Looking Towards Georgia-Boise State
By Paul Myerberg // Aug 8, 2011
The Top 25 awaits, leaving me without a ton of time to write accompanying posts with each team. As I did earlier in the summer, I thought it would be safe to push an earlier post, one from Mar. 11, up to the top of the list to join today’s Georgia preview. On the docket: Georgia, Boise State, and what the game means to each team.
Fourteen losses in 26 games is barely tolerable even in Atlanta, which should illustrate the temperature of Mark Richt’s seat as he enters the first year of his second decade in Georgia. His Bulldogs dearly need a lift, and not just in the win column: the entire program needs to regain its confidence, a mentality misplaced during a disappointing 2008 campaign and lost completely over the last two seasons. Like its SEC neighbors, L.S.U., Georgia leaps right into a vital 2011 with a neutral site date with a heavyweight foe: Boise State.
In this game, the Broncos will be the underdog in name only; the Georgia name carries more prestige, but the Bulldogs have plenty of questions to address before taking the field on the first Saturday in September. That’s taking the field against a team with genuine national title hopes — unlike Georgia, Boise has nothing left to prove.
Well, that’s not entirely true. The Broncos always have something to prove, thanks to the national consensus stating the program unqualified to be taken in the same breath as the nation’s elite. A victory over Georgia thereby matters dearly, if only for the above reason: Georgia’s name carries a cachet, and regardless of whether Georgia has been a recent disappointment a victory for the Broncos will provide some boost in both polls. That’s the underlying message of this game for Boise.
1. Once again, Boise plays for respect. This is tiresome for me, for you, for anyone who knows good football when they see it. Are you ready to have this argument again in 2011? One portion of the country will stick up for the Broncos; another third, if I’m choosing an arbitrary numbers, will write them off as pretenders — I’m guessing SEC country will lead the way; and another third will remain ambivalent — basketball schools, for example.
It will again be up to Boise to prove itself on the field: it did so to start last season, taking out Virginia Tech in its own backyard, and will have to do so again in a similar situation this September. The game will be in Atlanta, giving the Bulldogs a similar home-field advantage at a neutral site, and it will take all the confidence and fortitude Boise has to fight off what should be a raucous environment.
2. Strangely, so does Georgia. Think Boise State is the only team of the pair looking for some national respect? Georgia’s also on the lookout for that same measure of recognition, though for slightly different reasons: while Boise just needs a resume boost for another run towards the B.C.S., Georgia needs to show the SEC, the region and the country, to a lesser degree, that this season will be different than the last. The best way to do that, of course, is to knock off the Broncos in what should be a nationally televised event.
Let’s not forget that we’ve been here before. Back in 2005, Boise went to Athens for the season opener holding a three-year mark of 36-3; four quarters later, Georgia escaped with a 48-13 win, dominating the Broncos from start to finish in a win that was thought to have sent Boise back to irrelevance. Not quite. There is a difference between the 2005 version and this year’s team: those Broncos were young and inexperienced, while the current Broncos are as battle-tested as any team in the nation.
3. Moore’s Heisman campaign needs a win. Last fall, his run towards the Heisman ended with Boise’s loss to Nevada. Not that Moore would have beaten out Cam Newton or Andrew Luck even with a win, but few voters outside the West Coast were going to vote for a non-B.C.S. quarterback whose team was out of the national title picture. In 2011, Moore’s candidacy will be made on Sept. 3. No, it won’t be decided in the positive should the Broncos win, but his candidacy will be dead in the water should they lose.
4. His counterpart also has lofty goals. Those outside the SEC aren’t quite familiar with Aaron Murray, Georgia’s starting quarterback. They will be by the end of 2011, when he proves himself to be the SEC’s best at the position, and he might make waves as early as September should he outplay Moore en route to a victory. And about the best-quarterback-in-the-SEC argument: you can cite Stephen Garcia, but in 2011, the conference doesn’t offer anyone better than Murray.
5. Protection vs. aggression. Few teams protect the quarterback better than Boise State, which allowed nine sacks — tied for fourth nationally — all of last season. In comparison, Georgia allowed 25.0 sacks, tied for 66th in the country; it’s a wonder that Murray played as well he did, given the sometimes porous nature of his pass protection. A similar dichotomy exists in each team’s ability to get to the quarterback: Boise posted 48.0 sacks, tied for first in the F.B.S., while Georgia tied for 65th with 24.0.
You won’t beat Boise State unless you get pressure on Kellen Moore: Nevada showed this last November, hitting Moore enough to tamper with his rhythm — and the rhythm of the offense as a whole. Georgia must get to Moore while eluding two major hurdles: the first is the play of the Boise offensive line, which thanks to the return of players like Nate Potter remains one of the nation’s best; and the second is the loss of outside linebacker Justin Houston, who accounted for nearly half of his team’s total sack output in 2010. Georgia desperately needs to find his replacement, as well as get an improved pass rush from the defensive line.
Another thing that remains to be seen: Oregon-L.S.U. is scheduled to be a 7 p.m. start on the East Coast, so we’ll see if the networks put the Bulldogs and Broncos against that game. Unfortunately, there is a strong, strong chance that the latter will be televised nationally at 8 p.m. — I’m thinking ABC, since the Tigers and Ducks are scheduled for ESPN. Picture-in-picture was invented for a reason, as were digital recorders.
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Tags: Boise State, Georgia, Kellen Moore, Mark Richt, Nate Potter
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