Georgia Bulldogs: Danny Wuerffel

SEC lunchtime links

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
12:10
PM ET
Let's take a look at some of what's happening around the SEC:

With rumors swirling about a possible departure for Texas, Nick Saban needs to reinvest in Alabama, writes AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky.

Ole Miss upped the ante by reaching a new agreement with coach Hugh Freeze that will pay him $3 million in 2014.

Auburn's Gus Malzahn was named the Home Depot Coach of the Year after leading the Tigers to the championship game against Florida State.

LSU's 2014 quarterback competition begins now, with freshman Anthony Jennings playing the lead role as the Outback Bowl approaches.

Nebraska fans on a rematch against Georgia in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Been there, done that.

Missouri turns its back on its SEC championship game loss.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's Big Apple dream comes sooner rather than later.

Athlon released its SEC postseason awards and all-conference team.

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier: “Every time we win a game around here, it's a record.”

The Texas A&M Board of Regents will discuss a new contract for coach Kevin Sumlin at its Thursday meeting.

Florida's Danny Wuerffel was one of 12 players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday – a group that also includes Kentucky's Steve Meilinger.

The State reported that South Carolina cornerback Ahmad Christian is leaving the team and will not play in the Capital One Bowl.

UGA looks toward Marshall matchup

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
7:14
PM ET


ATHENS, Ga. -- Once his Georgia team took control in the second half of its 45-6 win against Appalachian State on Saturday, coach Mark Richt admittedly had one eye on the score from the Auburn-Tennessee game.

The Bulldogs' next opponent, No. 9 Auburn -- led by former UGA cornerback Nick Marshall, now the Tigers' quarterback -- was thrashing the Volunteers for 444 rushing yards in a 55-23 win. Marshall accounted for 214 of those rushing yards, running for two touchdowns and passing for another.

[+] EnlargeRay Drew
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsRay Drew and Georgia's defense held Appalachian State to 32 yards rushing, but will get a stiffer test against Auburn next week.
“When you watch different people throughout the year [during game preparation], you'll see just about everybody's offense by this time of the year,” Richt said. “And they do like to run the ball and they run it well. I'm not shocked.”

That adds more intrigue to the matchup next weekend in Auburn, with the Tigers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) and Georgia (6-3, 4-2) both battling to stay alive in their respective division races -- and Marshall needing a win against his former teammates to keep his team's hopes alive.

“It's a little weird, but I knew whenever he was here that he was a player, and now someone that could have been helping, you're having to try to stop him,” said UGA defensive end Ray Drew, who was a member of Marshall's 2011 signing class at Georgia. “He's having a heck of a year over there, so hopefully he'll have a soft spot seeing that Georgia was the place he signed initially.”

Entering Saturday's games, Auburn led the SEC in rushing at 306.2 yards per game, with Marshall serving as the trigger man for an offense that has regained its bite with Gus Malzahn back on the Plains.

Marshall -- whom Richt dismissed after the 2011 season for breaking team rules -- elected to join Malzahn as a transfer from Garden City Community College.

Just like that, Auburn is once again among the nation's most productive offenses and should provide a major test for a Georgia defense that has made progress since a troubling start to the season.

“It's going to be a challenge, I don't know about fun. As coaches you always like challenges,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “They're believing and they're playing with confidence right now. Their personnel probably fits better what they do now relative to what they did last year. And I think that's a good example of how it's important to get the right people in your system.”

As for Saturday's win, Grantham's defense got off to a slow start, allowing Appalachian State to convert 4 of 6 third down opportunities and control the clock for over 11 minutes. The Mountaineers (2-8) were able to turn those early drives into just two field goals, however, before Grantham's defense awakened.

Georgia limited the Mountaineers to 3-of-12 on third down the rest of the way and 59 total yards (including minus-6 rushing on 18 attempts) in the second half.

Georgia has not allowed an opponent to drive from its own territory to score a touchdown since the second quarter of the Vanderbilt game, a streak that spans 159 minutes of game time.

“The bottom line is once we got through the script, so to speak, of those gadget [plays] and kind of got a feel for how they were running their routes relative to the formations, we pretty much shut them down -- and we didn't give up a touchdown before we did it,” Grantham said. “So anytime you hold a team out of the end zone, I'm going to be happy.”

Georgia led just 14-6 at halftime, with both touchdowns coming on Aaron Murray touchdown passes -- one to Rantavious Wooten, who had a career-high 104 receiving yards, and the other to Michael Bennett.

The second-quarter pass to Bennett gave Murray 115 career touchdown passes, breaking Florida great Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record.

“It definitely is a huge honor to be up there,” said Murray, who passed for 281 yards in his 50th career start. “I'm lucky enough to have played four years here. I think that's the biggest thing: you have to be able to go somewhere and play for a significant amount of time, and I've had that opportunity here to play for now my fourth straight year in a great offense that really allows me to throw the ball around and make plays.”

The Bulldogs poured it on with 31 second-half points -- Todd Gurley, J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas all scored on 2-yard runs and Hutson Mason hit Kenneth Towns for a 3-yard touchdown pass -- but it was the defense's play that is the bigger area of interest with Auburn's explosive offense on deck next week.

