Can Aaron Murray take the next step?

August, 18, 2013
8/18/13
2:55
PM ET

Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAaron Murray has struggled against top teams like Alabama in his career.
Aaron Murray and Georgia came within five yards of an SEC Title and potential trip to the BCS National Championship game last season.

Yet questions remain about Murray’s ability to win the big game and lead Georgia to its first National Championship in more than 20 years.

As the 2013 season approaches, Murray must continue to build upon the positive momentum that he started in 2012 and take the next step against top competition in 2013.

A Look Back at 2012

Aaron Murray set Georgia’s single-season passing yardage and touchdown records in 2012, throwing for 3,893 yards and 36 scores while leading the Bulldogs to a 12-2 record.

Murray improved in just about every passing statistic from his sophomore season, including a significant increase in his downfield accuracy. On throws of 20 yards or longer, Murray raised his completion percentage by more than 17 percentage points, and he started the season by throwing 70 consecutive passes of this distance without an interception.

Unfortunately for Murray, his streak ended against Alabama in the SEC Championship.

As a result of his improved accuracy on his downfield passes, Murray finished the season ranked second in the nation in pass efficiency rating and averaged an FBS-best 10.1 yards per attempt.

Murray ended the season on a tear, throwing 19 touchdowns and four interceptions in his final six games while averaging over 300 yards per game. In the Bulldogs’ 45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, Murray tied his career high in both passing yards (427) and touchdowns (5).

He will look to build upon this momentum as he begins 2013 with a tough September schedule.

What’s Ahead for 2013?

Aaron Murray has the chance to break every major SEC career-passing record this season, but the real question is whether he can win the big games and lead Georgia to its first National Championship since 1980.

Murray has faced 14 teams in his career that ended the season in the AP top 25. Georgia is 3-11 and Murray has thrown 16 interceptions with a completion rate of 55 percent in those games.

He is 25-2 against all other opponents, with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of better than 4-to-1.

It is important to note that Murray improved his winning percentage against ranked opponents in 2012, going 3-2 against teams that finished the season in the final AP poll and coming within five yards of beating Alabama in the SEC title game.

Yet, there is still work to be done. Murray’s two worst games of his career, in terms of opponent-adjusted Total QBR, came against South Carolina and Florida in 2012.

The good news is we will not have to wait long to see if Murray is ready to step up against top-tier competition. Georgia opens the season with No. 8 Clemson, No. 6 South Carolina, North Texas and No. 12 LSU.

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