Coming into this year, most of the focus about Georgia was on the front seven, led by OLB Jarvis Jones and his 13.5 sacks a year ago. The Bulldogs finished fifth in total defense in the country, and Jones finished tied for second in sacks.
However, it’s the offense that has started much stronger in 2012, thanks to an experienced quarterback in Aaron Murray and the breakout player of the year in freshman running back Todd Gurley. Murray is second in the SEC in passing yardage with 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Gurley leads the SEC in rushing with 406 yards, averaging an envious 9.2 yards per carry.
The Bulldogs are leading the SEC in scoring offense (47.5 ppg) and total offense (530 ypg), and they are third in rushing yardage (242.5 ypg) and third in passing offense (287.5). Obviously that has much to do with Aaron Murray, the offensive line, a formidable cast of receivers and one of the best freshmen running backs we’ve seen in a while. I know they haven’t played a team with a winning record yet, but this offense has taken it to another level.
Over the last few years, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has been criticized for an offense that’s been too vanilla. The offensive coordinator and philosophy haven’t changed, nor has many of the play calls. But the execution and the big plays have dramatically increased.
Georgia has completed 35 plays over 20 yards already, and they lead the country in that department. Last season, they had 62 total plays of 20 yards, and they are well past 50 percent of that total a quarter of the way through the year.
Of Georgia’s 25 offensive touchdowns, 10 have come on 20-yard plays or longer and 13 have come on 10-yard plays or longer.
The Bulldogs’ offense is your typical pro-style offense. It’s a downhill power running attack that features a quarterback who can make teams pay at the third level and make every throw on the field. They lead the SEC with 7.8 yards per play.
Georgia presents a very unique challenge to every team they will face this year, because they force you to pick your poison. Do coaches try and take away the dynamic running game and make Murray beat them, or do they try and limit big plays through the air and take their chances stopping the run? No one team has decided to do either, yet.
Three key factors have played the biggest role in the Bulldogs’ explosive offense:
1. Todd Gurley: Gurley has developed into the biggest playmaker on the offense as a freshman. He leads the SEC in rushing and is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns. He’s tied for fifth in the country in runs of 20-plus yards with seven. He’s the total package at running back, and he is the very reason Georgia is balanced on offense. He’s single-handedly erased Isaiah Crowell from the memory of Georgia fans.
2. Offensive Line: The makeshift offensive line, or so we thought, entering 2012 has grown into a very solid unit. They have only allowed six sacks on the year and have protected Murray in the pocket and have opened up running lanes for the trio of backs. This is an underrated unit that has played very well through four games.
3. Marlon Brown: We knew about Tavarres King and Michael Bennett, but we didn’t know if Marlon Brown would ever step up. His emergence is key for a couple of different reasons. TE Orson Charles, Murray’s favorite target last year, went to the NFL, and Malcolm Mitchell transitioned over to corner to start this year – that’s two of the Bulldogs biggest receivers notably absent. Brown has logged 16 catches for 264 yards and three touchdowns. All three Georgia receivers have caught over 14 passes. Murray is not locking in on just one guy, and it’s tough for defenses to scheme against all three.
Georgia leads its balanced offense into battle against Tennessee this weekend, and it works out nicely that all nine returning starters will play together for the first time this season, as suspensions for Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo have finally been lifted.