Aaron Murray starts his quest for a championship this weekend

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Aaron Murray is the seasoned veteran of the SEC, as far as quarterbacks go. He’s the oldest tenured starter as a redshirt junior and the weathered veteran of this great conference.

The former top QB prospect from Tampa, Florida, sets out on a quest this weekend to win his first elusive SEC Championship in 2012.

Murray has had great individual years statistics-wise for his career. He’s thrown for over 3,000 yards in his first two years, along with 59 touchdowns and 22 INTs.

Many are quick to critique Murray for his sometimes quick-to-scramble mentality, but he’s criticized much more because he hasn’t won big games in the past and hasn’t fared well against ranked opponents – just 2-7.

There was an interesting analysis on Murray recently over at Macon.com dissecting his play against ranked opponents.

Here are his stats from that study:

2010
No. 24 South Carolina: 14-21, 192 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks, six rushes for minus-15 yards
No. 12. Arkansas: 15-27, 243 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 6 sacks, 14 rushes for nine yards (1 TD)
No. 2 Auburn: 15-28, 273 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks, six rushes for minus-4 yards

2011
No. 5 Boise State: 16-29, 236 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 6 sacks, seven rushes for minus-33 yards
No. 12 South Carolina: 19-29, 248 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 4 sacks, six rushes for 19 yards
No. 24 Auburn: 14-18, 224 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks, nine rushes for 21 yards
No. 17 Georgia Tech: 19-29, 252 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack, eight rushes for 11 yards
No. 1 LSU: 16-40, 163 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks, eight rushes for minus-five yards
No. 12 Michigan State: 20-32, 288 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks, eight rushes for minus-13 yards

Murray’s stats vs. ranked teams (nine games): 148-253 (.584), 2,119 yards (235.4 per game), 17 TD, 9 INT, 34 sacks, 72 rushes for minus-10 yards, 1 rushing TD

Murray’s stats vs. unranked teams (18 games): 299-492 (.607), 4,079 (226.6), 42 TD, 13 INT, 22 sacks, 102 rushes for 288 yards, 5 TD

Murray certainly was guilty of some crucial mistakes against South Carolina and Michigan State last season.

For 2012, however, the interceptions must decline and the completion percentage has to increase from 59.1 last season to around 63 to 64 percent. Thirty five touchdown passes a year ago will be tough to duplicate but very attainable.

You look at Georgia’s schedule this season, and it’s very favorable once again. The Bulldogs do not have to play Alabama, LSU or Arkansas and really only make three road trips (four if you count Jacksonville against Florida).

Murray has a cast of weapons at his disposal in Tavarres King, Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, with underachiever Marlon Brown emerging in fall camp.

Obviously the one notable receiver who will be absent this season is Orson Charles. Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome will have to combine to fill Charles’ production at tight end (45 receptions, 574 yards and five TDs). Charles and Murray played high school ball together. So they had a rather good connection and a comfort with each other.

In addition, UGA will use a running back by committee between Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel. I like this group, and there is more than adequate talent between the four to make this a balanced offense.

But we keep coming back to the two biggest questions on offense: the offensive line and Mike Bobo. Replacing three starters and starting a true freshman at tackle will be a work in progress. Hopefully this group can pull it all together and gel rather quickly. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, too, needs to take more chances in his play calls, because he’s just been too vanilla throughout the last couple of years.

Saturday is the day Murray is set to begin his championship quest, and it starts against Buffalo. It’s a mild tuneup before making the trip to Columbia, Missouri, to take on SEC-newcomer Mizzou in the first conference game and road trip of the season. Circle this game, because it will be a defining moment for this team, good or bad.

It’s put up or shut up time for Murray at Georgia.

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