2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - Boise State vs. Georgia
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Sept. 3 Boise State 35 … Georgia 21
CFN Analysis: Kellen Moore was throwing darts. He overcame an early interception to finish hitting 28-of-34 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, showing that there really is life without Austin Pettis and Titus Young. Once again, though, the offense will get all the credit, but the defensive line was one of the biggest keys to the big win stuffing Georgia for 57 rushing yards outside of the early 80-yard Brandon Boykin touchdown dash. Shea McClellin dominated the Georgia offensive front finishing with a team-leading seven tackles and 2.5 sacks, and the rest of the defense did its part with six sacks and several pressures. This was Moore's game, though, as he showed off the type of accuracy that made Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers Super Bowl champions.
The Georgia offensive line was ripped up, and that was it for the Dawg hopes. When Aaron Murray had time, which wasn't often, he was terrific showing off the next-level arm and accuracy that made him a preseason All-SEC pick. Isaiah Crowell was fine, averaging four yards per carry with 60 yards on 15 carries, but he didn't get much room to move. The defense wasn't all that bad, but it couldn't come up with the stop in key moments and the secondary got picked clean by Kellen Moore, even when the coverage was solid. Beating South Carolina next week is all that matters, and now the pressure is on more than ever. Georgia really does have talent and it has the potential to come up with a big year, but it'll be tough if the storyline becomes all about Mark Richt's job status.
(AP) ATLANTA -- As Boise State celebrated yet another opening victory over a marquee opponent, a blue-clad fan wandered through the mostly empty stands at the Georgia Dome, screaming to no one in particular.
"Too small! Not fast enough! Not talented enough! Can't hang with the big boys!"
Kellen Moore and those BCS Busters from Boise State are off and running again, coming into the heart of mighty SEC country to beat up Georgia.
Moore threw for three touchdowns -- giving him 102 in his career -- and the No. 5 Broncos romped past the 19th-ranked Bulldogs 35-21 Saturday night, boosting their hopes of making another run to a major bowl while dealing a huge blow to embattled Georgia coach Mark Richt.
"I had a gut feeling it would go pretty well," said senior Doug Martin, who ran for a touchdown. "This game definitely has given momentum to our season."
That's nothing new.
In the last three seasons, Boise State has started the season with victories against Oregon, Virginia Tech and now Georgia.
"We've got some good players who have played a lot of football," Broncos coach Chris Petersen said. "They like to play on these stages. In some ways, that helps us. They don't get to play on this stage every day. They appreciate playing against a program like Georgia. They really do."
No one enjoyed himself more than Moore.
The nation's top-rated passer last season and expected to be a leading Heisman contender, he carved up Georgia's 3-4 defense after a sluggish start. Moore completed 28 of 34 for 261 yards, with his first scoring pass -- a 17-yarder to freshman Matt Miller -- giving him 100 for his brilliant career.
He had two more before the night was done to lead the Broncos (1-0) to their first win ever over a Southeastern Conference team.
"Growing up watching football, I have a ton of respect for the SEC," Moore said. "I'm aware of all the success they've had. I watched Georgia play a lot of big games growing up. To play a game like this was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. We were fortunate to come out on top."
After a 12-yard scoring pass to Kyle Efaw gave Boise a 14-7 lead at halftime, Moore got the ball back on the first possession of the second half and directed a drive that broke Georgia's back. Completing seven straight passes covering 69 yards, he set up Martin's 7-yard touchdown run that put the Broncos up 21-7.
Then, late in the third quarter, a big punt return helped finish off the Bulldogs. Chris Potter brought it back 49 yards to the Georgia 28, a facemask penalty gave Boise State another first down and Moore threaded a 3-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Tyler Shoemaker for a three-touchdown lead.
The red-clad Bulldog fans began heading for the exits, leaving the celebration to a small contingent in blue that made the long trip from Idaho. They gathered above the tunnel leading to the Broncos locker room, serenading their team with chants of "Boise State! Boise State!"
The Broncos came in with an 0-4 record against SEC teams, including an ugly 48-13 loss at Georgia's Sanford Stadium back in 2005.
"This means a lot to us," Petersen said. "The last time we came down here, it wasn't even a game. With the history of this program, to come here and play well is something these kids can be very proud of."
Of course, what happened in the past has little to do with where these teams are today.
Boise State and Georgia have gone in dramatically opposite directions since that '05 season, when the Bulldogs went on to claim their second SEC title in Richt's first five years. They haven't won another, dropping to 6-7 a year ago for their first losing season since 1996. If the 11th-year coach can't turn things around quickly -- and this wasn't a good start -- his job could be in jeopardy.
"We have a lot of work to do," Richt said. "But SEC play hasn't even started. It's a long season. We've got to get our minds right. A game like this, no question, we know more about our football team than if we played someone and beat them by 40. Hopefully that translates into us learning how to play better in these type of games and better see where our weaknesses are."
There's no time to sulk. Next week, the Bulldogs (0-1) open conference play with another crucial game against No. 12 South Carolina, the defending SEC East champion.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have outgrown being America's Cinderella team, qualifying for major bowls two of the last five years even while playing in the lightly regarded Western Athletic Conference. They joined the Mountain West this season but know they still have no room for error if they want to be playing with the big boys in January.
No problem in this one.
Georgia's Aaron Murray put up a couple of long touchdown passes in the second half -- one after a punt was nullified by an offsides penalty. But it wasn't nearly enough against Moore and his seasoned team, even with the Broncos missing a couple of foreign-born starters who didn't make the trip because the NCAA was reviewing their eligibility.
Both teams started sluggishly, slipping and sliding on a field with which neither was familiar. Georgia was called for three penalties on its first possession, then went three-and-out on its second. Finally, the Bulldogs broke loose with a play that Boise State couldn't have seen coming.
Brandon Boykin, a cornerback and returner for the Bulldogs, checked in for the offense. He took a handoff coming around right end, got a couple of good blocks and was gone -- 80 yards for a touchdown on the first carry of the junior's career.
That huge play roused a red-clad crowd that left little doubt this was no neutral-site game.
The Broncos traveled across the country for the second year in a row to play in an NFL stadium not far from the campus of their opponent. Last season, they opened with a victory over Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., home of the Washington Redskins. This time, they agreed to play at the Georgia Dome, normally the home of the Atlanta Falcons but only 75 miles from the Bulldogs' campus.
Used to bucking the odds, the Broncos took a little time to get going, then seemed to figure out a defense that was expected to carry Georgia in the early going while the team breaks in a new group of receivers -- A.J. Green is now in the NFL -- and touted freshman Isaiah Crowell at running back.
Crowell showed a few flashes of his potential but wasn't much of a factor, finishing with 60 yards on 15 carries. Murray took quite a beating at quarterback and, appropriately enough, took the last of his six sacks on Georgia's final offensive play. He went 16 of 29 for 236 yards, including touchdowns of 36 yards to Orson Charles and 51 yards to another freshman, Malcolm Mitchell.
All those did was make the final score a little more respectable.
There was no doubt about the better team.
"I think it shows what type of team we are," receiver Mitch Burroughs said. "Not a lot of talk. We just play our game."
State (0-0) vs. Georgia (0-0) in Atlanta Sept. 3, 8:00, ESPN
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Here's The Deal … Despite all the big moments, and even with all the double-digit win seasons, and through all the prove-it games, Boise State still can't get any semblance of love.
The Broncos are being lied to time and again, and because of their schedule, and because no one wants to give them a real, honest shot to play for the national title, they're being led again to think that it'll matter if they win the big game against the name team.
The conventional wisdom was that if Boise State beat Virginia Tech in last year's season opener – a home game for the Hokies in Landover, Maryland – the respect would come. Tech went on to win the ACC title and played in the Orange Bowl, while college football couldn't have celebrated more when Nevada pulled off the upset over the Broncos in late November.
Did the Broncos improve their stature and standing in any way after dominating and destroying a 2009 Oregon team that went on to win the Rose Bowl? No. Did anyone care a lick after the win over Oregon at Oregon in 2008? No.
Oh, sure, during the idle time of a few offseasons, the media paid lip-service to the idea of Boise State really and truly being a top five team after beating TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl to finish 14-0 and after shocking the world in the win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but that didn't last long. And this year, it doesn't matter if Boise State pulls off the win over Georgia, because once again, no one around any BCS conference will buy into the idea that the team could last against a real week-in-and-week-out schedule.
It doesn't matter that the program has proven itself over and over and over and over again. It doesn't matter that Toledo could be one of the best teams in the MAC and it doesn't matter that Tulsa could win the Conference USA title. It doesn't matter that Nevada, Air Force, and TCU are all going to be strong – and all three have to go to Boise. All that matters is that BCS-league fans are going to notice that this game against Georgia is the only one against a BCS conference team.
Even if Boise State does go 12-0, it's going to take the Alabamas, Oregons, and Ohio States of the world to royally screw up for a Mountain West team to end up in New Orleans on January 9th. And if the Broncos lose, then that's it for the national relevance until BCS at-large time – fair or not – even at 11-1.
It's a far different situation for Georgia, who has as bizarre a situation as any team going into this season. After going 6-7 last year, head coach Mark Richt is on a double-secret hot seat that can't go up even one more degree. If he and his Dawgs beat Boise State – showing how times have changed when an SEC has to prove itself against a Mountain West squad – and follow it up with a win over South Carolina to kick off SEC play, the "this year's Auburn" tag will start to get thrown out.
Making the scenario even more wild, Georgia could lose its first two games, deal with the "Georgia's next coach will be … " articles, and still go on to win the conference title with as light and breezy an SEC schedule as anyone could dream of.
Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU are the three best teams in the SEC, and possibly three of the five best teams in America, and Georgia misses them all. Considering the Boise State and Georgia Tech games are in Atlanta, and with the Florida showdown always in neutral territory, the Dawgs have just three true road games: at Ole Miss, at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt. Yes, Boise State could win this game, go 12-0, and it still won't be given the respect of the credit that Georgia will receive if it goes 10-2 and ends up winning the SEC championship.
In the running narrative that is the college football season, this will be a key chapter. If you don't want another year like last one, when 37% of the time and energy went to discussing the worthiness of Boise State, get your Georgia pom-poms out. If you want to see the SEC get knocked down a peg, hope for the Broncos to pull out the win. Either way, no matter what the outcome, this will turn out to be one of the most important games of the season.
Why Boise State Might Win: At some point, Boise State will be recognized for having a hard-nosed football team that stuffs running games cold.
Nevada ran for 269 yards and three touchdowns against the Broncos, and Utah State rolled up 250 yards in a 50-14 loss, but the run defense held Virginia Tech to just 128 yards, allowed a mere 78 against Oregon State, kept Fresno State to 45, and allowed just 107 against Utah on the way to finishing seventh in the nation against the run and second in total D and scoring D. That wasn't an aberration, allowing just 120 rushing yards per game in 2009, 118 in 2008 and 131 in 2007. Ryan Winterswyck is gone to the NFL, but everyone else is back on the defensive front including most of the key backups. The line is so good that it'll overshadow Byron Hout and the tremendous linebacking corps all year long, and the front seven isn't going to allow much of anything against the Georgia ground game.
The Dawg offensive line got hit with injuries again, the stable of running backs went from deep and talented to injured and questionable with Caleb King and Washaun Ealey gone and Richard Samuel and Isaiah Crowell both limping. No, Georgia won't be able to power the ball on the Broncos.
Why Georgia Might Win: Back up to the Boise State opener last year against Virginia Tech. The Broncos were excellent on special teams, they took advantage of a key fumble early on, D.J. Harper took off for a 71-yard scoring dash, and the defense played lights out. Even with all of that, and even with the Hokies sputtering all night long, it still took a phenomenal late drive and a Heisman-caliber moment from Kellen Moore to pull the game out of the fire.
No one will beat Georgia on special teams this year, especially in the kicking game; the Dawgs finished 19th in the nation in turnover margin and will almost certainly be stingier with the ball now that quarterback Aaron Murray has a year of experience, and the defense should be better at getting into the backfield and should be far stronger against the run and should have a huge advantage in the secondary. This might be a no-name defense, but it has the pieces in place to be rock solid, especially against the pass. Georgia might sputter and cough at times on offense, and it's hardly going to come up with an even performance, but if it can win in the other two phases of the game, it should be able to pull this off.
How good is the Georgia secondary? Top safety Bacarri Rambo isn't assured of a starting spot with several players competing for jobs in the deep group. Considering the defensive front seven is better, the Bronco offense should have consistency problems especially because …
What To Watch Out For: This might come down to which team's new batch of receivers can make the biggest impact.
The Boise State receiving corps might be the biggest question mark of any unit on any top ten team. Titus Young finished his Boise State career with 204 catches for 3,063 yards and 25 touchdowns, along with eight touchdown runs, and Austin Pettis ended his great career with 229 catches for 2,838 yards and 39 touchdowns. Geraldo Boldweijn – the artist formerly known as Geraldo Hiwat –
was supposed to be a major playmakers, but he was
suspended for the game. Tyler Shoemaker is promising, and having a Heisman-caliber quarterback getting the
new targets the ball makes things easier, but this isn't a Georgia secondary that a team can tune-up against. Young and Pettis combined for 141 of the team's 299 catches last season, while Shoemaker and Boldweijn combined for 43. Can the receivers come through in the clutch? They might have to.
Georgia doesn't have secondary problems, but Boise State does, replacing three key starters. The new Dawg starting receivers have to take advantage of the matchups with all eyes on Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Malcolm Mitchell, and Rantavious Wooten to try to replace A.J. Green and Kris Durham, who combined to make 89 of the team's 218 catches. Like Boise State's situation, the hope will be for the stellar quarterback, Aaron Murray, to make everyone better.
What Will Happen: Don't buy into any sort of abstract idea that Georgia is going to win because it really, really wants to. Oregon went out of its way to declare that it was going to make a statement in the opener two years ago, and it got beaten up and battered in an embarrassing loss. Virginia Tech was going to kick off its big year with a win last year, and didn't get the job done. The Dawgs will come out smoking, but Kellen Moore will be Kellen Moore as he calmly and coolly spreads the ball around and makes key throw after key throw to keep the Georgia defense on its heels. The Bronco defense will shut down the running game and will get into the backfield just enough to bother Murray into a mediocre game … and it won't be enough. The Dawgs will get several field goals from Blair Walsh, a few big kick returns, and one great drive to get ahead, and then they'll hang on for dear life as this year's Bronco last-gasp first game comeback falls just short
with a missed field goal at the end. Don't expect
CFN Prediction: Georgia 22 ... Boise State 20
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