- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Inconsistent defensive play and injuries to a multitude of key players on offense have a Georgia team that harbored BCS championship hopes just a week ago now simply praying that it can make it past Vanderbilt.
If the No. 15 Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1 SEC) can get out of Nashville with a win on Saturday, they will have an open date to get healthy two weeks before a showdown with No. 22 Florida that could have a major say in the winner of the SEC East race. But the Bulldogs have to beat Vanderbilt first, and that's clearly not a gimme without Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley, Michael Bennett -- and possibly All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley -- in the lineup.
Prior to the recent rash of injuries, Aaron Murray and Georgia's explosive offense had simply been outscoring opponents and protecting a young defense that had only shown brief periods of competence. But after the Bulldogs started losing more and more key weapons, they appeared more and more vulnerable, first nearly losing at Tennessee and then dropping their first home game in two years against Missouri last Saturday.
If Georgia can get a healthy Gurley back in the lineup soon, the Bulldogs might once again resemble the high-scoring bunch we saw in early wins against LSU and South Carolina. But with so many key pieces out and the defense still finding its way, Georgia is on shaky ground for the time being.
Offensive MVP: Murray. The recent two-interception performance against Missouri aside, Georgia's quarterback has been an absolute rock this season. He's had many of his best go-to weapons drop out of the lineup, but Murray has still kept the offense productive. He engineered clutch, game-winning or -tying drives against South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee and guided the offense with a steady hand one might expect from a fifth-year senior. He's also rewriting the SEC record book in the process, having already claimed the SEC's career record for passing yards, with the league marks for total offense and touchdown passes soon to follow.
Defensive MVP: Amarlo Herrera. Georgia's defense has largely been a mess this season, so it's difficult to pick a most valuable player out of the group -- particularly one who committed a dumb roughing the passer penalty late in Saturday's loss to Missouri when the Bulldogs were attempting to rally for a win. Nonetheless, Herrera probably deserves the honor over anyone else by ranking second on the team and tying for third in the SEC with 55 tackles and leading the Bulldogs with five pass breakups. Herrera also has 1.5 tackles for a loss, half a sack and forced the only fumble of the season by an opposing offensive player when he chased down South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw and stripped him of the football for a key second-half takeaway in a Georgia win.