The glimmer of hope for Georgia's defense is that the Bulldogs might have struggled overall, but Auburn's strength -- running the ball -- is also the area where Grantham's defense has been the most stout. They came in ranked fourth in the SEC, allowing 137.8 rushing yards per game before limiting Appalachian State to 32 yards on 32 attempts.

Now they know their chances of victory likely hinge on containing a player that Grantham initially recruited to help his defense.

“He's big, he's physical. We thought he would be a good player and felt like he could contribute to us being an SEC competitive team defensively,” Grantham said of Marshall. “So we'll obviously get ready for him come Sunday.”

Five things: UGA-Appalachian State

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
7:00
AM ET

ATHENS, Ga. -- Might this finally be the game where Georgia gets a breather?

With slumping FCS opponent Appalachian State (2-7) visiting Athens today at 12:30 p.m., Georgia (5-3) is a favorite to win big -- something it hasn't done yet this season. But with a showdown with longtime rival Auburn on deck next week, the best thing the Bulldogs can do is get this one over early.

Let's take a look at five key factors entering today's game:

Get the reserves in, for crying out loud: Two snaps. That's all Hutson Mason has played this season. But that's what happens when every game your team plays is still in doubt in the third quarter -- and often deep into the fourth. If Georgia's backup quarterback is able to replace (a healthy) Aaron Murray sometime in the third quarter, this game probably has gone in the right direction for the Bulldogs. Injuries have been a major issue throughout the season -- Georgia probably will play without receiver Chris Conley and tight end Arthur Lynch today -- so the best thing the Bulldogs can do is put this thing away and preserve the starters for Auburn next Saturday.

Murray still chasing history: Murray still sits one touchdown pass away from Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record of 114 touchdown passes. Murray went 16-for-25 for 258 yards and a touchdown last week against Florida to pull within a touchdown of Wuerffel's mark. He already has set the conference's career records for total offense (12,591 yards) and passing yards (12,287).

Memories of Michigan: The only memory casual college football fans likely have of Appalachian State is the Mountaineers' 34-32 win over No. 5 Michigan to open the 2007 season. But that's actually one of seven wins Appalachian State has earned against FBS opposition since the Southern Conference reclassified to Division I-AA (now FCS) in 1982. We should point out here that the Mountaineers' other six wins against FBS teams all came against Wake Forest, most recently in 2000. Overall, Appalachian State is 7-32-1 against FBS teams since 1982.

The Gurley factor: Georgia tailback Todd Gurley did not appear to be at 100 percent last week against Florida -- nor did he appear to be at 100 percent this week in practice -- but he still accounted for 187 yards and two touchdowns against the Gators. It's extremely evident that Georgia's offense functions much more efficiently when he's in the lineup, however. Georgia is 4-1 in the games where Gurley has played and averaged 526 yards of total offense. It is 1-2 when he hasn't played (with the one win coming in overtime at Tennessee) and averaged 369.7 yards of offense in those games.

Defense coming around? In four of the first six games, Georgia's defense faced offenses that currently rank among the national top 40 in total offense, and the results were not pretty for the young Bulldogs. Four times, Georgia surrendered at least 400 yards of total offense. But in each of the last three games, Georgia has held its opponent below 400 yards. And here's the crazy part: Only one opponent all season, Tennessee, has accumulated more yards against UGA than its current season average. The Volunteers picked up 404 yards against Georgia and are averaging 359.1 yards per game this season. However, Georgia still ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense at 31.6 points allowed per game. With all of that in mind, Appalachian State comes in averaging 21.8 points per game and 414.2 yards per game.


ATHENS, Ga. -- In some ways, Arthur Lynch believes that Aaron Murray fits the quarterback stereotype perfectly. In others, Georgia's senior tight end says that Murray could not be further from what one might expect from a record-setting, four-year starter at one of the nation's most prominent football programs.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
AP Photo/Wade PayneAaron Murray's career at Georgia is one of the best in SEC history.
“He wants to be the leader, kind of the guy that needs to be looked upon for everything. Sometimes I think he applies too much pressure on himself with that,” said Lynch, Murray's longtime friend and roommate. “But in terms of like walking around campus and brushing people off, I kind of wish he had more of that. Sometimes it gets so annoying in public, no matter where it is. It could be the dining hall, it could be in Atlanta, it could be at Shane's Rib Shack, he's going to stop and give pictures where some guys might brush people off.

“So no, he's never given that vibe, which is a testament to him because he could easily be that guy and people would probably like him more for it because it's, 'Ah, that's what he's supposed to act like.' But the fact that he doesn't fit that mold is probably what people get weirded out about. They're probably like, 'There's got to be something behind the curtain.'”

Nope. Murray's generally affable demeanor is no facade -- which might be part of his perception problem nationally and even within his own conference.

He's not a flashy player, throwing up “Get Money” hand signals after a touchdown like Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. He hasn't won BCS titles like Alabama's AJ McCarron. Yet when the SEC's coaches released their preseason all-conference list, some college football observers were surprised to see Murray as the first-team quarterback.

Maybe that was a career achievement award from the league's coaches, as Murray's team-first attitude and legendary work ethic have helped him become the most prolific passer in the league's history.

