Florida vs. Georgia 2012: Gators have to stop Aaron Murray early

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Georgia sports the nation's top "standard downs" offense, which means Florida's defense will need to focus early.

In last week's close-call victory over the Kentucky Wildcats, Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray threw for 427 yards and four touchdowns on 30-38 passing. The passing display gave Murray the school's record for passing touchdowns.

This is just one factor in why the numbers from Bill Connelly, SB Nation's college football stats master, say that the Florida Gators must stop Murray and the Bulldogs on early downs to claim the win on Saturday.

Connelly writes, "If Georgia is to defeat Florida, it will likely be with a 'pass to set up the run' approach. That puts a lot of pressure on Murray, but it is probably the only way Georgia can pull off the upset."

Georgia's offense is the No. 1 offense nationally on standard downs, which are downs in which either a pass or a run are acceptable play calls.

But Murray's passing has been especially potent on early, standard downs. As Connelly points out, Georgia receivers Marlon Brown, Tavarres King, and Malcolm Mitchell have caught 47 passes on 59 targets (an 80 percent catch rate) for 787 yards on early downs.

If the Gators can limit damage on early downs, their advantage seems clear on passing downs. Florida's defense ranks sixth nationally on passing downs, while Georgia's offense ranks 52nd.

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