August 29, 2011

In-Depth Preview: Boise State vs. Georgia

MWC contributor Bradford Christensen joins us for a position-by-position breakdown of Boise State versus Georgia.


#5 BOISE STATE vs #19 GEORGIA
Chik-fil-a Kickoff Game
Georgia Dome - Atlanta, Georgia
Saturday, September 3rd
8:00 PM ET - ESPN

Six years ago to the day, #18 Boise State played #13 Georgia in Athens and got crushed 48-13, thanks in part to six turnovers by Boise quarterback Jared Zabransky. Georgia (and SEC) fans have reminded everybody of this when talking about the game on Saturday, but this is a much different Bronco team.

Since that loss, Boise State has won two BCS bowls, and included victories over Oklahoma, Oregon (twice), Oregon State (twice), TCU and Virginia Tech. Saturday's game will likely have little resemblance to the last time these teams met and should be one of the best games on opening weekend.

I don’t consider myself a Georgia expert, but I have done a position-by-position breakdown to see which team has the overall advantage. Don't hesitate to let offer your comments at the end of the post.


OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had quite the freshman season last year, completing 61% of his passes for 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions en route to becoming a Freshman All-American. Boise State senior Kellen Moore enters 2011 with high expectations after completing 71% of his passes for 3,845 yards, 35 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, earning a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist. Murray is obviously quite a talent, but based on experience the edge goes to Moore.
Advantage: Boise State

RUNNING BACK
Boise State enters 2010 led by senior Doug Martin. Martin carried 201 times last year for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns. He will get the majority of the carries, but D.J. Harper returns as a senior after suffering a season-ending injury last year in Boise’s third game. Boise's third back, Malcolm Johnson tore his ACL over the weekend and will be out for the season. Georgia currently has junior Richard Samuel listed above Isaiah Crowell on the depth chart. Samuel was originally a running back, was switching to linebacker, but has switched back to RB after the losses of Washaun Ealey (transfer) and Caleb King (academically ineligible). Crowell is a highly-touted back and could be the next Herschel Walker, but he's a true freshman and hasn't played a single college snap, so nothing is sure.
Advantage: Boise State

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
Both teams have questions at receiver, as both lost their top-two wide outs from last year. Georgia lost A.J. Green and Kris Durham, while Boise lost Austin Pettis and Titus Young. Aaron Murray will be counting on junior Tavarres King (27 Rec, 504 yds, 5 TDs) and freshman Malcolm Mitchell. Junior tight end Orson Charles (26 rec, 422 yds, 2 TDs) is a pre-season All-American that could give the Broncos some trouble depending upon the match-up. Moore's top returning targets are senior Tyler Shoemaker (32 rec, 582 yds, 5 TDs) and TE Kyle Efaw (24 rec, 299 yds, 5 TDs), but he will count on a handful of other receivers to step-up including Kirby Moore (Kellen's brother), Matt Miller, Geraldo Boldewign, Mitch Burroughs and Chris Potter.
Advantage: Push

OFFENSIVE LINE
This is the hardest group to compare and analyze. Georgia has an experienced-but-thin offensive line with three seniors, tackles Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson, and center Ben Jones. From what I've read, Glenn and Jones are supposed to be pretty impressive and will anchor Georgia’s O-line. Boise State returns the entire left side of the line including pre-season All-American left tackle Nate Potter, guard Joe Kellog and four year starter at center Thomas Byrd. Last year Georgia averaged just over 4 yards per carry and allowed 24 sacks compared to Boise State averaging nearly 5.5 ypc and allowing only 6 sacks -- but obviously the average SEC defense is a little better than your average WAC defense.
Advantage: Push