“Everything he's done, he's earned it. It wasn't just off God-given talent or this crazy arm or anything like that. It's that he's worked for it, he's earned it,” said receiver Rhett McGowan, Murray's fellow fifth-year senior.

Murray has already broken ex-Bulldog David Greene's SEC record for career passing yards (Murray now has 12,029) and surpassed former Florida great Tim Tebow's career mark for total offense (Murray's at 12,327 yards) with a completion to Lynch in the Bulldogs' last game against Vanderbilt.

Entering Saturday's game against Florida, Murray is two touchdown passes behind ex-Gator Danny Wuerffel's SEC record of 114 touchdown passes, and he's still on pace to threaten ex-Gator Chris Leak's league record of 895 completions (Murray has 835) and former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen's mark of 1,514 pass attempts (Murray has 1,355).

Not that he has much time to focus on the record book these days. Coming off two straight losses, Murray's Georgia team (4-3, 3-2 SEC) needs a win on Saturday to have any hope in the SEC East race -- and he has been working overtime with an injury-depleted receiving corps in hopes of giving his offense a chance against a stout Florida defense.

“I guess when I'm old and want to brag, I can,” Murray said of the records. “But right now it's all about the team. It's all about getting this win. I guess I can talk about this later in life when I'm done playing and all, when I look back.”

Murray was on a short list of Heisman contenders just a few weeks ago, when Georgia was coming off wins against top-10 teams South Carolina and LSU and still had hopes of claiming a BCS championship berth. That was Murray's stated goal all along in returning for his senior season, and it appeared to be a reasonable possibility before many of his most valuable skill players fell victim to long-term or season-ending injuries.

The Bulldogs' once-explosive offense struggled without Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the backfield and Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett at receiver, and the losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt in those players' absence sunk the Bulldogs' BCS hopes. But Murray said he doesn't regret his decision to put off his NFL dreams for one more season.

“I'm still playing football. I'm still out there with my buddies having fun, competing,” Murray said. “Obviously I came back to try to give ourselves a chance to win a championship, but it didn't happen. So what? Let's move on. Let's continue working hard and having fun, and that's what I'm doing.”

That typifies the attitude Murray has displayed since he arrived at Georgia in 2009, with his relentless behind-the-scenes work propelling him through one of the most statistically impressive careers in SEC history, even if it might not result in the recognition that goes to quarterbacks on championship teams or those with a flashier highlight reel.

A BCS crown will not complete Murray's legacy at Georgia, but he will leave a significant void nonetheless. To gain some insight, consider an observation that Bulldogs coach Mark Richt made last Friday at the end of the Bulldogs' open week, when most coaches and players had already started making the most of a rare off weekend.

“It was maybe close to noontime, maybe just after noontime, and he and Faton [Bauta, one of Georgia's backup quarterbacks] are out there doing footwork and drill work and throwing the ball,” Richt recalled. “I went over the rail and I said, 'Get out of here. Just relax.' They were like, 'There's no days off, Coach. There's no days off.' [I said], 'All right, if that's what you want.'

“But that's how he is. He's wired that way. Every single day he wants to try to find a way to get better, and he's not feeling sorry for himself or anything like that. I think he's still very happy that he's here with us and wants to finish strong.”

Five things: Georgia-Vanderbilt

October, 19, 2013
10/19/13
7:00
AM ET
No. 15 Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC) travels to Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3) with the knowledge that if it can escape Nashville with a win, its SEC East hopes will very much remain intact with an open date -- and a chance to get healthy -- ahead of a key game against Florida on Nov. 2.

But the Bulldogs have to win today first, and that has been more difficult for recent Georgia teams than one might expect. In two of Georgia's last three trips to Vandy, the outcome hung in the balance up to the very last play of the game. Considering how every Georgia game this season was up for grabs well into the second half, today's contest in Nashville could very possibly give Bulldogs fans further heart palpitations.

[+] EnlargeGreen
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall out, J.J. Green will have to put Georgia's running game on his back.
Here are five storylines to consider as the noon ET kickoff approaches, with an assist from ESPN's Stats and Information group:

Record watch: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews could both claim SEC career records before today's game is over. Murray will almost certainly break former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's career record for total offense, as Murray's career total of 12,203 yards is just 29 behind Tebow's mark. Murray is also two touchdown passes behind ex-Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel's SEC-high mark of 114. Meanwhile, Matthews trails former Georgia wideout Terrence Edwards' SEC career record of 3,093 receiving yards by 97. He had 119 receiving yards in the Commodores' blowout loss to Georgia last season.

Offense losing power: It's no secret that Georgia's offense lost some of its effectiveness when tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett dropped out of the lineup with an array of injuries. Georgia might get Gurley and Bennett back for the Florida game, but the rest are out for the season, forcing the Bulldogs to identify new skill players to fill their spots. But it's still a work in progress. Georgia has 37 touchdowns of at least 20 yards since the start of last season -- the most in the SEC and third most in the FBS. The Bulldogs had at least one such touchdown in each of the first four games this season, but none in the last two since the injuries hit the lineup. Among the candidates to pick up the big-play slack: tailback J.J. Green, who had a 57-yard run last week against Missouri; wideout Rantavious Wooten -- who had a 48-yard catch last week -- receiver Reggie Davis, who hauled in a program-record 98-yard touchdown pass against North Texas, and Chris Conley, who has five career touchdown catches that covered 25 yards or more.

