Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Georgia at the quarter pole
By David Ching
Aaron Murray answered his critics against South Carolina.
Believe it or not, we just completed the fourth week of college football season and are already a quarter of the way into the 2013 campaign. Let's take a moment to review where No. 9 Georgia's season stands at the quarter pole.
Best game: Let's call it a tie between Georgia's 38-35 shootout loss at Clemson to open the season and the 41-30 victory over South Carolina the following week. Both games featured big plays, offense galore and a couple of well-timed turnovers – or a late turnover on downs in the South Carolina game – that helped determine the outcome. The two early tests were good preparation for this Saturday's showdown against No. 6 LSU.
Best player: If you want to argue that Aaron Murray has been the Bulldogs' best player so far, I won't argue much. Murray leads the SEC with an average of 346.7 passing yards per game and has thrown seven touchdown passes against two interceptions. But give me Todd Gurley. Georgia's star tailback hasn't been 100 percent healthy, but he dominated much of the Clemson game and throughout against South Carolina. He leads the SEC with an average of 125.7 rushing yards per game and will need to be at his best for Georgia to topple the Tigers on Saturday.
Best performance: Let's show Murray some love here. After the Clemson loss, he faced the same old criticism about how he doesn't show up in big games – despite his passing for 323 yards and completing 20 of 29 passes against the Tigers. A week later, those critics were silent after Murray picked apart South Carolina's secondary with one of the most impressive performances of his career. The senior finished 17-for-23 for 309 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and was one of the leading factors in Georgia earning an enormous SEC East victory.
Best surprise: Freshman outside linebacker Leonard Floyd generated buzz with his impressive play in August and that solid preseason translated into an immediate starting role. He held down Josh Harvey-Clemons' nickel role against Clemson while Harvey-Clemons was suspended and has shifted back to linebacker in the last two games. Floyd registered the first two sacks of his career against North Texas and now leads the team in that statistic. He also has a team-high seven quarterback hurries, providing a nice pass-rushing complement to fellow outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins.
Biggest disappointment: Georgia's special-teams play has been problematic at points. The Bulldogs lost return specialist Malcolm Mitchell to a season-ending knee injury in the opener and are replacing four-year starter Ty Frix at snapper. Frix's absence has been the issue on two of the four big blunders in the kicking game to date: a high snap that prevented the Bulldogs from attempting the game-tying field goal against Clemson and another high snap that preceded a blocked punt for a touchdown against North Texas. As Coach Mark Richt pointed out, Georgia has been sound on the vast majority of its special teams plays, but “the bad ones have been really bad.”