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE
Kellen Moore gets most of the hype but Boise State's defensive line could be the catalyst for another BCS run. Three starters return - defensive end Shea McClellin (8.5 sacks & 12.5 tackles for loss), defensive tackles Billy Winn (5.5 sacks & 10.5 TFL) and Chase Baker (4.5 sacks & 6.5 TFL). Tyrone Crawford (7 sacks & 13.5 TFL) will be the other starting DE replacing Ryan Winterswyk. Georgia plays a 3-4 defense so I wouldn't expect their D-line to have extremely impressive numbers but the three returners Abry Jones, DeAngelo Tyson and Kwame Geathers combined for just 1 sack and 8.5 TFL last year, although a lot is expected from Geathers as he gets increased playing time this year. The Bulldogs could also get some help from JC-transfer Johnathan Jenkins, but he has battled a hamstring injury.
Advantage: Boise State

LINEBACKER
Georgia's linebackers are big and quick, but don't seem to have a ton of experience with Christian Robinson as the only returning starter. Cornelius Washington played last year and appears to be one of the starting OLBs with incoming transfer Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree moving to ILB after playing safety last year. For the Broncos, Aaron Tevis and J.C. Percy return to share the weak side LB spot and Byron Hout returns from injury to fill the MLB position which should help the run defense. The question mark for the Broncos is at the nickel position where Hunter White and Jonathan Brown will have big shoes to fill with the departure of Winston Venable. 
Advantage: Push

SECONDARY
Boise returns senior free safety George Iloka, who anchors the secondary. He should get some help from returning starting cornerback Jamar Taylor. Jerrell Gavins will be the other starting cornerback after playing quite a bit last year, and could prove to be an upgrade over last year's starter Brandyn Thompson. The biggest concern for the Bronco defense is how strong safety Cedric Febis fills in for four year starter Jeron Johnson (leading tackler for three-straight seasons). Georgia's defense appears to be lead by the secondary with several experienced players returning. Cornerbacks Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith will be groups' playmakers (see “Special Teams”). Starting safeties Sanders Commings (36 tkls, 3 int) and Shawn Williams (34 tkls) both made solid contributions last year. Note: Branden Smith reportedly had a boot on his foot last week. Not sure what impact—if any—this could have.
Advantage: Georgia

SPECIAL TEAMS

KICKING GAME
Georgia returns perhaps the best kicking duo in the country - kicker Blair Walsh (20/23 FG and 46/47 extra points) and punter Drew Butler (44.5 yds per punt & 19 punts inside the 20). Conversely, Boise State will be replacing starters at both positions. Kickers Dan Goodale and Michael Frisina have reportedly been having good camps but have zero game experience and the punt team had difficulty getting punts off in the scrimmage - obviously huge concerns heading into a hostile environment. 
Advantage: Georgia

RETURNERS
Georgia CB Branden Smith is the team's primary punt returner averaging 14.3 yards per return (10 returns) and CB Brandon Boykin averaged 24 yards per kickoff return (34 returns) with one touchdown. Boise State wide receivers Chris Potter (13.3 yards per return, 1 touchdown on 22 returns) and Mitch Burroughs (15.8 yards per return on 8 returns) split punt return duties last year for the Broncos but they'll be replacing kickoff returner Titus Young. Perhaps we’ll see Doug Martin?
Advantage: Georgia

OTHER FACTORS

COACHING
Georgia's coming off a 6-7 season and coach Mark Richt is on the hot seat. His career record of 96-34 is pretty impressive, but he hasn't done much for Bulldog fans since winning the SEC in 2005. Chris Petersen is coming off a 12-1 season, has a career record of 61-5 and is one of the best "big game" coaches in the country (see '07, '10 Fiesta Bowls and openers against Va Tech & Oregon.)
Advantage: Boise State

MOTIVATION
The "neutral site" game is at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta - 70 miles from Georgia's campus in Athens - obviously giving the Bulldogs home field advantage.  That said, Boise State played well in a similar environment last year against Virginia Tech. I would be more concerned about this if someone other than Moore was the quarterback. Both teams have a lot to play for. Georgia is looking for a surge of energy from the big-time opener, and for the Broncos, it's a season defining game—a chance to gain more credibility and perhaps propel them toward another undefeated season and BCS bowl. 
Advantage: Push

What does it all mean?
Georgia is likely bigger, faster and stronger across the board than Boise State, but Boise State has always proven to be a smart, physical, tough team under Petersen. Kellen Moore and Doug Martin will be a tough opening test for Georgia's defense and the Bronco D-line will cause Aaron Murray and the Bulldog offense trouble throughout the night. Murray is too talented not to make some plays and keep his team in it but I'm not sure it'll be enough. If the game is close and comes down to special teams the Broncos could be in trouble. Boykin and Smith are dangerous returners and Walsh is an experienced, accurate kicker. If Boise State can limit Boykin's and Smith's returns and not rely too much on a young kicker they should leave Atlanta with a win. 

PREDICTION
Boise State 31 - Georgia 24

Read more from Bradford at Drofdarb Sports.

12 comments:

RusDawg said...

Just a reminder. Past performance is not indicative of anything.

Since the last time UGA met Boise, they have won 1 BCS bowl, 1 SEC Championship and defeated, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, GT and a slew of other teams.

Doesn't mean a thing who either team has beat in the past....

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but "From what I've read..."

"Appears to be lead..."

Have you seen any film on UGA?

What kind of analysis is possible reading blogs??

Anonymous said...

Nice in depth preview Bradford. How do you go in depth when you aren't even sure of yourself talking about the Georgia football team...

hailtogeorgia said...

All in all, a pretty fair summary. In my opinion, you're selling Georgia's TEs a little short (Georgia probably has the best TE corps in the nation) and I'd look for juniors Rantavious Wooten and Marlon Brown to be more active catching passes than Malcolm Mitchell, but nonetheless, a good write-up.

Z-Dawg said...

You guys should really stick to constantly repeating your record ans stats against teams the SEC has to pay a million bucks a game to play.

My favorite:

"but obviously the average SEC defense is a little better than your average WAC defense."

At least you understand how to write an effective humor blog!

Just to be clear the worst defense in the SEC is a little better than the averge WAC defense.

Zach Bloxham said...

The Dawgs are out in force!

Anonymous said...

I don't think your analysis is too far off, though I'd argue the special teams advantage is what makes this a real perilous game for the Broncos. UGA was statistically dominant in many categories last year (just not in the one that mattered most). I like your final score, but think the bulldogs come out on top. That team has too many athletes, and is simply too talented to continue in mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Just another Dog and pony show .. google up the VA Tech Game last year and the comments by the "PRO's" before and during and after the game. Boise will pull it out. Bring on the SEC, hell can't even play on a neutral field .. we play anywhere, and if your SEC has a pair why not come out and crush the home Field record of poor little Boise. Oh yea I forgot, SEC won't travel anywhere more then 500 miles from home they forget where they live. We play on the road we play with heart .. and we win.

Anonymous said...

That is a good post, I love it how every article that has been written is just tore apart by all of the DAWG fans. If your team is so good and the SEC is so dominant than let your team do the talking and shut your mouths.

Anonymous said...

Alright...I'm not saying Boise won't win. No question they are a very good team. Georgia has a lot to prove. Last year they were mediocre.

But I think Boise will have their hands full.

And, I look forward to looking at the post game stats. Bet you will see Georgia Outrushing BSU 2 to 1. Boise may outpass UGA 2 to 1. That BSU D-line better buckle up their chinstraps they are going to get a steady dose of some tough RB's.

I sort of think this game score will be more like 38-14...but I would not put any money on who actually wins.

Anonymous said...

Well if that is going to be the score you should become an instant millionaire as the line is -3 for Boise st. You have a ton of room to play with....put your money where your mouth is "dawg fans"!! It will be a close game.

Bradford said...

I didn't realize I was getting hammered by the Georgia fans but thanks for all the comments! I did state in the third paragraph, "I don’t consider myself a Georgia expert" - I haven't seen a lot of film on the Dawgs but I tried to be fair based on the information I could find.

There's no doubt I'm worried about TE Orson Charles and Georgia's MASSIVE advantage on special teams.

Can't wait for Saturday night!