Murray has done that against his last three ranked opponents.
  • A.J. McCarron was first in passer rating last year. In his last three games against ranked opponents, McCarron's passer rating is a combined 128.44.
  • Over the past five seasons, only 26 players have posted seasons with a passer rating greater than 161.12, and Murray is one of those players.  
  • In essence, if one uses the last three games as a sample, Murray is a top-five quarterback in passer efficiency...even if he only plays Top 25 teams.

He's not just good in the rating department. Take Murray's yards per game (338.33) over the past three games and work that figure out to represent a 14-game season. Murray would throw for 4,736 yards in that hypothetical scenario. That would have ranked as the highest total in the country in 2012 by 427 yards.

Murray led the nation in yards per attempt last year with 10.1. He's been even better in his last three games against Top 25 teams, with an average per attempt of 10.7.

Can he win big games? Maybe, maybe not. And I understand history seems to imply he cannot. But  Murray is not the reason Georgia is 1-2 in the last three games.

Something tells me he just might clear his name this weekend against South Carolina.