Matthews going long: Matthews leads the SEC in receptions per game (7.8) and trails only Texas A&M's Mike Evans with his average of 118.2 receiving yards per game. Most troubling for a Georgia secondary that is 12th in the league in pass defense (259.3 ypg) and 13th in yards allowed per pass attempt (8.0) is Matthews' ability to haul in catches for big gains. Since the start of last season, the Vandy receiver has 51 receptions that covered at least 15 yards -- the most for any wideout in the FBS.

Third-down trouble: It's no secret among Georgia fans that the Bulldogs' young defense has struggled on third down this season. The Bulldogs rank 13th in the SEC and 97th nationally, allowing opponents to convert 43.7 percent (38 of 87) of such opportunities. Georgia has forced a three-and-out 30.1 percent of the time (22 in 73 opponent drives), which ranks 94th nationally. What might make the issue seem even worse among Georgia fans is that the Bulldogs had been so effective in that department over the previous two seasons. Between 2011 and 2012, Georgia forced three-and-outs on 43.9 percent of opponent drives (161 of 367), which ranked fourth nationally. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, the Commodores haven't been much better. They're 10th in the SEC and 82nd nationally in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 41.4 percent (36 of 87). Making matters even worse for both teams is that their offenses haven't been particularly effective on third down, either. Georgia is 12th in the league in third-down conversions (37.3 percent) and Vandy is eighth (42.1 percent). Whichever team finds a way to be more efficient in those situations today might very well wind up as the winner.

Fun with QBR: Here's a somewhat bizarre stat for Georgia's maligned secondary. It has actually held the last four opposing quarterbacks below their season average in ESPN's new Total Quarterback Rating metric. Last week, Missouri's James Franklin posted a 70.6 adjusted QBR, his lowest in any game this season. In previous weeks, Tennessee's Justin Worley scored a 59.0, LSU's Zach Mettenberger a 90.2 and North Texas' Derek Thompson a 36.3. QBR rates quarterbacks on a 0-100 scale where 50 is average. Top quarterbacks are in the upper 80s and 90s, and the adjusted QBR accounts for the strength of opposing defenses faced. Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Samuels ranks 88th nationally with a 50.2 adjusted QBR. He has struggled over the last four games, with his 48.1 adjusted QBR in a loss to Missouri ranking as his highest score in that stretch. Murray posted his lowest adjusted QBR of the season (82.9) last week against Missouri. He ranks third nationally with a 93.3 adjusted QBR this season.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 8

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
10:15
AM ET
Here are 10 things to watch in the SEC this week:

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
AP Photo/Wade PayneAaron Murray is on the verge of breaking several SEC career records, but also needs to help keep Georgia in the SEC East race.
1. Missouri offense vs. Florida defense: Missouri earned its biggest victory in its year-plus in the SEC last weekend when it beat Georgia. The Tigers' challenging October schedule continues this week when No. 22 Florida brings its fearsome defense to Columbia, and the Tigers must face those Gators without starting quarterback James Franklin, who separated his shoulder against Georgia. Freshman Maty Mauk did a fine job against Georgia's subpar defense, but he will face few stiffer challenges than what he'll face Saturday against a Florida defense that is allowing just 235.3 yards per game. Mizzou is third in the SEC in total offense with an average of 515.7 yards per game, so the many talented skill players at Mauk's disposal will have to give the new starter a hand on Saturday.

2. Record watch in Nashville: In Saturday's Georgia-Vanderbilt game, a handful of SEC career records could fall. With 112 career touchdown passes, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is just two behind Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record. And with 12,203 career yards of total offense, Murray needs 29 yards to match Tim Tebow's SEC mark. On the other sideline, Vandy's Jordan Matthews needs 97 receiving yards to match Terrence Edwards' SEC career record of 3,093 yards. Matthews had 119 receiving yards against the Bulldogs last season.

3. Gators running game: With the news this week that running back Matt Jones became the seventh Florida player to suffer a season-ending injury, the Gators' running game is now largely in the hands of Mack Brown and freshman Kelvin Taylor. Brown has been solid enough thus far, rushing for a team-high 340 yards. But Taylor is the guy many Gators fans are excited about. The son of UF great Fred Taylor, Kelvin Taylor has rushed 16 times for 98 yards (6.1 per carry), including 10 carries for 52 yards in last week's slugfest against LSU. Missouri's run defense ranks third in the SEC at 126.2 YPG, but Georgia freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas ran for 157 yards and averaged 6 yards per carry against the Tigers' last week. The Gators probably need Brown and Taylor to be similarly productive in order to hang with the Tigers' prolific offense.

4. Marshall back for Auburn: After sitting out last week's blowout win against Western Carolina with a knee injury, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall returns to the lineup this week against Texas A&M. Marshall rushed for 140 yards -- the most by an SEC quarterback this season -- in his last game, the Tigers' 30-22 win on Oct. 5 against then-No. 24 Ole Miss. He led the resurgent Tigers to a 4-1 record before taking a seat last week while true freshman Jeremy Johnson played for the first time -- and won SEC Freshman of the Week honors -- against the overmatched Catamounts.

