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College football: Georgia readies for early-season gauntlet

Published July 18, 2013 11:19 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Hoover, Ala. • Georgia is widely considered one of the favorites to challenge Alabama's dominance in the Southeastern Conference.

Whether that is realistic could be decided by the end of September.

Georgia was picked to win the Eastern Division in a media poll released Thursday, but the Bulldogs have a brutal early-season schedule, including games against potential top 10 teams Clemson, South Carolina and LSU.

"I told the team we're in a race, and that is to try to be at midseason form by day one," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "The race started back in January."

Georgia is trying to break through with an SEC championship one year after coming close to the title. The Bulldogs lost to eventual national champion Alabama 32-28 in the league title game.

Georgia is led by senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who is the first in SEC history to have at least 3,000 yards passing in three straight seasons. He already has the school record with 95 career touchdown passes and could threaten several SEC career records by the end of this season.

But the 6-foot-1, 208-pound senior is largely overshadowed in a league that has very good quarterbacks. Murray was named All-SEC third team on Thursday, behind Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Alabama's AJ McCarron.

"There are some very talented quarterbacks up and down — not just the ones [who made the All-SEC team]," Murray said. "We've got a ton of guys ... Usually you think of the SEC as great running games and great defenses, not great quarterbacks, but we're pretty loaded right now."

Murray completed 64.5 percent of his passes last season for 3,893 yards, 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.