Friday, September 2, 2011
Boise State, Georgia wasting no time
Television remotes will be busy Saturday night. Just as a pair of top-five teams (Oregon and LSU) square off on ABC, the weekend’s other ranked battle kicks off as No. 5 Boise State meets No. 19 Georgia in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (ESPN, 8 ET).
It’s just the second all-time meeting between these teams. In the other, also a season opener back in 2005, No. 13 Georgia routed No. 18 Boise State 48-13 in Athens.
For Boise State, a tough opponent out of the gates has become the norm, as has beating them. This will be the Broncos’ third straight season facing a top-20 opponent to start the season. In 2009, they beat No. 16 Oregon 19-8 in Boise. Last season, it was a 33-20 win over No. 10 Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Maryland.
For Georgia, a top-five opponent this early is nearly unprecedented. You have to go back 46 years to 1965 to find the last example. That’s when the Bulldogs opened the season with an 18-17 victory over No. 5 Alabama in Athens.
It won’t get much easier for Georgia, which draws No. 12 South Carolina next. The Bulldogs are one of three FBS teams who will start the season with consecutive games against currently-ranked opponents. Only East Carolina and Florida Atlantic share that fate.
That’s a particularly daunting task for a Georgia team that has struggled against ranked foes. The Bulldogs have lost seven of their last eight such games, and were 0-4 against ranked opponents in 2010.
Boise State has its own history to overcome. The Broncos are 0-4 all-time against current SEC teams, losing their past three by a combined 81 points.
The pressure falls on quarterback Kellen Moore, and his 38-2 career record as a starter. Both those losses have come against ranked opponents, but he’s fared well overall against the Top 25.
In eight starts, he is 6-2 with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. That includes wins at No. 17 Oregon in 2008 and against No. 10 Virginia Tech in a virtual road game to open last season.
Moore’s key weapon has been the big strike -- over the past two seasons, he’s connected on 116 completions of 20 or more yards. That’s two more than Ryan Mallett, who had the second-most over that span.
Of course, Moore will be without his two favorite targets. Titus Young and Austin Pettis, both now departed for the NFL, were targeted on 49 percent (401 of 814) of his throws last season. Adding to those concerns, projected starting wideout Geraldo Boldewijn was one of three Broncos suspended Friday.
With quarterback Aaron Murray looking to build off his prolific freshman campaign, Georgia again turns to a newcomer. Highly-touted freshman Isaiah Crowell, the nation’s top rated running back recruit, is expected to debut. He looks to bolster a running attack that ranked just 73rd in the nation in yards per game last season.