5. Can Georgia recover? With half a dozen starters sidelined last week against Missouri, Georgia lost its first home game since September 2011. Now the Bulldogs limp to Vanderbilt, where they have struggled in two of their last three visits before earning narrow wins. UGA hopes to reach next week's open date with its SEC East hopes still intact. All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley likely still won't play this week, so the Bulldogs' offense must hope Murray, freshman tailbacks Green and Douglas and their crew of replacement wideouts can generate enough offense to outscore the slumping Commodores.

6. Vols back from open date: The last time we saw Tennessee, it came within an eyelash of upsetting then-No. 6 Georgia in overtime. First-year coach Butch Jones' team took last weekend off and now has another enormous test on its hands: a visit from No. 11 South Carolina, which finally seems to be hitting its stride after some early struggles. Volunteers fans are optimistic about the new coaching staff, but their team hasn't beaten a ranked opponent in its last 19 tries. Their next four opponents are all ranked in this week's AP Top 25.

[+] EnlargeHugh Freeze
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsHugh Freeze and Bo Wallace will try to snap Ole Miss' losing streak against LSU this weekend.
7. Can Hogs “snap out of it?” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said this week that he doesn't want his players to be a bunch of “Debbie Downers” after Saturday's 52-7 loss to South Carolina. That was the Razorbacks' fourth straight loss, the most lopsided loss of Bielema's coaching career and matching his worst defeat as a head coach. Unfortunately for Arkansas, it visits No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, where it will be a four-touchdown underdog. It could be a long second half of the season for the Razorbacks.

8. Maintaining historic run: The SEC set a record when Auburn jumped into this week's AP Top 25, giving the conference eight ranked teams. But that historic total might be short-lived. At No. 24, Auburn will likely drop out if it loses on Saturday at No. 7 Texas A&M. No. 15 Georgia and No. 22 Florida also can't afford a loss if they want to remain in the poll next week.

9. Repeat performance for Aggies? Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense gained 671 total yards, the most ever allowed by an Auburn defense, in last season's 63-21 win against the Tigers. Those 63 points also represented the third-most points ever scored against the Tigers. If that wasn't the last straw for then-coach Gene Chizik and his staff, it was awfully close. New coach Gus Malzahn has instilled new optimism on the Plains. The Tigers are a ranked team for the first time since November 2011, but the Aggies are still a two-touchdown favorite.

10. Rebs on the ropes: Ole Miss was one of the feel-good stories of the season just a few weeks ago, with the Rebels' Sept. 14 win helping them jump to No. 21 in the polls. But entering Saturday's home game against LSU, Hugh Freeze's club has lost three straight games: a shutout loss to top-ranked Alabama followed by narrow losses to Auburn and Texas A&M. LSU has won nine of the last 11 against the Rebels, although three of the last four have been decided by a touchdown or less. Keep your eyes on Oxford on Saturday night. This game often has a way of remaining surprisingly competitive.

SEC Week 7: Did you know?

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
10:00
AM ET
We've reached Week 7 in the SEC. Here are some random tidbits you might not have known.

• The matchup between Florida's stellar defense and LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger should be highly intriguing. The Gators lead the nation in Total QBR allowed, with opposing quarterbacks rating just a 13.0 against Florida and completing just 21.1 percent of their passes of 15 yards or longer. Meanwhile, Mettenberger has completed 60 percent of his throws of 15-plus for eight touchdowns, no interceptions and an average of 15.8 yards per attempt.

• Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy has led an offensive revival since taking over for Jeff Driskel as the Gators' signal-caller. He hasn't played enough snaps to qualify for ESPN's Total QBR rankings, but only Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Baylor's Bryce Petty have higher QBRs than Murphy's 93.7 among QBs who have participated in at least 80 action plays.

• South Carolina expects star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to start this week after missing last week's game with a much-debated injury. ESPN Stats and Information reports that Clowney has played 63 percent of South Carolina's defensive snaps this season. Opponents are averaging 5.9 yards per play with Clowney on the field versus 4.8 ypp when he's off.

• Georgia enters Saturday's game against Missouri riding a 15-game winning streak. That's the longest active home winning streak in the conference and the third-longest such streak in school history. The Bulldogs last lost at home against South Carolina on Sept. 10, 2011.

• Expect Alabama to look to establish the run against Kentucky on Saturday. The Crimson Tide are averaging an SEC-high 6.6 yards per designed run in SEC games. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are allowing 5.2 yards per designed run -- second-most in the league. Kentucky has allowed an SEC-high 629 yards before contact on such runs.

• Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray claimed the SEC's career passing yards lead last week against Tennessee. He's closing in on two more career marks. With 11,908 yards of career total offense, Murray is 324 yards behind Tim Tebow's SEC record (12,232). And with 109 career touchdown passes, he's five behind Danny Wuerffel's SEC record of 114.

