We released the 2012 CBSSports.com Preseason Heisman Watch on Monday and have followed that up with an in-depth look at the Heisman chances of each of the top 10 candidates.
Murray, a fourth-year junior, if off to one of the best starts in a career of any quarterback in SEC history. He has 59 touchdown passes, including a school-record 35 in 2011, as well as 6,198 passing yards in his first two seasons. This production is a testament to his talent, since he plays in a system that normally doesn't allow for prolific quarterback numbers. By comparison, NFL first-overall-pick Matthew Stafford's best season in Athens was a 25-TD effort in 2008.
His gunslinger mentality and ability to create plays with his feet are what set him apart from most quarterbacks in the SEC. Though undersized at a generously-listed 6-1, he has a Drew Brees-like quality to his game and a knack for placing the ball in tight spots. Since most quarterbacks tend to make their biggest jump in improvement from year two to year three as a starter, we're curious to see just how good he'll be in 2012.
If he wants to be good enough to win a Heisman, though, a few things have to happen.
It goes without saying that Georgia must win the SEC East. Murray led the Dawgs to that title last season, but now it's time to take the next step to an overall SEC title. Working in Georgia's favor is a slate that doesn't include LSU or Alabama, which means no possibility of a potentially crippling rematch with the SEC West champ should the Bulldogs get to Atlanta. An absurdly-easy group of non-conference opponents means this might be Georgia's best chance of going undefeated in quite a while. Indeed, the Bulldogs should be favored in every game.
The loss of returning starting running back Isaiah Crowell means that Murray will have to step it up this year, especially in the early-going. If he is perceived as single-handedly leading the Dawgs to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the BCS title game, then he'll be rewarded with a trip to New York as one of the Heisman favorites.
Team success is only part of the equation, though. As good as Murray has been as an underclassman, he has plenty of areas to work on statistically as a junior. He needs to significantly boost his completion percentage, which was a pedestrian 59.1% last season, as well as his 146 efficiency rating. Getting those numbers to, say, 65% and 160 while halving his 14 interceptions will help him pass the smell test with the voters. If he can approach or break Andre Woodson's SEC-single-season record of 40 touchdown passes, he'll be golden.
In fact, Murray is on pace to be the all-time SEC leader in passing yards and touchdowns, a notion that should start to bubble to the surface at some point late in the year. Surpassing names like Manning, Wuerffel and Couch on his journey will mean a lot to voters.
If he can put it all together for one special season, they just might find him worthy of Georgia's first Heisman since Herschel Walker.
Read what EJ Manuel has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what Geno Smith has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what Knile Davis has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what De'Anthony Thomas has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what Clemson's Tajh Boyd has to do to win the Heisman here.