What Happened to Aaron Murray’s Heisman Campaign in 2012?
This is the eighth article reviewing the ten topics I deemed most important to the SEC before the season began.
The previous articles in this series can be found here:
- Storyline 10: The Return of Marcus Lattimore
- Storyline 9: Derek Dooley’s Hot Seat
- Storyline 8: Georgia’s Defense
- Storyline 7: Is Vanderbilt any good?
- Storyline 6: Picking on the New Kids – Texas A&M and Missouri
- Storyline 5: Divisional Powershift Courtesy of Auburn and Florida
- Storyline 4: The Decline of Arkansas and Mississippi State
The SEC’s Heisman Candidates
I’d be remiss to not recognize the big-eared and incredibly athletic white elephant in the room, Johnny Manziel, when discussing the 2012 Heisman campaign. But, I’d by misleading to spend much time on him as the purpose of this series is to recount topics I explored and predictions that I made heading into the season. I spent no time on Johnny Football. I don’t think that was any more unreasonable than his rise to prominence was unexpected, so I forgive myself.
That being said, I did address the SEC candidates that Bovada placed odds on. Here’s a recap:
Tyler Bray (130 to 1)
In August I hypothesized that the only person who should make this bet was Tyler Bray himself, otherwise it seemed ill-advised. I was concerned about Bray’s wild and crazy offseason beer bottle throwing, the departure of a top target (Da’Rick Rogers had recently left Da’Team) and I didn’t foresee Tennessee winning enough games. Regardless of how Bray performed, the Vols were the laughing stock of the league (well, aside from Kentucky and Auburn) and he was discounted appropriately for that.
Henry Josey (85 to 1)
This guy didn’t even suit up for Mizzou this year. They could have used his talent at the RB position.
James Franklin (85 to 1)
Equally ridiculous was James Franklin’s inclusion on this list? Did pundits truly expect his gimmicky game to translate to the SEC? He missed three games this year, but his passing yardage decreased from 2865 to 1562 and his rushing production decreased form 981 yards to 122. On a per-game basis Franklin went from contributing 295.85 yards of offense per game to accounting for just 187.11. Franklin also declined from 36 total TDs to 10.
Eddie Lacey (85 to 1)
I liked this pick because of Alabama’s reliance on the running game. His 1300 yards and 17 TDs proved to be nothing worth dismissing, but T.J. Yeldon took a few more carries than most might have anticipated.
Knile Davis (75 to 1)
In August I asserted that betting on Davis was risky – regardless of underlying odds. I cited his injury issues and unsustained track record as reasons he would prove unreliable. He played in every game but two (granted two games probably would have removed him from Heisman consideration in and of itself) but only accounted for a measly 377 yards on 112 carries. He scored twice on the ground and once on a reception. I hope you didn’t have money there.
Tyler Wilson (33 to 1)
I had no faith in Arkansas heading into the season and expected a decline from Wilson, and we saw one although I’m not sure all that blame falls on him. In any event, betting on a high-powered offense that was moving forward without its mastermind seemed a bit foolish and it proved to be so.
A.J. McCarron (23 to 1)
I expected excellence from Alabama and great performance from A.J. in 2012, but I was concerned about the number of reps he would get. There proved to be some truth there. McCarron attempted just 314 passes in 2012; the average number of passes attempted by a pro-style Heisman-winning QB sine 2000 stands at 425. Even with his stout numbers in efficiency and low INT totals, he didn’t carry enough burden to garner serious consideration.
Macrus Lattimore (18 to 1)
If Lattimore returned to his old form and stayed there this would have been a steal. His campaign was hurt when he was hurt.
Aaron Murray (15 to 1)
Murray had the most favorable odds of all the SEC candidates heading into the season and I think that was a rightful position. Here is everything I said about Murray:
The realistic “floor” for the Bulldogs in the regular season is 10 wins, and I think the odds of that happening are around 30%. I think there’s a 35% chance the Dogs win 11 in the regular season and 35% chance the win all 12.
A great season for a 10-win SEC team can get a QB to New York. The best offensive player on a 12-win SEC team is all but guaranteed to be a finalist. So, in many ways Murray’s best chance to win the Heisman is to simply lead Georgia to victories.
In doing so, however he needs to continue to produce. Murray has thrown for over 3000 yards in each of his first two seasons – that number should rise to 3500 or so with more mature receivers and continued questions at running back. He’s hovered around 60% in completions but is targeting 65%. Murray’s TD passes in 2011 is a more than ample figure (only 3 Heisman winning QBs have thrown more during their campaigns – Jason White, Sam Bradford, RG III), but he must limit his interceptions. Last season Murray threw 14 picks; that number needs to be cut in half. This is attainable as Murray threw half of his interceptions in three games – Mississippi State, LSU and Michigan State, and he actually played four games without throwing any.
If Murray can put this all together his line should look something like this: 276 for 425 passing with 3650 yards, 37 TDs, 7 INTs and a QB Efficiency Rating of 162.5. Last season those numbers would have ranked 25th in completion percentage (13th among players with 400+ attempts), 13th in yards, 4th in TDs, 6th in INTs thrown with 400+ attempts and 7th in rating (5th with 400+ attempts). If those numbers are reached Georgia will win at least 11 games and Murray willbe in NYC.
Surprisingly, I was pretty accurate on those assumptions. Georgia won 11 regular season and stayed well within the “floor” as I defined it. Murray hit on 64.5% of his passes (a solid increase and just shy of the 65% I arbitrarily set as his target). He added to his TD total and trimmed his INTs from 14 to 10 (two of which were after the Heisman voting). He surpassed the yardage goal I set and demolished the QB Efficiency target.
So what happened? Murray laid an egg in a very public, very ugly game in Columbia, SC (11 of 31 for 109 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT) and disappeared from Heisman radars from that point forward. Yes, Georgia was this close to making it to the National Championship Game but for the bulk of the season the Dawgs trailed the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida, Texas A&M, Oregon and Kansas State in media coverage and bowl projections. Murray was M.I.A. – not in performance, but in conversation – for far too long to win the trophy.
Maybe he can build on that next year. If the Dawgs come out respectably against a tough early slate (Clemson, South Carolina and LSU all before the end of September), then Murray may garner the national spotlight and hold onto through the remaining gauntlet.
That’s all I got/