Alright, I think it’s a day early, not sure though…
Opponent: Boise State Broncos
Kickoff: 8:00 PM
The long wait is over. College football is back upon us. Offseasons are always longer when you lose your bowl game. When you lose your bowl game to Central Florida, it’s like it doesn’t end. Anyway, here we are, at the dawn of a new season…just a few more days and we can put all of that behind us and focus on a new season.
The last time we opened with Boise State, we were the trendy upset pick by just about everyone looking to be edgy. We romped them and went on to win the East and upset LSU for the SEC title. That seems like a long, long time ago. Since that time, Boise has gone on to win 2 BCS games and become a fixture in the top 10 of each week’s polls. They’ve also notched wins against VT, Oregon (twice) and Oregon State. This is a team that’s a good bit better than the last version we saw. In 2005, our win was greeted with the predictable, Boise State just isn’t ready for bigtime football, response that proved that game was a lose-lose affair for UGA. That type of win this year would be greeted with significantly different responses as BSU has proven themselves to be a respectable football team and program. Heck, their program even got in NCAA trouble last year, proving they’re ready to step up to the big time.
- Boise puts up stats like I did in Madden ’94 when I used the Cowboys. They’ve got a balanced attack, equally effective on the ground as in the air. Sure their stats benefit greatly from playing a lot of teams that would be homecoming opponents for most of the major conferences, but these guys execute game in and game out and they’re putting up consistent numbers against everyone. They use a ton of motion and formation changes to see how the defense responds to certain things and get the matchups they want. I’d imagine we’ll be in the nickel formation a lot with their 2 wide set being their base. They lost their OC but Petersen
- At QB, Kellen Moore has put up numbers that are really hard to wrap your head around. In the last two seasons he’s finished 2nd, then 1st in passing efficiency in the NCAA. I don’t care if it’s against scout teams in practice, his 74 TDs to 9 INTs over the last 2 years is pretty impressive. A southpaw with a quick release, his arm isn’t super strong and he’s not the biggest guy in the world at 6-0 and under 200 pounds, but he doesn’t make many mistakes and from when I’ve watched him play, pressure doesn’t really rattle him. He tends to throw off his back foot under pressure, which is OK because he’s able to maintain accuracy (over 70% completion in 10 games last year) but it takes a little more zip off his passes which gives DBs more time to react, which is a bigger deal against UGA than it is Wyoming. He threw at least 2 TD passes in every game last year and throws a great deep ball. He’s smart and has a knack for sensing the blitz. Want proof? He’s only been sacked 11 times in the last 2 years combined, and he’s not a super mobile guy although he has a real knack for sensing the pocket collapse.
- At RB, Sr Doug Martin is a bowling ball at 5-9, 215, rushing for over 1,200 yards last year and over 6 ypc, good for 12 TDs. He’s a quick, shifty back but isn’t a pure speed guy. He’s a real threat in the passing game (think screens), reeling in 28 catches for over 300 yards last year (4th on the team in catches and yards). He’s a model of consistency, only dropping below 6 ypc in 3 games last year (all wins). In fact, it wasn’t Martin’s fault that they lost the game they did (Nevada), as he had his highest yardage total of the season (152 yards). They have experienced depth too with speedy senior DJ Harper spelling Martin.
- Boise State lost far and away their top 2 WRs from last year (just like UGA), with both being drafted in the first 3 rounds. Like UGA, those 2 guys dominated the stats sheet. The greater than 2,100 yards receiving they had accounted for over half of the BSU passing attack last year. The leading returning WR is Sr. Tyler Shoemaker, whose 582 yards and 18.2 ypc average also compare extremely well to UGA’s top returner (Tavares King, 504 yards, 18.7 avg). This is one of the few positions on the whole team that isn’t senior laden, as outside of Shoemaker they don’t have a lot of proven depth. TE Kyle Efaw caught 24 passes last year and his 5 TDs tied Shoemaker to lead returners.
- WR isn’t the only spot that BSU isn’t senior laden. While they do project to start 2 seniors along the line, they also have a couple of sophomores slated and only return 3 of 5, which compared to the rest of the team is like wholesale turnover. LT Nate Potter has made several All-America teams and at 6-6, 300 certainly has the size you look for. Fellow senior, OC Thomas Byrd doesn’t however, coming in at a mere 5-11, 290 although to his credit he’s a 1st team All-WAC player. I’d have to think RT will be a worry for them as well as Sophomore Charles Leno has added mass to get to 295 (played at 275 last year) but at 6-3, might not have the length to contend with long edge rushers like Washington.
- Bottom Line: If someone tells you they know exactly what’s going to happen in this game when BSU has the ball, they’re kidding either you or themselves. BSU has only been held under 30 points 4 times in the last 2 years and only once last year (Utah). Their stats were understandably huge. 21st in rushing offense nationally, 6th in passing offense, good for 2nd in total offense and converting it to 2nd in scoring offense. It’s a misnomer that they are a pass-happy spread, as they run the ball a ton (Moore only had about 40 more attempts than Murray last year). Moore is a senior QB that knows his offense, knows how to make quick decisions and can certainly frustrate a defense by recognizing schemes and finding weak spots. Add in a strong, powerful runner and you’ve got the kind of balanced attack that allows a team to keep a D on its heels. If BSU had either of their top 2 WRs from last year back, I’d be even more worried as they would be far more dangerous on hot routes and the like in blitz situations. Without them, BSU might experience a bit of a learning curve getting those guys on the same page as Moore. Watch for Martin on screens to try and take advantage of UGA’s speed.
- Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: For us, it’ll be our front 3 vs. the BSU OL. We have a pretty big size advantage in the interior that will command a double team consistently. I just don’t see how Byrd can block Geathers or Jenkins by himself with any consistency giving up 60 pounds. If we can command two nearly every play, I’d imagine we’ll slow their run game considerably because we’ll be freeing someone up to make a play. As good as Moore is, if we can make them one-dimensional, I like our chances at holding their offense in check, not shutting it down completely, just slowing it.
- As impressive as their offensive stats were, their defensive numbers were even more so. 7th nationally in rush defense, 4th in pass defense, 2nd in total defense, 1st in sacks, etc. They held over half of their opponents to half their season scoring averages or less. They pitched 3 shutouts and held 3 other opponents to a TD or less. They are loaded with seniors. On paper this is a solid, solid defensive unit but it’s really hard to get a feel for how good they’ll be in the Dome. Sure, they return a lot but it’s really hard to compare the successes of last season to what to expect against UGA and its more pro-style attack, which I don’t know that they’ve seen much of.
- The BSU DL sports 4 senior starters and is the heart of their D. The interior tandem of Billy Winn and Chase Baker is solid with both making All-WAC teams last year. Winn in particular is a talent and projected NFL draftee. Crawford at DE is the only new starter on the line and is a big kid that had a good year last year after transferring from JUCO. At the other DE spot, Shea McClellin led the team in sacks with 9.5 last year. They did lose 1st team All WAC DE Ryan Winterswyk, who’s trying to catch on in the NFL as a TE.
- BSU employs a 4-2-5 base with a rover a la the spur that SC played a few years back under Holtz. I’ll list that extra DB type in with the DBs since they call him a Nickel Back, but he’ll play down in the box a good bit. Both returning LB types are seniors (shocker). Byron Hout and Aaron Tevis are both capable defenders with good size. Hout managed to make All-WAC (it might be easier to list who didn’t) despite missing some time to injury.
- The secondary lost 2 starters from last year, one first team WAC guy in S Jeron Johnson who led the team in tackles) and a 2nd team WAC CB. The other 1st team WAC safety returns though in George Iloka, who has tremendous size for the safety position at 6-3, 215. I’m not sure who’s starting at the other CB spot but I’d imagine senior Jerrell Gavins will get a long look. At 5-9, 167 he’s experienced but not going to cause any physical mismatches in BSU’s favor.
