Keys to Boise State-Georgia
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 3, 2011
Boise State’s been here before. Well, not exactly here, but close enough: the Broncos took a trip to Athens, not Atlanta, back in 2005, and were on the receiving end of a decidedly one-sided defeat. How things have changed, both for the Broncos and Georgia, both of which enter a second meeting with a slightly different take on life among the nation’s elite. Georgia’s still in that conversation, though mainly due to what was achieved under Mark Richt earlier last decade, not what’s occurred over the last two years. Chris Petersen didn’t take over for Boise until 2006, at which point the Broncos moved from pesky to outright dominant – 61-5 since that fall, and right in the national title mix once again in 2011.
The two meet tonight with varying standards of success. Georgia enters every season with national championship aspirations, but the Bulldogs would happily cash in a 10-2 finish, considering what’s occurred over the last two seasons. Boise, on the other hand, would be supremely disappointed with two losses, even if one came in bowl play. The standards are simply higher, whether thanks to an easier schedule or otherwise. Boise’s dreaming big: 13-0, national champs. So what are a few keys to tonight’s game?
Year two for the defense Georgia fared pretty well defensively last fall in its first season under coordinator Todd Grantham, who installed a 3-4 look. Yeah, there were a few slip-ups, a few mental flubs while everyone got on the same page, but I actually thought the defense would be worse, to be honest. That was a nice sign, and it lends credence to the belief that Georgia is ready to take a nice step forward on this side of the ball in 2011. But does Georgia have the horses to play with a Boise State, with its experience, explosiveness and confidence? That’s the big-picture question, which can be broken down further.
A beefed-up defensive front It’s a three-man front, and each tilts the scales at 300-plus pounds. And maybe, just maybe, JUCO transfer John Jenkins will have the conditioning to play major snaps, giving the Bulldogs another big presence in the middle of the line. Seeing that Jenkins has been slowed at times while he works into game shape, the Bulldogs will go forth with a starting threesome of ends Abry Jones and DeAngelo Tyson – he can double inside – and Kwame Geathers over the nose.
And this pair, with Jenkins, Garrison Smith and Derrick Lott in reverse, will face off against a premier offensive line. Nate Potter is one of the best in the business, as you know. Center Thomas Byrd is more than ready to take on Jenkins and Geathers, and he’ll have help from guards Joe Kellogg and Jack Broyles – and Boise will rotate a ton of bodies inside throughout the game. It’ll be a major test for this defensive line, which has promise, has size, has athleticism – but hasn’t produced at a high level. Not yet, at least. If the Bulldogs can dominate the line of scrimmage against Boise it can do so against anyone.
Athletes vs. system This argument is ridiculous, since it completely belittles the idea that Boise State actually has top-notch players, not merely a top coach and system. But it does bear noting that while Boise has run roughshod over all comers under Petersen, it has yet to take on a team from the SEC – you know, the nation’s premier conference. Athletes are made different in the SEC: bigger, faster, quicker, meaner, nastier and more violent, they’re a different breed of animal. And perhaps Georgia has the athletes to run with the Broncos, keeping pace through three quarters and wearing the Broncos down late. It’s something to consider, even if I think Boise can play with any team, SEC or otherwise.
Boise dictates the tempo If the Broncos can get it done on the ground, watch out. Actually, a slight rephrase: if the Broncos can get it done on the ground, game over. When you mix in a healthy ground game with the intermediate game, with the deep ball and with play action, Boise can be absolutely unstoppable. It’ll be up to Georgia to control the line of scrimmage, which in turn can allow the Bulldogs to bring pressure on clear passing downs. Above all else, this is the key to the game.
Moore looks for targets Gone are Austin Pettis and Titus Young, Kellen Moore’s security blankets over the last two years. And Boise is down another receiver while Gerald Boldewijn handles some eligibility issues, which will also sideline starting safety Cedric Febis and defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe. The search is on for new targets for Moore to work with: Tyler Shoemaker’s there, as is tight end Kyle Efaw, but the remainder of the receiver corps lacks experience. But they’ll make plays, both against the Bulldogs and especially as the year wears on. We just don’t know who will step into larger roles, not yet, and won’t know until at least after tonight.
Lack of depth vs. lots of depth Georgia’s offensive line: thin. Boise State’s defensive line: deep as they come, even without Tjong-A-Tjoe. The Bulldogs are going to have their hands full all game with rush ends like Shea McClellin and Tyrone Crawford, not to mention backup ends like Jarrell Root, Tyler Horn and Kharyee Marshall. Along the interior, Billy Winn and Chase Baker are strong against the run and deceptively quick off the snap. I have great concerns about Georgia’s ability to handle Boise State’s extremely deep, talented and experienced defensive front.
Prediction Boise State 31, Georgia 20.
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