• Ole Miss' no-huddle offense has been a mess of late after a strong start. The Rebels averaged just 1.6 yards per play last week against Auburn when employing the no-huddle after averaging 7.6 yards per play through the first four games when operating out of the no-huddle. Quarterback Bo Wallace was 2-for-10 on passes out of the no-huddle against Auburn after going 19-for-23 in the first four games.

• Arkansas freshman Alex Collins leads the SEC with 651 rushing yards, but his workload has decreased in his first two conference games. Collins was averaging 21.5 carries against nonconference opponents, but that average dipped to 13.5 in SEC play. His average yards per game dipped from 120.3 to 85.0 and his yards after contact per game have dropped steeply, from 73.0 to 27.5.

• Aside from its shaky performance in a win against Texas A&M, Alabama's defense has been impressive. Following a shutout against Ole Miss and a 45-3 win last week against Georgia State, the Crimson Tide are now tied with Florida for the SEC lead in scoring defense at 12.2 ppg. Alabama is second in rushing defense (85.8 ypg), second in total defense (299.8) and fifth in pass defense (214.0). The Tide have an SEC-low 25 missed tackles according to ESPN Stats and Information.

• Missouri is first in the SEC in rushing (258.8 ypg) and fourth in passing (285.0). The Tigers rank among only five FBS teams averaging at least 255 yards on the ground and 285 through the air alongside Baylor, Oregon, Washington and UCLA.

• Auburn will hold its 100th observance and 87th homecoming game on Saturday against Western Carolina. The Tigers are 74-8-4 in their previous homecomings. They own a 2-0 all-time record against the Catamounts, winning by a combined 111-6 margin.

• It's also homecoming at Mississippi State and a reunion between three Bulldogs coaches with a program where they once worked: Bowling Green. Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and assistants Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy coached at Bowling Green in 2001-02. Mullen also met his wife Megan while coaching there.

Five things: Georgia-Tennessee

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
7:00
AM ET
No. 6 Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC) will try to keep it rolling by visiting Tennessee (3-2, 0-1) in Knoxville, where Butch Jones is 3-0 so far since becoming the Volunteers' coach. Let's take a look at five keys to the 3:30 p.m. game:


Georgia running game: Georgia running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall thrashed Tennessee's defense for 294 yards and five touchdowns in last season's 51-44 Bulldogs win. But with Gurley's status uncertain – he sprained his ankle against LSU last week – Georgia might have to lean on Marshall (51 carries for 213 yards this season, including 20 for 96 yards against LSU) and freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas. Tennessee has not been particularly effective in defending the run (163.2 yards per game, 11th in the SEC), but Georgia's run game did not click at the same high level when Gurley missed time against Clemson and LSU.

Weakness vs. weakness: Which side will bend when Tennessee's lackluster passing attack squares off with Georgia's porous secondary? By far the weakest point in Georgia's defense thus far has been a freshman-heavy pass defense that is surrendering 277 yards per game (13th in the SEC, 99th nationally). But Tennessee has hardly demonstrated the capability of exploiting that weakness. After shuffling quarterbacks and settling back on Justin Worley (65-116, 725 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs), the Vols have hardly impressed when they put the ball in the air. They're last in the SEC in passing (154 ypg) and have the league's lowest completion percentage (54 percent).

Turnover troubles: It's no secret that turnover margin is one of the most important stats in football, so keep an eye on that figure. No SEC team has turned the ball over more than Tennessee, which has 12 giveaways (eight interceptions, four fumbles lost), including five against Florida two weeks ago. The Vols' defense has also generated more turnovers (an FBS-high 11 interceptions, four fumbles), although seven of those takeaways came in one game, against Western Kentucky. Only two SEC teams have turned the ball over fewer times than Georgia (five), but the Bulldogs have been uncharacteristically ineffective at generating takeaways. They have recovered a pair of fumbled punts, but forced only two defensive turnovers – a fumble recovery against South Carolina and an interception against North Texas.

Murray's chase: Aaron Murray's assault on the SEC record books will likely continue with one major milestone today. He needs only 99 yards to pass former UGA quarterback David Greene's mark (11,528) for most career passing yards in SEC history. Murray is closing in on Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel's SEC-record 114 touchdowns, with Murray sitting at 106 entering today's game. And Georgia's quarterback is probably only a game or two away from breaking Tim Tebow's SEC total offense record of 12,232 yards. Murray currently sits at 11,659. Among SEC teams, only Texas A&M (1,310) has allowed more passing yards than Tennessee's 1,249.

New uniforms, etc.: Tennessee will don “smokey gray” uniforms today for the first time, marking just the third time that Tennessee has worn anything other than orange at home. They last wore an alternate uniform in 2009, when they broke out black jerseys and beat No. 21 South Carolina 31-13 – which incidentally was the last time the Vols defeated a ranked team. Speaking of Tennessee's history against ranked opponents, it hasn't defeated a top-10 team since beating Georgia 51-33 in Athens in 2006. The Vols have lost their last 18 games against ranked teams.

Five things: Georgia-North Texas

September, 21, 2013
9/21/13
7:00
AM ET
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.

SEC Week 4: Did You Know?

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
10:00
AM ET
There aren't quite as many marquee games this weekend around the SEC, but we still have a couple of divisional rivalry games -- namely Tennessee-Florida and Auburn-LSU -- to look forward to, plus a couple of intriguing nonconference matchups. Let's take a look at some statistical notes from around the league with an assist from ESPN's Stats and Information group.
  • LSU's Zach Mettenberger was hardly a star-caliber quarterback last season, posting the third-lowest Total QBR (39.3) of all qualified quarterbacks in the SEC (50 is average on the 1-100 QBR scale). He's been anything but a failure through three games of his senior season, notching the biggest increase for any qualified FBS quarterback in the last two seasons. His 52.3-point increase this season gives him a 91.6 Total QBR that ranks eighth nationally. Missouri's James Franklin has posted the third-biggest increase, jumping 45.4 points to 84.2 (20th nationally).
  • Conversely, some of Florida's offensive woes can be attributed to quarterback Jeff Driskel, whose Total QBR inside an opponent's 20 (1.5) is the second lowest in the nation among quarterbacks with at least 10 action plays. Driskel is one of five qualified quarterbacks with more interceptions (two) than touchdowns (one) inside the red zone. Florida's three turnovers against Miami were its most red zone turnovers in a game in the last 10 seasons. The Gators have already matched or exceeded their total of red zone turnovers from each of the past three seasons.
  • It's no secret that Auburn coach Gus Malzahn wants his hurry-up, no-huddle offense to operate at an accelerated pace. The Tigers have already improved substantially over their snail's pace from a season ago, when they were the third-slowest offense in the nation with a play every 30 seconds. This season, Auburn is running a play every 23 seconds, which is 1 second faster than the FBS average. The Tigers are averaging 440.3 yards per game (135.3 more than last year, when they were last in the SEC), converting 42 percent on third down (11 percent better than last year, when they were last in the league) and scoring touchdowns on 24 percent of their drives (up 8 percent from last year's SEC-low percentage).
  • Despite last week's blowout loss at Oregon, Tennessee has enjoyed some success moving the ball on the ground. The Volunteers have gained 384 of their 733 rushing yards before contact and are averaging 2.8 yards before contact per carry. In Florida, the Vols face their toughest run defense test yet, however. The Gators have allowed 7 rushing yards before contact on 44 carries through two games.
  • Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's 562 yards of total offense last week against Alabama rank second in school and SEC history, trailing only his 576-yard performance last season against Louisiana Tech. Manziel is responsible for the top three total-offense games in league history.
  • Speaking of Manziel, last week's shootout against Alabama will certainly not be the last time the Aggies play in a high-scoring game. The next one could come this weekend when SMU visits College Station. SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert is third nationally in total offense (393.5 ypg), two slots ahead of Manziel (379).
  • A week after entering the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009, Ole Miss jumped from No. 25 to No. 21 after last weekend's win at Texas. The Rebels, who are idle this week, are 3-0 for the first time since 1989 with a visit to No. 1 Alabama coming next week.
  • Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is one touchdown pass away from becoming the second quarterback in SEC history to toss 100 in his college career. Murray is 15 away from Danny Wuerffel's career record of 114. He should catch up to former Georgia star David Greene's SEC passing yardage record of 11,528 yards soon, as well. Murray is 805 yards behind Greene with 10,723 in his career.
  • Both of this weekend's marquee SEC games rank among the top 10 closest head-to-head SEC series since 2000 (that have been played at least 10 times). The average margin of victory in Auburn-LSU in that time period is 12.38 points, with seven of those games being decided by nine points or less. Florida has held the advantage in recent years against Tennessee with eight straight wins, but the average margin of victory in that series since 2000 is just 12.54 points.
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is approaching former Crimson Tide star Jay Barker's SEC career winning percentage record. Barker went 35-2-1 (93.4 percent) between 1991-94. McCarron can improve to 28-2 (93.3) if the Crimson Tide defeats Colorado State this weekend.
  • Quick, name the two SEC defenses that have allowed the fewest yards per game thus far. If you guessed Florida, you'd be correct. The Gators are third nationally with 208.5 yards allowed per game. The other team might be more of a surprise. Entering Saturday's game at Rutgers, Arkansas ranks sixth nationally by allowing 253 ypg.
  • Four players across the country have notched an FBS-high 4.5 sacks thus far. Two of them are from the SEC: Arkansas' Chris Smith and Kentucky's Za'Darius Smith, whose team is off this weekend.

Post-spring position review: QB

April, 15, 2013
4/15/13
7:00
AM ET
Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a closer look at each of Georgia’s position groups at the end of spring practice. Today we begin with the quarterbacks:

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsMichael Thornton (left) hopes to play a bigger role on UGA's D-line in 2013.
Returning players/stats: Aaron Murray, Sr. (14 starts in 2012, 249-386, 3,893 yards, 36 TD, 10 INT); Hutson Mason, Jr., (Redshirted in 2012); Parker Welch, Jr. (3-7, 39 yards, 1 TD); Christian LeMay, RSo. (1-2, 43 yards, 1 INT); Faton Bauta, RFr. (Redshirted in 2012)

Newcomers: Brice Ramsey, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 7 pro-style quarterback signee in 2013. Enrolled in January)

Key storyline: After passing for 10,091 yards in his first three seasons as Georgia’s starter, Murray is poised to break all of the SEC’s key career passing records as a senior. He is 1,437 yards away from former Bulldog David Greene’s SEC-high 11,528 career passing yards. With 696 completions, he is 199 away from Florida quarterback Chris Leak’s record of 895. With 1,131 attempts, Murray trails Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen’s SEC record by 383 passes. And with 95 touchdown passes, he is 19 behind Florida’s Danny Wuerffel’s 114.

