Spring practices are coming to a close and we all have to wait until the fall to salivate or agonize over statistics from scrimmages. We will start kicking out our Pre-Season Previews in a few weeks but until then we are taking a look at some of the big games scheduled in 2011. The way I see it there are 15 regular season games that will decide the National Champion. These aren't the only 15 game you should watch, because somebody could come out of nowhere like Auburn did last year, but these are the 15 most important games of the 2011 season. We started off with week one with a showdown between Oregon and LSU. For the second game we are staying in week one and heading over to the ATL.
Boise State Broncos vs. Georgia Bulldogs
When: September 3rd at 8pm on ESPN
Where: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia
The last time Boise State met Georgia was in 2005. The Broncos were flying high coming off of an 11-1 season but they got Zebransky'd in Athens by the tune of 48-13. Since that game the fortunes of both teams have gone seperate ways. The Broncos have arrived as a legitimate BCS Bowl contender year in and year out and Georgia has had two seasons it wishes it could forget. When these two teams meet in September it will one of the most interesting games of the season. Let's be honest for a minute, Boise State plays a two-game schedule this year (Georgia and TCU). Those are the only two games they should even think about losing this year. The opening game with Georgia is so big for them. If they lose to Georgia then they will have no chance to sniff the National Championship Game. If the Broncos beat Georgia then they have a chance, with all BCS Conference teams sustaining a loss, to slip into the big game. For Georgia, this is a game to see how far the Dawgs have come since falling on their sword against Central Florida last year. Georgia is in the second year of the 3-4 defense and has reinvigorated their Strength and Conditioning program in the off-season. This game (along with the South Carolina game) will go a long way to telling us if the Dawgs will be back in 2011.
In addition to this game basically being a one-game playoff for Boise State and it being a temperature check for the Georgia program this game has a lot of underlying storylines that are very intriguing. Both teams have stars at QB. Kellen Moore was the top QB in the Nation last year in terms of QB rating and posted an amazing 35 TD to 6 INT ratio. Aaron Murray, despite playing his first four games as a Redshirt Freshman without AJ Green, finished 14th in the National QB ratings and had 24 TDs to only 8 picks. This game could very well be decided by which QB plays the best on this Saturday. The second storyline is that both teams are replacing their best two receivers, and those receivers were tremendous play-makers. Georgia replaces AJ Green (57 rec and 9 TD in 9 games) and Kris Durham (32 rec and 3 TD in 12 games). Boise State has to replace Titus Young (71 rec, 17 ypc and 9 TD) and Austin Pettis (71 rec and 10 TD). That's a lot of production to replace for both teams. Playing a big game right out of the box with your best playmakers from last year playing at the next level takes a lot of guts. The team that adjusts the best will have an advantage in this one.
QB play and replacing WR production might decide this game but another interesting side-note will be Boise State's running attack against Georgia's revamped Defensive Line. Boise State finished last year in the Top 25 Nationally by averaging 200 yards rushing per game. On the flip side, Georgia had trouble stopping teams running the ball down their throats when they needed to last year (see also: South Carolina, Mississippi State and Colorado). The Bronocs lost their 2nd and 3rd leading rushers but return a 1,000 yard back in Doug Martin (1260 yards rushing, an eye-popping 6.27 ypc and 12 TD). Georgia brings in a huge JUCO DT in Jonathan Jenkins and also have rising Sophomore Kwame Geathers at that position. Geathers was the most improved player this spring for Georgia. Bringing in Jenkins and the improvement of Geathers also means the Dawgs can flip DeAngelo Tyson from DT to DE where he will be much more effective this year. Georgia also looks to have bolstered their LB corps by moving super soph Alec Ogletree to ILB and bringing in USC transfer Jarvis Jones to play SLB. On paper, Georgia's front seven looks a lot stronger than last year. The key to this game in my mind is who wins the battle between Georgia's front seven on defense and Boise State's Offensive Line. Whoever wins that battle wins this game.
In addition to the LSU/Oregon game, this game makes College Football's week one "must watch" list. This is a statement game for both teams. Boise State answered the bell last year against Virginia Tech in their opener. Can they do it again? Georgia is looking to get their mojo back after two lackluster seasons. Is Boise State the first step in their comeback?