Aaron Murray has dreamed of this moment since the day he signed his name to play football at Georgia. His goal from the start was to help bring championships to the Bulldogs. But even Murray couldn't have envisioned a scenario quite this big.
On Saturday, the sophomore quarterback and Tampa native will try to lead Georgia to its first SEC championship since 2005. But to earn that title, the Bulldogs will have to do what nobody else this season has accomplished: defeat No. 1 LSU.
"It's a huge challenge," said Murray, a Plant High alumnus. " … You want to be able to play in these big games and compete against the best. That's the reason the guys on this team committed to Georgia. We want to be able to play in big games like this. And here's our opportunity."
It's an opportunity few outside of his locker room saw as a possibility three months ago. The Bulldogs opened 0-2 but have won 10 straight.
Murray, a preseason All-SEC first-team selection, struggled early. But since the Oct. 15 Vanderbilt game, Murray has 19 touchdowns to just six interceptions, and he has a single-season school-record 32 touchdown passes.
He also holds the school's single-season record for touchdown responsibility by a quarterback (32 passing, two rushing). Murray is the SEC's leading active player in career total offensive yards (6,035), completions (411), TD responsibility (62), TD passes (56) and passing yards (5,747).
"He's the kind of guy you have to make sure you're responsible for," LSU coach Les Miles said.
Georgia coach Mark Richt likes what Murray has done all year, but he knows his quarterback will be facing his toughest challenge Saturday.
"There's been some moments in time when he hasn't played as good as we would like, but I like what he's done all season long," Richt said. " … He does hit some streaks where he's on fire and he'll make a lot of outstanding throws, and he's had a lot of help from his receivers, too. But without question LSU's secondary is fantastic. They are very athletic. They're very aggressive. They play a ton of man coverage. … So it's going to take everybody to have some success in the passing game for sure."
And if Murray can make the reality match his dreams?
"It would be a great feeling," he said. "This is a goal that, as a team, we set since January: to be able to make it to Atlanta to compete for an SEC championship. There's no other conference championship game like this. This is the big one. We're really excited. Like I said, it would be an awesome feeling to be able to walk out of that stadium with an SEC championship."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.