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Looking Towards Georgia-Boise State

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.

You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.

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  1. DMK says:

    I was going to launch right into my anti-Boise tirade, but that last paragraph has stopped me cold!

    It will be criminal if LSU-Oregon and Georgia-Boise overlap: These two match-ups encapsulate about 90% of college-football buzz over the last couple of years.

    Can someone start a petition?

  2. [...] Paul Myerberg’s early preview is the best analysis I’ve read so far, particularly with regard to the psychology of both teams coming in.  For example, … 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. ScoutDawg says:

    Damn, I was all caught up in my DawgAholic frenzy and did not realise LSU opens up with Oregon. Talk about putting your SEC cojones on the line from the rip, both of these games are sure to get 2011 off to a rousing freakin’ start! Can’t wait for September.

  4. pmeisel says:

    I don’t think Georgia – Boise means much of anything.

    Georgia has been an SEC also ran for the past several years — questionable for the top 25. Boise’s schedule ain’t much but they have played well enough against good competition to prove they rate at least that high, if not higher.

    Boise beating Georgia doesn’t prove much more than Boise beating Kentucky or Vanderbilt. Georgia beating Boise would possibly demonstrate that Georgia is back as a top half SEC team.

  5. DMK says:

    Georgia-Boise is a pure symbol of college football over the last five years.

    Georgia is dripping with raw, hyped talent all over the field; their third-string kids look better on paper than anyone Boise has; we’ll be hearing a lot of these names on Sunday for years to come; a huge fan base, stadium, bank account, conference; can’t seem to put things together and win: Why? Some say UGA sucks and some say they’re just a middling SEC team, but still better than Boise.

    Boise is, well, the opposite.

    This game is huge, especially if:

    (1) UGA dominates Boise and then goes on to finish third in the SEC East.
    (2) Boise wins and UGA goes on to win the SEC East (i.e., they show they’re both pretty good, a la Va. Tech).

    The chain reaction of late-season BCS theorizing depends on match-ups like this one.

  6. BobJ says:

    Is there time for Georgia to rip out their turf and install a bright red one to match their red jerseys and (for this game only) red pants?

  7. michael says:

    Boise can’t prove itself, there is nothing they can do to prove themselves, everyone’s mind is already made up. They’ve proven themselves over and over, beating Oklahoma, Oregon, Va Tech, going undefeated over and over… and every season they have to prove themselves again. There is a system from which they are structurally disconnected and they cannot do anything about it. They tried to join the Mountain West; everyone good leaves the Mountain West. If they win against UGA, UGA will go on to a mediocre season and then they wont have proven anything. Or they’ll lose to a rock-solid TCU team and UGA will go to a BCS bowl while a one-loss Boise goes back to the Poinsettia or Las Vegas. Va Tech last season lost to Boise State, wasn’t as good of a football team as Boise State, and still got the systemic, structural BCS payout. Boise State literally cannot win, even if they win.

  8. JW says:

    Contrary to some opinions, this game carries huge significance.
    If Boise wins, they can finally claim to have defeated an SEC team that, while not currently at its peak, garnered a #1 ranking only three seasons ago and is considered one of the most storied programs in history. It would also put one of the final nails in Mark Richt’s coffin, one of the winningest coaches in the past decade.
    If Georgia wins, it would (rightly or wrongly) function as the trump card against any argument that Boise belongs among the college football elite. Likewise, it could wake a sleeping giant and ignite Georgia on a run of dominance in an unusually weak SEC East for the time being.
    LSU and Oregon are stable programs. That matchup will mostly only affect the complexion of this season, and not the futures of those programs. However, as Paul identified, Georgia and Boise are both at a crossroads. The outcome of this game could have ramifications for both programs that stretch into the next few years.

  9. michael says:

    My PSR Top 25 Prediction Prediction

    1. LSU
    2. Oklahoma
    3. Alabama
    4. Oregon
    5. Florida State
    6. Boise State
    7. Texas A&M
    8. South Carolina
    9. Mississippi State
    10. Oklahoma State
    11. Notre Dame
    12. Ohio State
    13. Arkansas
    14. Nebraska
    15. Virginia Tech
    16. Wisconsin
    17. West Virginia
    18. Stanford
    19. Miami (Fl)
    20. Texas Christian
    21. Penn State
    22. Texas Longhorns
    23. Brigham Young
    24. Air Force
    25. Houston

    [My guesses for this order are based on the "Two Days Later, 25 for 2011", events in the off-season, and my guesses about PSR's perceptions of conference and regional strength.]

  10. DaUUU!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    After watching what Kellen Moore and Boise St. did on their final drive against VaTech, I will never doubt/bet against their heart or skill ever.

  11. Dontel says:

    I agree with you Paul on Aaron Murray being the best QB in the SEC. And this is coming from a South Carolina grad that bleeds Garnet and Black. Garcia does trump him in experience and will have more weapons at his disposal, but Murray is the real deal.

  12. Hokieshibe says:

    Michael – Miss St seems a bit high there. I’d drop them, and maybe Oklahoma St a bit (losing their O-Coord may hurt quite a bit).

  13. gtwrek says:

    I’ve alreay seen an ad on ABC promoting this game at 8:00 EST. It’s a crying shame because it’s an interesting game but everyone will be watching LSU-Oregon.

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned is that UGA is one of the only schools (the only?) to play and beat Boise in a regualr season OOC game the past 10 years. Been 6 or 7 years now, but it’s still something I’m sure Boise is aware of.

  14. Colin says:

    Not the only regular season OOC Boise State has had recently. The year after their first Fiesta Bowl loss, they had a chance to beat the a PAC 10 team on the road for the first time, but lost to UW 24-10. That (2008) was their last regular season OOC loss.

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