Big Game Murray: Can Georgia’s weathered veteran win a championship?

Aaron Murray won’t make the trip to New York for the Heisman, and he won’t rack up many SEC post-season awards at quarterback, thanks in part to Johnny Manziel. But he does have a chance to cement his name in SEC and Georgia legacy with a championship on Saturday.

After all, big time quarterbacks are measured by their championships, not merely by passing yards, completion percentage or touchdowns – something that has escaped him the last three seasons.

Because if statistics cemented legacy alone, Murray would have to spit shine his trophy case. He’s done pretty much statically everything a quarterback can do at Georgia. He’s had three 3,000-yard-plus seasons passing – the first SEC quarterback to accomplish the feat, ever. He’s thrown 89 touchdowns in his career, tying him with Peyton Manning and second all-time in the SEC. Only Florida’s Danny Wuerffel stands in front of him, holding the all-time record with 114. Murray’s 73rd touchdown came against Kentucky this season, breaking former UGA quarterback David Greene’s career mark set from 2001-04.

The one main absent statistic by his name, however, is champion, followed closely by his much-maligned 3-9 record against top 25 teams (1-3 against top ten teams).

Entering 2012, Murray was 2-8 against ranked opponents. We knew the two ranked teams on the schedule were South Carolina and Florida, and Murray knew he had to perform better in bigger, more meaningful games.

“I gotta win the big games,” Murray said. “I’ve gotta step it up and play better when it comes to big-time games. I know that. And that’s something I’m looking forward to this year, is taking that next step and taking on those bigger teams. But at the end of the day it’s not all me. All 125, or all 70 when we travel, we play as a team. And if we go out there with the right mindset, I don’t see many teams beating us this year.”

Murray has improved his 2-8 record in ‘12 to 3-9 with a win over #2 Florida, making the Gators the only top 5 team he’s beaten while donning the red and black.

But when it comes down to it, Murray has struggled in big games, and it’s been a constant reminder of what he hasn’t accomplished so far as a Bulldog.

Knowing the quarterback can only do so much within football games, here are Murray’s stats against ranked opponents throughout his career:

2010 Freshman Season

#24 South Carolina 17, Georgia 6
Finished 14-21 for 192 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs

#12 Arkansas 31, Georgia 24
Finished 15-27 for 254 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

#2 Auburn 49, Georgia 31
Finished 15 of 28 for 273 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs

#25 UCF 10, Georgia 6 (Liberty Bowl)
Finished 21 of 38 for 198 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs

2011 Sophomore Season

#5 Boise State 35, Georgia 21
Finished 16 of 29 for 236 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

#12 South Carolina 45, Georgia 42
Finished 19 of 29 for 248 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT

Georgia 45, #20 Auburn 7
Finished 14 of 18 for 224 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs

Georgia 31, #23 Georgia Tech 17
Finished 19 of 29 for 252 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT

#1 LSU 42, Georgia 10 (SEC Championship)
Finished 16 of 40 for 163 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs

#17 Michigan State 33, Georgia 30 (Outback Bowl)
Finished 20 of 32 for 288 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

2012 Junior Season

#6 South Carolina 35, Georgia 7
Finished 11 of 31 for 109 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT

Georgia 17, #2 Florida 9
Finished 12 of 24 for 150 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs

Ironically, Murray’s only top five victory over Florida wasn’t a direct result of him playing well. Of the nine losses, five games could point to Murray’s struggles –UCF in 2010, Boise State and LSU in 2011, and Michigan State and South Carolina in 2012, but aren’t completely Murray’s fault.

With another season comes another top five matchup in Atlanta for a championship. This time, it’s Alabama. The Tide are the top-ranked defense in the country.

Alabama’s defensive numbers are daunting for Murray, Mark Richt and Mike Bobo, but it could have more to do with the schedule than how good the defense actually is. But LSU and Texas A&M exposed some areas in the secondary that Georgia’s potent passing offense can take advantage of, assuming the running game gets cranking and provides a balance. The one common trait both Zach Mettenberger and Johnny Manziel possessed in their great games against Alabama? They protected the football, as neither threw a pick. Since the first half of the Florida game, a half that saw him throw three interceptions, Murray has thrown 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

“That’s all that matters, is winning,” he said. “I want to be considered one of the best in Georgia history, and I’ve gotta win games and lead this team to victories and championships.”

If Murray wins this football game, he’ll definitely be declared one of the best players ever in Georgia history.

Photo Credit: Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE