Had you told me on Sept. 3 that the Ides of November would find Georgia under .500, I’d have had two thoughts. The first: “Ain’t no way.” (For the record, I picked the Bulldogs to finish 9-3.) The second: “If there is a way, it’ll be because Aaron Murray isn’t ready.”
And that’s what makes Georgia being 5-6 so confounding. More than simply being ready, Aaron Murray has been good bordering on great. A redshirt freshman, he’s already the third-best quarterback in the SEC, and the league’s best is Cam Newton, the finest player among collegians, and its second-best is the splendid passer Ryan Mallett. Murray is 15th nationally in passing efficiency. (Newton and Mallett are second and fourth, respectively.)
Heck, we can make a compelling case that Murray has been the best freshman quarterback in Bulldog annals, and those annals are inscribed with the deeds of some fairly fine frosh.
(We should stipulate that Zeier and Stafford didn’t begin their freshman seasons as the No. 1 quarterback. Both, however, played in the season opener – Zeier as the No. 2 behind Greg Talley, Stafford as No. 3 behind Joe Tereshinski III and Joe Cox — and both became No. 1 for good in October of those respective years.)
OK, those are the numbers. Murray already has the best completion percentage (tied with Carter), the second-fewest interceptions behind Zeier and the most touchdowns, and he’s within reach of Greene’s school record for passing yardage by a freshman. But here’s the weird part:
The Bulldogs were 9-3 in both Zeier’s and Carter’s freshman seasons, 8-4 in Greene’s, 9-4 in Stafford’s. How is it possible that a team returning every offensive starter save the quarterback could see that new quarterback perform so ably — and still be 5-6? (And of those six losses, only the Florida game, in which Murray threw half of his total of six interceptions, could be debited to the quarterback — and it must be noted that even on his worst day Murray led the rally that forced overtime.)
Not much about this Georgia season has made sense, but this part makes the least. The one offensive variable has come up trumps, and still the team enters its final scheduled game needing to win to become bowl-eligible.
Here’s how addled I am: I’m tempted to say, “Put Murray on Florida and the Gators would have won the SEC East,” or, “Put Murray on South Carolina and the Gamecocks would be 9-1, not 7-3″ … and then I realize the team he’s on finished behind those two. Maybe you can make some sense of it. Obviously I can’t.