Murray vs Clowney: A closer look

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Aaron Murray had a rough go of it on Saturday.One of the nation’s most explosive offenses will face one of the best defenses when Georgia hosts South Carolina this Saturday (4:30 ET on ESPN). The winner will have the inside track to winning the SEC East and a possible BCS bowl berth.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray may be a Heisman contender but he has struggled in his career vs the Gamecocks. He is winless in three starts and his QBR of 44.8 against them is his worst vs any SEC East opponent.

Last season in Williams-Brice Stadium, Murray arguably had the worst game of his career, setting career lows in pass yards (109), completion percentage (36.0), and total QBR (8.4) in a 35-7 loss.

Aaron Murray Career By Opponent

Murray also hopes to do something he’s rarely done in his career: beat a highly ranked team. He is just 1-8 in his career against top-15 teams after losing last week at Clemson.

However, Murray was successful stretching the field against the Tigers. He averaged 11.1 yards per attempt, including three passes that traveled more than 15 yards in the air.

South Carolina’s defense will need to prevent Murray from completing those long passes if they want to contain the Georgia offense.

Last week North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner attempted seven passes of that distance and all seven fell incomplete. Renner was held to just 4.5 yards per pass attempt, the second-worst mark in his career.

The threat of South Carolina’s star pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney likely had an impact on Renner’s performance.

Bryn Renner Passing
With/Without Clowney on Field

Despite not recording a sack, Clowney led the Gamecocks with three pressures and made a difference with his mere presence (as shown in the chart to the right).

Clowney has a history with Murray too, with three career sacks of him, including a 25-yard sack-fumble in 2011 that resulted in a South Carolina touchdown.

Murray will also be without his top wideout after Malcolm Mitchell suffered a torn ACL against Clemson. Since 2011, Murray has 96.9 Total QBR when targeting Mitchell, the highest among wide receivers on this year’s roster in that span (min. 10 completions).

If Murray is held in check, Georgia will have to rely on its dynamic running game. The Bulldogs ran for 222 yards last week against Clemson, with much of the damage done inside the tackles by Todd Gurley.

Gurley totaled 142 of his 154 rushing yards between the tackles, including three carries of 20 yards or more. Over the last two seasons Gurley has 18 rushes of at least 20 yards. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey is the only active running back with more.

As explosive as Gurley and the Georgia running game is, South Carolina’s defense is just as good at preventing long runs. Last season, the Gamecocks allowed six runs of 20 yards, the second-fewest in FBS, and held SEC opponents to the third-fewest yards per rush among conference teams.

That’s bad news for a Georgia team that is just 2-8 in the Murray era when rushing for 115 or fewer yards, including 0-2 against South Carolina.