Bodog Sports recently released their odds to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy. Not surprisingly, Andrew Luck of Stanford is the pre-season favorite to take home the coveted hardware at 9/2 odds. Surprisingly, a Georgia Bulldog did make the list of 38 players. Aaron Murray came in at 55/1 odds. At first I was surprised to even see him on the list, but after thinking for a while, I think I understand why he’s there.
First, Georgia football as whole is in a dire situation. Coach Mark Richt finds himself in a “now or never” type season as he looks to rebound the program. With that in mind, the Dawgs have a favorable schedule as the SEC East is not quite as competitive as in years past and the Bulldogs dodge most of the Titans from the West.
While Georgia opens with arguably the toughest early schedule in the country (facing Boise State and South Carolina in the first two weeks), things ease up tremendously down the stretch. All this culminates to leave Georgia fans hoping for—and many experts predicting—a 10+ win season for Richt and the Dawgs.
Secondly, Aaron Murray was pretty darn good last season. He came into the season as a virtual unknown and when it was all said and done, he was the cornerstone for the team moving ahead. Furthermore, he put together one of the most impressive individual seasons in Georgia history. As a freshman Murray’s single season performance ranks in the top-five of Georgia’s record book in passing yards, completion percentage, passer rating, yards per attempts and touchdown passes. Not too shabby.
So, could Murray actually take home the Heisman this year? While not exactly expected, it’s certainly not outside of the realm of possibility. Consider this: nine quarterbacks have won the Trophy since 2000, so passers certainly have an advantage. Of those nine winners, four (Eric Crouch, Troy Smith, Tim Tebow, and Cam Newton) were considered dual-threat quarterbacks who also put up impressive rushing numbers.
Murray more closely resembles the five remaining winners—Chris Weinke (2000), Carson Palmer (2002), Jason White (2003), Matt Leinart (2004), and Sam Bradford (2008).
During those five players’ respective Heisman winning seasons (excluding Bowl Games which took place after Heisman voting) they put up the following statistical averages: 274 completions, 424 attempts, 3800 passing yards, 36.2 TD, 8.2 INT. This equates to a passer rating of 164.21.
In Murray’s freshman season he put up a nearly identical passer rating—162.72—prior to his Bowl debut. Individually speaking, the biggest statistical obstacle to Murray is his lower passing volume. His 304 attempts in his first 12 games of 2010 represent less than 72 percent of what these five Heisman winning signal callers tossed.
However, with a shallow backfield and improved confidence, Murray’s passing attempts could very well increase dramatically, even with the loss of his two favorite 2010 targets—A.J. Green and Kris Durham.
If Murray could attempt 424 passes in 2011 and maintain the same level of production he had in 2010 his line could look something like this: 262/424, 3976 yards, 33 TD, eight INT. Such a line would give him more passing yards than Leinart, White and Palmer.
His 33 TD passes would trail only Bradford and White. His eight interceptions would lag only behind Bradford and Leinart. In other words, his individual performance would rank right up there with recent pro-style Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks.
Furthermore, passing numbers like that would certainly bode well for Georgia’s offense. And, if Todd Grantham’s defense continued to improve a 10-win season would seem almost inevitable. Bradford, Leinart, White, Palmer and Weinke had an average of better than 11 wins entering their Heisman Trophy ceremonies; I’d love to see Murray and the Dawgs with a similar number—even if he’s not in New York City.
What do you expect from Aaron Murray in his second season under center? Sophomore slump or continued improvement?