Murray is also the FBS active career leader in touchdown passes and is fourth with a 158.55 career passer rating. He’s already the first SEC quarterback ever to pass for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons.

Breakout candidate: Considering that Murray has started all 41 games of his career and will enter the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate, there is no reason to expect a breakout player to emerge at quarterback this season. However, it will be worth watching the competition behind him over the next year as players jockey to become Murray’s replacement in 2014.

Reviewing 2012: Murray ranked second nationally in passing efficiency with a 174.82 passer rating and threw for 330 or more yards in four of the last eight games, including 427 yards and five touchdown passes -- both UGA bowl records -- in a Capital One Bowl win against Nebraska. His low-water marks were a 109-yard effort against South Carolina and a three-interception first half against Florida, but otherwise Murray enjoyed an outstanding season.

Walk-on Welch and LeMay played behind Murray in mop-up duty -- second-stringer Mason redshirted in order to establish a year between himself and Murray -- but neither player had much of an opportunity to distinguish himself. Welch passed LeMay on the depth chart after the freshman lost a fumble and threw a pick six against Florida Atlantic.

Projecting 2013: Murray has improved statistically -- and the Bulldogs’ win total has also increased -- in each of his three seasons as a starter. If he can continue that progress and cut back on his interception total a bit, he should rank among this season’s Heisman contenders throughout the fall. The key will be the first month of the season, when the Bulldogs face Clemson, South Carolina and LSU. Murray’s mediocre results against ranked opposition have been extensively covered, but he seemed to turn a corner in that regard late last season. The Bulldogs need him to be close to error free in the first month if they are to remain in SEC championship contention.

Recruiting flashback: Fred Gibson 

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
7:00
AM ET
Editor’s note: As we approach national signing day and consider the future of Georgia’s football program, we’ll also look backward into the Bulldogs’ recruiting history. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk with several former Georgia standouts about their experiences as recruits. Today we feature wide receiver Fred Gibson, who became a star in Mark Richt’s early tenure as coach:

ATHENS, Ga. -- The late surprise in Georgia’s star-studded 2001 recruiting class, Fred Gibson came close to not joining a group that included David Pollack, D.J. Shockley, Thomas Davis, Robert Geathers and Odell Thurman.

In fact, only a flip of a coin prevented the former Ware County Gator from becoming a Florida Gator. But the coin fell Georgia’s way and Gibson went on to become one of the most prolific receivers in UGA history.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Key stats: Georgia Southern vs. Georgia 

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
12:26
PM ET
Editor’s note: Each week, the good folks at ESPN Stats and Information will help us take a look inside the numbers that matter prior to Georgia’s games. We’ll share some of their data here on the blog every Friday this fall.

NO. 5 GEORGIA VS. GEORGIA SOUTHERN
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

GatorNation links: Top 5 rivalry players

October, 22, 2012
10/22/12
3:35
PM ET
Note: During this rivalry week, DawgNation will offer you a peek behind enemy lines with links to GatorNation stories.

Michael DiRocco writes: Georgia's Herschel Walker and Florida's Danny Wuerffel are two of the top-five performers in the Florida-Georgia rivalry all-time.

DiRocco: Florida's offense is suspect this season, but the Gators' excellense on special teams has helped with field position.

DiRocco Insider: Florida 10: Week 8 power rankings

DiRocco Insider: Scouting report: Georgia
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s Florida-Georgia week, which means it’s time to take a look back at the annual series between the two Southeastern Conference rivals.

Each day this week, GatorNation will have a top five list that captures the colorful history of the series.

Today’s list:

Top 5 Players in Florida-Georgia history

1. Georgia RB Herschel Walker: Walker rushed for 649 yards and six touchdowns from 1980-82. He had 53 touches in the 1981 game (47 rushes, four catches, two kick returns) and averaged 39 carries in his three games against the Gators.

2. Georgia RB/QB Charlie Trippi: Trippi rushed for 412 yards, threw for 198, and accounted for 10 touchdowns in three games against the Gators. He threw for two touchdowns (on only three pass attempts) and ran for two more in the 1942 game. He also ran for 239 yards in the 1945 game, which at the time was the SEC single-game record.

3. Florida QB Shane Matthews: Matthews threw for 948 yards and nine touchdowns in three games against the Bulldogs. He didn’t throw an interception.

4. Florida QB Danny Wuerffel: Wuerffel threw for 730 yards and a series-record 11 touchdowns in four games (three starts) against Georgia. Wuerffel threw five of those TD passes in UF’s 52-17 victory in 1995.

5. Georgia RB/DB Frank Sinkwich: Sinkwich ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns and kicked a 20-yard field goal in a 19-3 victory in 1941. Modest stats, right? Well, he'd played with a broken jaw.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
VIDEO PLAYLIST video