- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Fresh off an open date, No. 9 Georgia (1-1) hosts North Texas (2-1) today in an important tune-up game with the bulk of the SEC schedule looming, starting next week with a visit from LSU. Here are five things we'll be watching once the teams kick off at 12:21 p.m.
Murray nears century mark: It would be a major upset if Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray doesn't surpass 100 career touchdown passes. After tossing four TDs in the Bulldogs' 41-30 win against South Carolina, Murray has 99 in his career. Florida's Danny Wuerffel (114) is the only quarterback in SEC history with 100 touchdown passes. North Texas ranks 94th nationally in pass defense, allowing Idaho, Ohio and Ball State to pass for an average of 267.3 yards per game.
Giveaway, takeaway: Georgia must start generating more turnovers, which has traditionally been a staple of a Todd Grantham defense. The Bulldogs have forced just two turnovers -- both fumbles -- and one of those came on special teams. Conversely, North Texas has been remarkably successful at forcing turnovers. The Mean Green is tied for first in the nation with 11 takeaways, having recovered seven of nine opponent fumbles and intercepted four passes.
Does defense get it together?: Grantham's defense struggled in the first two games, although it allowed just six points in the second half against South Carolina thanks to a goal-line stand and a forced fumble by Amarlo Herrera. Nonetheless, it might be a long season for the defense if its young contributors don't build off that second half against the Gamecocks. Georgia is second-to-last in the SEC in scoring and total defense at 34 points per game and 460.5 ypg allowed. The Bulldogs have just two sacks, which is tied for the second-fewest in the league.
Bring on the backups: Last time we checked, Georgia was nearly a five-touchdown favorite against the Mean Green. That means we should see Murray and other offensive stars like the SEC's leading rusher Todd Gurley (143 ypg) play sparingly once the Bulldogs take control -- so long as they actually do take control. After opening the season with demanding matchups against South Carolina and Clemson, Georgia's coaches should enjoy the opportunity to take their first long look at the freshmen and other backups in a game situation.
Welcome back: Today marks the return of Georgia's sophomore place-kicker Marshall Morgan, who was suspended for the first two games over an offseason arrest. He should reclaim the kickoff, PAT and field goal duties from Patrick Beless, who was 10-for-10 on PATs and 2-for-2 on attempted field goals. Morgan was 63-for-67 on PATs and 8-for-14 on field goals last year.
5dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
5dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
7dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough
7dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf