(UPDATED PHOTOS BELOW!!!)
ATHENS — Good morning. No Uga VIII (or excommunicated Russ) sightings yet but I’ll keep you up to date on this world-changing event. I wasn’t sure what to wear so I went with the usual California cool look of jeans, a light sweater and a blazer.
(I mock because I care.)
OK, Uga is cool. There, I said it. I just feel so bad for Russ. It doesn’t seem fair to me that the old mutt is being kicked to the
curb on Homecoming Day. (Russ, if you’re reading this: I have a nice big backyard in Johns Creek for you to play and run free in. You’ll just have to share floor space with Abby, our lab-boxer mix who’s getting a little cranky in her old age.)
We now return to football. There are story lines other than Uga’s coronation today (scheduled for 12:10):
♦ The return of running back
Washaun Ealey to the starting lineup, replacing the suspended Caleb King.
♦ The continuation of the unstoppable force that is A.J. Green, who in only two games has 13 receptions for 215 yards, three touchdowns and a team-long, 40-yard run on an end-around.
♦ The chance for Georgia to win consecutive games for the first time since last November and the consecutive SEC games for the first time in 13 months. Yes, it’s true. The Bulldogs, coming off last week’s 41-14 win over Tennessee, hasn’t won two straight SEC games since Sept. 12 and 19 of last season over South Carolina and Arkansas (ironically, the first two conference losses this year).
But to me, the biggest story has been the play of quarterback Aaron Murray. Most didn’t know what to expect from Murray, but he has been the Dogs’ best player, despite average-to-mediocre play by the offensive line and a lack of stability at running back.
Murray has completed 61.8 percent of his pass attempts (97 for 157) for 1,366 yards, 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions. In the win over Tennessee, he was 17 for 25 for 266 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His biggest statistical problem is the sack total: 14. Part of that is poor pass protection; part is on Murray for holding onto the ball too long at times, which is common for a young quarterback.
But he is getting noticed. Chris Low, ESPN’s tireless and talented SEC blogger, came out with his ranking of SEC quarterbacks this week. He had Murray fourth — even ahead of South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia, and trailing Cam Newton (Auburn), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) and Greg McElroy (Alabama). Low had Murray eighth before the season started. Below are Low’s current rankings and his preseason rankings:
Low’s current rankings:1. Cam Newton, Auburn 2. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas 3. Greg McElroy, Alabama 4. Aaron Murray, Georgia 5. Stephen Garcia, South Carolina 6. Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss 7. Mike Hartline, Kentucky 8. John Brantley, Florida 9. Chris Relf, Mississippi State 10. Matt Simms, Tennessee 11. Jarrett Lee, LSU 12. Larry Smith, Vanderbilt 13. Jordan Jefferson, LSU
Low’s preseason rankings:1. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas 2. Greg McElroy, Alabama 3. Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss 4. John Brantley, Florida 5. Stephen Garcia, South Carolina 6. Jordan Jefferson, LSU 7. Cam Newton, Auburn 8. Aaron Murray, Georgia 9. Mike Hartline, Kentucky 10. Chris Relf, Mississippi State 11. Matt Simms, Tennessee 12. Larry Smith, Vanderbilt
Regardless of any other issues right now, Murray is the best sign for Georgia’s future. As for how significant last week’s win was (other than ending a four-game losing streak), we’ll find out today and in the coming weeks. Consecutive games against Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky affords the Dogs a chance to get well quick, going into Florida week. Talk of running the table is premature and a tad optimistic but it’s certainly not too late to finish with a winning record and go to a decent bowl game.
That’s it for now. If I locate Uga VIII or Russ before the ceremonies, I’ll post a photo or two — and I’ll give both your best.
We have new stunning behind-the-scene photos: