The two big concerns coming into this season for Georgia were redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray and how he would adjust in his first season and how the Bulldogs’ defense would take to the new 3-4 scheme in Todd Grantham’s first season as coordinator.
It turns out Murray wasn’t a concern at all. He was a strength. The Bulldogs’ defense, on the other hand, took its lumps against some of the better offenses, but also finished with respectable numbers. The goal now is to recruit to that defense, in particular bringing in some more defensive linemen and some bigger defensive linemen.
The start to this season is what killed the Bulldogs all the way around. Star receiver A.J. Green was suspended by the NCAA for the first four games for selling one of his game jerseys, and the Bulldogs didn’t have that one guy in the passing game to spread everybody out and make explosive plays down the field.
Even then, the Bulldogs (6-6) could have won their first two SEC games against South Carolina and Arkansas had they been able to tackle Marcus Lattimore and keep Ryan Mallett & Co. from streaking down the field in the final seconds.
Georgia wound up losing four consecutive games, its longest losing streak in 20 years, but fought its way back to keep alive its bowl streak. This is the 14th straight season that the Bulldogs have gone to a bowl game.
Offensive MVP: Quarterback Aaron Murray. With 2,851 passing yards, he’ll have a chance to crack the 3,000-yard plateau in the bowl game. It’s the second most passing yards ever for a freshman quarterback in the SEC, and he’s thrown 24 touchdown passes and only six interceptions.
Defensive MVP: Outside linebacker Justin Houston. It was a given that Houston could rush the passer, and he once again did that well this season with 10 sacks. But Houston also expanded other parts of his game and became a more complete player. He was second to Auburn’s Nick Fairley in the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss.
Turning point: The Bulldogs had rebounded from their four-game losing streak with three straight wins. They had even climbed back into the Eastern Division race, although they needed some help from other teams. What they couldn’t do was get past a familiar nemesis, losing 34-31 in overtime to Florida. The Gators have won 18 of the last 21 games in the series.
What’s next: The Bulldogs will head to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to take on UCF. A loss would mean their first losing season since 1996. Coach Mark Richt survived the loud rumblings this season. He might not be so fortunate next year if Georgia suffers through another comparable season.