I had the opportunity to record a podcast with Michael Felder of In The Bleachers on Monday to discuss his "Slate of Eight" games this week. One of our major discussion points was the Boise State/Georgia game. If you haven't had a listen yet then head on over to his site and stream or download it. After you've had a listen then come back and let's talk Boise State/Georgia and break down where the advantages and dis-advantages are for each team. Also, if you haven't read our Pre-Season Previews for each of these teams then make sure you do as we interviewed The Leather Helmet Blog for their take on Georgia and also talked to the Boise State blog OBNUG.
This is strength versus strength. Kellen Moore has been fantastic during his career at Boise. Last year his completion percent was 71% and he had 35 TD to only 6 INT. Last year, Boise only played two teams from Automatic Qualifier Conferences (Oregon State and Virginia Tech). Against Virginia Tech, Moore was solid but did have his lowest completion percentage of the year (60%) and also had his lowest yards per attempt (5.7). In 2009, Moore only played one game against a team from an Automatic Qualifier Conference but also played TCU in their bowl game. Statistically those were his two worst games as he threw for a total of 1 TD but he didn't hurt himself or his team as he threw no interceptions. So in the last two years in Boise's biggest three games (VT, TCU and Oregon) Moore threw for a total of 4 TDs and 0 interceptions. Not bad because he didn't turn the ball over but in his other 24 games (over the last two seasons) he averaged 3 TD per game. Looking at the stats (which stats don't always tell the whole story) I would say that Moore will be solid against Georgia and he won't turn the ball over but he won't be spectacular.
Aaron Murray is more of a wild-card than Moore. But he's also not as experienced. As a freshman the only "bad" games he had were against UCF and Florida. And even in the Florida game he made some great plays in the second half. It is clear to me that Aaron Murray has a much higher ceiling than does Kellen Moore. The question is if Murray has taken a big step this off-season. He's saying all the right things, the coaches are saying all the right things about him. He has developed into a leader this off-season and he's also become a film room junkie. What you like about Moore here is that he's not going to lose you the game, but based on his performance against AQ teams in the past he's going to need a teammate to step up and win the game for him. Murray gives you a better chance to win but I think he also (due to experience and the fact that he's going to take more risks) is more apt to make a mistake at this point in his career. So do you take the solid game manager or the gun slinger?
Georgia's leading returning rusher is Carlton Thomas and he's suspended for the game. That being said he probably wasn't going to be a factor anyway because he's a smaller third down back that has never found his role in the Georgia offense under Mike Bobo. Georgia will rely on the tandem of RB turned LB turned RB Richard Samuel and true Freshman Isaiah Crowell. Samuel was effective in spots when he was a sophomore but also had some trouble holding onto the football. Crowell has a very high ceiling but is also totally unproven at the college level.
Boise comes at you with Senior Doug Martin. Martin is the 10th leading returning rusher in the FBS as he ran for 1,260 yards and 12 TD last year. He played pretty well against Virginia Tech last year but didn't get many touches as he ran the ball 12 times for 83 yards. Martin is really the guy that Georgia needs to stop and force Moore to win the game. Martin had some nice plays in the Nevada game when Boise needed it most. He's not overwhelming but he's a hard-nosed player who is going to give top flight effort. Again, Georgia has a higher ceiling at this position but unlike at QB, Georgia doesn't have any recent experience here so the advantage goes to Boise.