What a difference five games can make.
Before the season, Aaron Murray, Georgia's fifth year senior, was the quarterback who couldn't win the 'big one.' Sporting a 1-6 record against Top 10 teams, Murray's resume was dotted with underperformances. There was the career-low 109 yards passing in a loss to South Carolina last year. Or the three interception game, two weeks later in a losing effort against Florida. And then there was coming up five yards short against Alabama in the SEC championship.
Yet five games into this season, Murray has suddenly become college football's senior statesman.
Last week, Murray set the SEC career passing yardage record, on his way to a 34-31 overtime win at Neyland Stadium.
This year, Georgia became just the fourth team since 1998 to face three top-10 teams in the season's first four games. After losing in Week 1 to then No. 8 Clemson, Murray rebounded with a 309-yard, four touchdown performance in a win over then sixth-ranked South Carolina. Three weeks later, he outdueled former roommate Zach Mettenberger, accounting for five touchdowns in the Bulldogs 44-41 win over then No. 6 LSU.
He came up big again against Tennessee. Trailing by seven with less than two minutes to play, Murray led Georgia on a 10-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a touchdown pass to Rantavious Wooten to force overtime. And after Alton Howard's goal line fumble, Georgia hit a 42-yard field goal in overtime to escape with their title hopes intact.
For Tennessee, it was their 19th straight loss to a top-25 opponent. And for Murray, it was just another accomplishment on a suddenly glowing resume.
Georgia ran the gauntlet of their early season schedule despite a slew of injuries to key offensive pieces. They lost last year's second leading receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, to a torn ACL in Week 1. They were without leading rusher Todd Gurley against Tennessee, after he suffered an ankle injury in the LSU game. And facing the Volunteers, they lost both running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley for the season to ACL tears.
Saturday, Georgia hosts newly ranked and undefeated Missouri (12:00 pm et, TSN2). The Bulldogs could again be without Gurley. And with dates with No. 17 Florida and a competitive Auburn team looming, they could still slip on the way to another SEC championship appearance.
But for Murray at least, it's already been a successful season. In just five short games, the conference's newly minted career passing king has finally changed his image.
Murray has thrown at least three touchdown passes in four straight games, leads the SEC with 306.8 yards passing per game, and sits 14th in the nation in total passing yardage. More importantly, he is 2-1 against three of the best teams in the country.
Not bad for a kid who couldn't win the big one.
Some other notes from around college football:
--Jameis Winston threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns in No. 6 Florida State's 63-0 demolition of then No. 25 Maryland last week. The 63-point differential ties the worst loss by a Top 25 team in the history of the AP poll. The redshirt freshman has 19 total touchdowns to just two interceptions, almost the same touchdown to interception ratio that Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton had after five games in their Heisman winning seasons. If 'Famous Jameis' wasn't on the Heisman short list before, he is now.
--Call it the Crimson Tide hangover. A week after being embarrassed in Tuscaloosa, Ole Miss lost 30-22 to Auburn. In the last three years, SEC teams playing a conference foe the week after a loss to Alabama are 1-12. For the record, LSU is on bye the week after the Tigers visit Bryant-Denny Stadium.
--The 108th edition of the Red River Rivalry kicks off Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. Longhorns head coach Mack Brown has been on the hot seat since a Week 2 loss to BYU. An upset win over No. 12 Oklahoma, and maybe Brown saves his job. But if Texas is embarrassed again, Brown might just become the fourth coaching casualty this season. Texas has been outscored in the game 118-38 the last two years.
--Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals host Rutgers Thursday night on TSN2. Outside of UCF and Cincinnati, Louisville's remaining schedule is made up of the also-rans of the AAC. After his worst game of the season in Week 3 versus Kentucky, the Rutgers game might be one of the projected top pick's best chances to showcase his talent against real competition.
--Bishop Sankey is one of the most explosive ball carriers in all of college football. But until last Saturday, the running back's grandfather had never seen him play for Washington. Due to a bout with glaucoma, the 68-year-old lost his vision almost five years ago. However, 15 days after a cornea transplant gave him his sight back, the senior Sankey was in the house to see the tailback gash No. 5 Stanford for 125 yards and two touchdowns. It's a shame he didn't get to see a Huskies win as well.