Can big wins lead to even bigger things?
No, the Georgia Bulldogs did not win the BCS National Championship. The Dawgs didn't even win the SEC title, losing to Alabama in a 32-28 heartbreaker.
But none of those facts can take away from the success that was the Georgia Bulldogs' 2012 college football season. The year saw several school records broken by star quarterback Aaron Murray, the emergence of not one, but two star true freshman running backs, and a signature win against none other than those dastardly Gators.
After the SEC Championship game, Murray, linebacker Jarvis Jones and all the rest ventured into Florida once again, only this time to dismantle Nebraska, 45-31, in the Capital One Bowl.
The Bulldogs finished 12-2 overall and won the SEC East for the second consecutive year. With an entire offseason to prepare for Murray's last hurrah in Athens, can those big wins lead to even bigger and better things in 2013?
Murray makes a run at the record books
Murray has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons under center -- making him the only quarterback in the history of the SEC to do so. However, the face of the program heading into his senior season is not simply airing it out in some gimmicky, spread-out offense.
Just the opposite. Georgia's offense has always had a a stellar running back for Murray to hand the ball off to, but he has managed to progress from the game manager he was in his freshman year to the record-breaker Bulldogs fans know him to be today.
His 95 career touchdown passes are the most in school history and, barring something crazy happening next season, Murray should break the all-time SEC record of 114 set by Danny Wuerffel.
He is only 1,437 career passing yards behind the current conference mark of 11,528 compiled by former Georgia star David Greene. With 696 career completions, he is 199 away from Florida quarterback Chris Leak’s record of 895. And with 1,131 career attempts, Murray trails Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen’s SEC record by 383 passes.
Not only might Murray's final year be huge in terms of wins, but he may put a few SEC passing records out of reach for the near future.
'Gurshall' steps into the spotlight
As true freshmen, the dual rushing threat of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall captured the imagination of Dawgs Nation, across the nation.
With good reason. The roommates combined to rush for a stellar 2,144 yards en route to keeping defenses honest against the right arm of Mr. Murray.
Beyond the standard, hard-nosed, old-school rushing threat posed by Gurshall, the coaching staff introduced a unique wrinkle into the offense against Nebraska. Instead of simply taking handoffs and pitches from Murray out of the standard 'I' formation, both running backs lined up in the Wildcat formation at different points in the game. Thus, both took direct snaps from center, and the confusing looks worked to perfection. At one point, Gurley (the potential superstar of the two) took a snap as the Wildcat quarterback and ran 24 yards for a score.
No matter how offensive coordinator Mike Bobo chooses to use the two backs, one thing is certain: Both are set to put up serious numbers in 2013.
Senior-laden O-line should be doing plenty of heavy lifting
And by 'heavy lifting', we mean of Murray, Gurley, Marshall, and receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley, among plenty of others.
Three of the team's starting offensive linemen -- Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee, Chris Burnette -- were juniors and all are expected to return for another run at a title.
That said, the headliner of this crew is John Theus, who was a starter as a mere freshman. The monster is 6-foot-6, more then 300 pounds, and has no problem celebrating high-scoring games with his quarterback.
With so much experience up front, life should be easy for the stars in the backfield.
And that should make life very, very easy for Bulldogs fans as well.
Unfortunately, several star defenders have taken their last Dogwalk
Coach Richt, three and four years ago, brought in the type of talent that had no other choice but to play professional football.
Unfortunately, that was three and four years ago, and now all of those spectacularly talented players are headed to the NFL.
Linebacker Jarvis Jones may be the No. 1-overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, but he wasn't even the No. 1 tackler on his own team this season. That honor would go to fellow linebacker Alec Ogletree.
Jones finished the year with 85 tackles and Ogletree with 111, but both juniors are making the leap to the first round.
Beyond losing two star linebackers, Richt also loses the vocal leader of his defense, senior safety Shawn Williams. Williams finished second on the team with 98 tackles and called out his own teammates after a bad loss to South Carolina and a win against Kentucky that was just as ugly. The team also loses defensive tackle John Jenkins, defensive back Bacarri Rambo, and linebacker Michael Gilliard.
Amarlo Herrera finished fifth on the team with 70 tackles, and he will be a junior next year. He, along with current junior Kwame Geathers and current freshman Jordan Jenkins, should break into the conference spotlight next season.
Can a kicker set some records as well?
Marshall Morgan came into Athens as a high school All-American, and he was the only student-athlete to attempt a field goal for Georgia in his freshman season.
Morgan connected on eight of his 14 field goal attempts in his first year with the team.
The dude's got three more years to try to bag every kick he gets sent out to try. It's not like he's going to win the Heisman. Yet, having a trustworthy, consistently great kicker on one team can prove to be the difference in winning or losing a game in any given season.