- Bottom Line: It’s hard to say that Boise preyed on a weak schedule because while they didn’t play a schedule stacked week in and week out with offensive powerhouses, they absolutely shut down everyone they did play with the notable exception of Nevada. They held most of their opponents to well below their season scoring and yardage averages. In terms of scoring, they literally held every opponent to under their season average. My guess is BSU is going to roll in and see how their front 4 fares against our OL to see if they can slow our running game without stacking the box. Since our OL looks considerably different than last season both from a personnel and coaching standpoint and both of our RBs are fresh, I think they’ll go through a feeling out process before they put their secondary in a position for Murray to burn them. I see no reason for them to stack the box when Murray is the only real known we have. They stack it and King and Charles will pick them apart (hopefully). I look for them to make us establish the run, which is exactly what we’ll be trying to do anyway as it opens up our play action. If we aren’t able to get a push early, and we might very well not be able to against that front, look for us to hit the edge hard with Crowell and a couple of change of pace things like Smith or Mitchell (just guessing here). I’m a fan of the bootleg and rollouts since Murray is so good on the run, so if we struggle on the ground, let’s get him moving. Murray rolling right with Charles dragging across the formation makes me happy.
- Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: Gates is tested but Burnette certainly isn’t at RG. He’s got talent and is super bright but this is his first big-game action. Given the strengths of BSU’s D being up the middle, I’m anxious to see how he holds up. The fact he’s our smallest OL adds to the worry. The thing I’m going to watch with the most curiosity though is how we use our TEs. Given it’s likely that Charles, White and Lynch will all see the field with regularity and given how flexible Charles and White are, I hope we come up with some wrinkles for them. Throw in Figgins at FB and you’ve got a TE party that would get a Dan Reeves draft room all hot and bothered.
The Boise Game Overall
Ah, who the heck knows? This ain’t the same BSU team that trotted into Athens 6 years ago hoping to win. This team expects to win. They’ve toppled elite programs on the biggest of stages since we last tangled, so don’t expect another 48-13 win with 570 yards of offense. This team is solid on both sides of the ball and is looking to prove it…again.
With that said, they’re solid, but I’m not convinced that they’re a top 5 team. They simply don’t have enough to go off of. I’ll say what’s been said about a million times already. That VT team they beat in the opener last year lost THE NEXT WEEK to a FCS team. VT didn’t become good again until late and based on the way they got romped by Stanford in their BCS game, I’m not so sure they ever got good, just ACC good. The only other games BSU had to get up for were Oregon State, Nevada and Utah, and they lost one of those. In the end they can only do what they can do, and it’s not their fault (actually it is for losing, ok, so one year they didn’t) that their bowl opponents the last few years have been TCU (twice) and Utah, other mid-majors that didn’t allow them to showcase themselves against BCS opponents.
I really do see both teams being pretty similar, and obviously Vegas does to (line of BSU by 3). Our offenses are surprisingly similar with them having more seasoning at QB and RB but us likely having the better overall offensive talent (I’ll wager we have far more offensive guys Saturday that end up making NFL rosters than BSU). Their defense looks great on paper but lost a chunk of their very good secondary. I can’t get a read on them because of who they’ve played and I can’t get a read on us because it’s hard to tell how much we’ve improved in year 2 of the 3-4. It could come down to special teams and turnovers. If it’s special teams, I like our chances…a lot. With Walsh, Butler and Boykin we have arguably the top kicker and punter in the country and one of the most dangerous returners in the SEC. Considering BSU missed 2 FGs in their OT loss to Nevada, they understand as well as anyone the meaning of good special teams. If it’s turnovers, it’ll likely favor BSU as Moore just rarely turns the ball over, and while Murray’s not turnover prone, Samuel has shown he can be.
