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Aaron Murray, Franchise Player?

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Andy over at Alligator Army has an interesting post dissecting a recent column by ESPN's Ed Aschoff in which Aschoff  asked who the SEC's "Franchise Player" was and came up with . . . Aaron Murray.

Now, I'm pleased that Aaron is getting this kind of attention. And after throwing for 3000 yards as a redshirt freshman playing behind a patchwork offensive line, coping without his best receiver for one-third of the season and surviving for long stretches without even the whisper of a running game to back him up, he deserves it.

But as you'll see in the comments I put aside my homerism and begged to differ, going with South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore instead. While I believe wholeheartedly that Aaron Murray is the best returning quarterback in the SEC, I also believe that the SEC Championship is more often than not won on the ground and in the trenches. And while Aaron Murray is certainly capable of moving the chains on 3rd and 4 in the fourth quarter, I believe that (given the same offensive line, defense, etc.) Lattimore is as good an option as there is when the pressure's on. Even better than Murray. Anyone who watched the Georgia/South Carolina game last September while wearing red and black remembers the sinking feeling of watching Lattimore get the ball again and again to keep the Gamecock offense on the field. All other things being equal, I want to start my football team with a guy capable of demoralizing the opposition just like that. With the possible exception of Alabama's Trent Richardson, Lattimore's the only returning SEC footballer who I know can do that.

Aschoff begins with the assumption that it's best to build your team around a quarterback, which I think is a fair assumption in the NFL, but not necessarily in college football generally, nor in the SEC specifically. It's worth noting that of the last 3 SEC quarterbacks to win BCS national championships (Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy and Cam Newton) two did so in large part thanks to their ability to run the ball in tough short yardage situations, and the other instead simply handed the ball off to a Heisman Trophy winning tailback. That's no coincidence. And certainly the offensive lines in question had a lot to do with the success that Florida, Alabama, and Auburn each enjoyed on the ground. But I dare not imagine what Marcus Lattimore would have looked like running behind those lines. I suspect he would have gained even more yards than the 1197 he tallied on the ground, to say nothing of the 412 receiving yards he amassed. Marcus Lattimore scored 19 touchdowns last season. For the record, that's 2 more than all University of Georgia running backs combined.

While Aaron Murray is certainly more mobile than the average QB, he's not a bulldozing fullback who also throws a decent slant route. He may throw as many clutch completions as any quarterback in the SEC, but given the option of choosing only one player to start the University of MaconDawg football team from scratch, I'd still take the bruising tailback who doubles as a gamebreaker. Am I right or am I wrong?