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Thursday, August 29, 2013
Up for debate: Boyd or Murray?

By Andrea Adelson and Edward Aschoff

Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd
Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd have had their big-game struggles, but both had huge performances to end the 2012 season.


The game between Clemson and Georgia has so many intriguing storylines to follow. One of the most intriguing, of course, is the quarterback matchup between Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray.

The two players are longtime friends and have already talked some friendly smack to each other in the offseason. But with Boyd on Twitter lockdown, the good natured back-and-forth between them has stopped.

That, however, will not stop ACC blogger Andrea Adelson and SEC blogger Edward Aschoff from debating which quarterback has the upper hand headed into the game.

AA: With all due respect, Edward, I am trying to figure out what there is to debate here. Murray has not exactly done well in the big games he has played in throughout his career. Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked as much after the SEC championship game loss to Alabama a year ago, growing angry and defensive at the mere implication that Murray comes up small on the big stage. Well, there's a reason Richt was asked. Murray is 3-11 against teams that ended the season ranked in the Top 25; his best win would be against No. 2 Florida last year. But he did nothing to win that game. Murray threw for 150 yards and had three passes intercepted; the Gators gave that one away with six turnovers. Boyd, on the other hand, has won a conference championship, was an AFCA first-team All-American last year and has been selected as the 2013 preseason player of the year in his league. That's a trifecta Murray can't match.

EA: Yes, Murray has had his issues against ranked teams. I'm not going to turn my head and act as if he hasn't struggled when the big boys line up against him. But I'm pretty sure we are talking about taking a quarterback right now, today. And who wouldn't take Murray? He's not as mobile or as physically imposing, but he throws a much more catchable ball than Boyd. He has better technique, and he has put up far better numbers. I know people like to harp on his first-half performance against Florida, but why not talk about what he did after that half? If you won't, I will. After the first half of the Florida game, Murray finished the season throwing 20 touchdowns to just three interceptions. During that time, he threw for 300-plus yards in three games, including his 427-yard, five-touchdown outing against Nebraska in Georgia's 45-31 Outback Bowl win. He was playing his best ball at the end of the season and enters the 2013 season with the SEC passing yards record and touchdown record in sight. As for Boyd, he hasn't been great against ranked teams, either. He went 1-2 against ranked opponents last year and went 2-4 to end 2011, throwing nine interceptions.

AA: Wait, you mean to tell me you would pick Murray over Boyd because he had a few 300-yard games to close the season? None of them came against a defense ranked in the top 30. He had a nice game against Nebraska in the bowl game? Nebraska, which gave up 70 points to Wisconsin in the biggest, most embarrassing conference championship game beatdown last season? I think I could have lined up and thrown for 300 yards against that team. But since you brought up bowl performances, this is why anybody who wants to win picks Boyd. The way he willed Clemson to victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl is the biggest reason the Tigers go into the year with as much hype as they do, and the biggest reason Boyd has played himself into early Heisman consideration.

You were at the game, Edward.

You must remember how Boyd and the Tigers' offense took possession at their own 20 with 1:39 left in the game, down two. You must remember his incredible 26-yard completion to DeAndre Hopkins on fourth-and-16 to help get Clemson into field goal range. You must remember the way Boyd was battered and bruised in that game, but he kept getting up, refusing to lose. Boyd threw for 346 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and set career highs for attempts and completions against a defense that finished the season ranked No. 8 in the nation. Yes, Boyd has struggled against South Carolina the way Murray has. Both are 0-for-the Gamecocks, a sore point without a doubt. But overall, Boyd does have a winning record against Top 25 teams. He is more mobile and has a higher QBR than Murray, too. Boyd over Murray is an easy choice.

EA: You're right, I was there to watch Clemson's comeback, upset win over LSU. But I distinctly remember LSU handing the other Tigers that victory late. Now, I'm not taking anything away from Boyd. He played a heck of a game, but if LSU didn't get away from running the ball (what in the world were the coaches thinking?) in the fourth quarter, we wouldn’t be talking about Boyd. It's just another SEC win over an ACC team. Murray gets hammered for his past play against ranked teams, but the game that really stands out to me is last year's SEC championship game.

Murray might have played his best game in a Dawgs uniform, but all anyone will remember is Chris Conley's catch to end the game that handed Alabama the win. All they'll remember is the mind-boggling decision by Georgia's coaching staff not to clock the ball on that final drive. There was no excuse for such a mental lapse. But look at what Murray did in the biggest game of his career, against the best team in the country, in what most people around these parts consider to be the real national championship. He threw for 265 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but completed five of his seven pass attempts in that last drive, including his final four, for 76 yards. Remember, this was against Alabama.

This wasn't against Maryland, NC State, UNC or Virginia Tech. This was against the best defense in the country. Murray did everything in his power to win, and there's absolutely no way you blame that loss on him. Look to the sideline for help there. The bottom line is that Murray was hitting his stride at the end of the season, and that will carry over to the fall. He's incredibly efficient and is about to break every major career-passing record in the nation's toughest conference, where he faces the sport's top defenses each week. Both are great, but if I'm taking a quarterback today, I'm taking this version of Aaron Murray.