In the end, what does this game say or define about our season? Not much. Ask VT, who parlayed an opening week loss to Boise into a BCS bowl berth. Going in the other direction, a win is like getting some icing but then being told you have to go earn the cake, which in this overdone metaphor would of course be the SEC title, with the first layer being earned in Athens the following weekend against SC. The difference between this year and 2005 is that a win over BSU would truly be seen as meaningful instead of the about-face all of the media members did in 2005, declaring BSU to be obviously not as good as we thought. That was unfair to both teams.
- Can’t wait to see Crowell….or Drew, or Mitchell, or Swann…
- Everything I’m hearing about Alec Ogletree at LB gets me excited. Freed of some of his coverage responsibilities now, he can just flow to the ball and something tells me he’s more than capable of handling whatever coverages his MLB spot call for given his safety experience.
- Until ugasports.com put out a great article this week about his return, I had almost forgotten about the fact that Jarvis Jones was given a verdict of career-ending neck injury by the coaches at USC despite multiple other doctors disagreeing. He’s now almost 2 years removed from that. That’s got to be a little nerve-wracking. You know that man just wants to hit someone
- So did anyone catch any of the replay games they had on Fox Sports South this week? It was billed as the SEC’s great games weekend and they just aired slightly shortened versions of some of the classic games. UGA-UT from 2001 (hobnail boot game) was one of the ones they aired. How has FSS been sitting on these games and not airing them back to back all summer long? Of course I didn’t catch it until it was almost over. Dang. We won by the way. It was awesome.
- BSU as underdog? Please. According to Mr. Phil Steele, BSU was a favorite in every game they played last year. They were also a favorite in every regular season game they played in 2009. In fact, since the 2008 road game at Oregon (which they won as an underdog) in week 3, they’ve only been the underdog twice. Both were bowl games, and both were against TCU. They lost the ’08 Poinsettia Bowl 17-16 but exacted revenge the following year with a 17-10 win. In fact, they’ve been a double-digit favorite in 22 of the 27 games they’ve played in the last two seasons and were at least a 2 TD favorite in every game last year except the VT opener. Don’t let anyone give you that whole BSU is the underdog routine.
- So Pollack has an ESPN show with former UF QB Jesse Palmer called “The Palmer and Pollack Show?” Wow. Watching it, it’s hard to tell which one was the 3-time all American DL. Pollack looks like he’s lost a Billy Bennett or more in the weight department. They should have called it “The Bachelor and The Motor.” I give it 4 episodes before they work in a picture of Pollack and Greene playing pee-wee football together, somehow. The show is actually pretty good, largely due to the absence of Dr. Lou, Mark May and Craig James.
- No one drew a correlation between our poor play and the decided lack of a GA Theatre in recent seasons, so I’ll be the first. It opened in the late 70s and has been an institution ever since but suffered the fire in 2009. We’ve been pretty crappy since. It reopened a month or so ago. Bring on the awesomeness. Sorry Boise, you had no idea did you? Thus endeth the curse of The Theatre.
- So we get Nessler and Blackledge calling the game. Man, I can’t think of a better announcing crew. Does Blackledge still do Taste of the Town? I don’t think he does. How does Wikipedia not have that covered? I’m assuming he’d end up at the Varsity, unless he’s already done that.
- If you’re into lo-fi alt-country with feedback, generous harmonies, and a nice pedal steel, check out Futurebirds. I’ve seen them twice recently and enjoyed the heck out of ‘em. Good to know Athens is still cranking out the music…and one guy looks like Forest Gump when he was running back and forth across the country, which is always cool.
- Wow, so Boise State isn’t bringing their own band but will instead be using HBCU mainstay Morris Brown College. No word if Petey Pablo will join. Yes, that’s a Drumline reference.
- How odd is this season starting out. We face the two highest ranked opponents for the year in weeks 1 and 2. That’s odd. Even odder is the fact that it’s Boise State and South Carolina. Welcome back college football.
Have a safe weekend,