Reportedly, Aaron Murray hasn’t been able to sleep since the SEC Championship Game. (I certainly can sympathize.) Murray says the Georgia Bulldogs’ 32-28 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide “will probably haunt me the rest of my life,” which I hope is not the case, though I expect it is. The silver lining surrounding that statement, of course, is this: Aaron Murray certainly sounds like a young man who has a motivation for returning to school to finish what he started.
Obviously, that’s no guarantee, and, if Murray elects to go pro early, I will not begrudge him that decision. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, though, that the Red and Black signal caller will return for his senior season. I’m just going to come right out and say this:
If Aaron Murray elects not to forego his final year of collegiate eligibility, the Georgia Bulldogs will win the 2013 national championship.
That’s right. I said it.
Let’s start with the offense Murray will be leading. Now that Kliff Kingsbury has ended our brief “don’t take Bobo!” scare, the Bulldogs may proceed confidently into the future, secure in the knowledge that the Red and Black will be loaded on offense in 2013. Virtually everyone of note will be back from an attack that finished among the top four SEC squads in long passing plays, long scrimmage plays, passing offense, red zone touchdown percentage, rushing offense, scoring offense, third-down conversions, and total offense.
Between 1892 and 2010, Georgia’s single-season high water marks for points scored, touchdown passes thrown, quarterback rating, and rushing touchdowns were 450 (in 2002), 25 (Matthew Stafford in 2008), 155.80 (Mike Bobo in 1997), and 19 (Garrison Hearst in 1992), respectively. So far this season, the Classic City Canines have scored 484 points, for an average of 37.2 points per game that matches exactly the school season scoring average from 1946, a season in which the undefeated Bulldogs led the nation in scoring offense and ranked second in the land in both passing offense and total offense. Aaron Murray, after throwing 35 touchdown passes in 2011, has thrown 31 scoring strikes this year, boosting his 2012 pass efficiency rating to 172.37. Todd Gurley is tied for fourth place in the Red and Black record book with 16 rushing touchdowns. There is a credible case to be made for the proposition that this is the best offense in Bulldog history, and essentially every contributor to it returns next year, including Malcolm Mitchell, who wants to play primarily on Coach Bobo’s side of the ball.
Defense, however, is what wins championships, and Todd Grantham will have to field numerous new starters next season. While the first-team lineup will change substantially, though, a great deal of talent and experience will be back in 2013. Much like the Alabama Crimson Tide this year, the ‘Dawgs will lose some big names yet return enough blue-chippers to continue performing at the highest level.
Speaking of ‘Bama, Georgia proved in the SEC Championship Game that the Bulldogs are on a par with the Tide, and, between upper-echelon recruiting and Evil Richt, the back-to-back SEC East champions have established their staying power among the conference and national elite.
Granted, the Athenians face a tough slate in 2013, but that is a blessing, not a curse. The criticisms of the last two years will be eliminated due to the Bulldogs’ difficult schedule, and the tests the Red and Black will face straight out of the gate should keep them focused throughout the offseason. Georgia’s front-loaded fall opens with the Clemson Tigers, against whom many stellar Red and Black seasons have gotten underway. The following week, the ‘Dawgs get the South Carolina Gamecocks (without Marcus Lattimore) at home for a revenge rematch. The LSU Tigers also will venture between the hedges to wrap up a strenuous September.
One early loss against that schedule would not prove fatal to the Classic City Canines’ championship chances, as the strength of the Bulldogs’ slate would keep them in the running, and October and November set up nicely for the Red and Black, whose toughest remaining game is against a Florida team Georgia now owns after an open date.
In short, everything sets up nicely for the ‘Dawgs next year. If Aaron Murray returns, all the pieces will be in place. If the Athenians’ starting quarterback returns for his senior season, Georgia will win the 2013 national championship. You heard it here first.