When did Matthew Stafford grow up?

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It will be hard this week to avoid the legend of Matthew Stafford. During the 2006 season and through much of the 2007 season, Stafford was an average SEC quarterback and someone who palled around with terrorists people wearing orange. Then, during the 2007 Florida game, the light came on; Stafford and Georgia bulldozed the Gators and started a run of (mostly) dominance by Georgia and NFL buzz for Stafford.

In this case, the legend might be true. Take a look at Stafford's numbers before last year's Florida game and then starting with the first snap against the Gators.

Comp Att Yds TD INT Comp % YPA Rating
Pre-2007 Florida 250 464 3,113 17 17 53.9 6.7 115.00
2007 Florida and after 220 369 3,105 21 11 59.6 8.4 143.12

The turnaround is astounding. A 28-point jump in passing efficiency, a 5.7 point jump in completion percentage and a change from a 1-to-1 TD-INT ratio to a nearly 2-to-1 ratio. By the way, between Stafford's first appearance in 2006 and the Florida game in 2007, Georgia was 14-6. During and after that Florida game, the Dawgs are 13-1.

It would have been easy to dismiss the Florida game as a fluke. After all, the Gators were ranked 11th in pass efficiency defense and 12th in passing yardage defense last year. But Stafford continued the upward trajectory after that. Even in the Dawgs' implosion against Alabama, his numbers weren't that shabby: 24-of-42, 274 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 122.90 QB rating. (Yes, the prevent defense at the end, but still ... )

The challenge, of course, is for Stafford to keep up the pace as the season enters the stretch run of what could be his final season, with no part of that stretch more important than this weekend's critical game against the Gators. But Stafford isn't the only one that's matured over the past year; this season, Florida is first in the conference in pass efficiency defense and fifth in passing yardage defense.

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