Several weeks ago now, I wrote a piece which essentially lampooned the fact that I'm not quite ready to talk about Boise State. That was great fun and that particular post essentially turned into a discussion about food and eating establishments which is never a bad thing. One of the things I absolutely love about this weblog is how we can take a topic and turn it into something completely different than what it was intended by everyone who contributes. It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. What I took away from the responses back in March was that you weren't quite ready to talk about Boise State, either. With the memories of the 2010 season still way too fresh, any discussion about actual football was premature. In a way, I'm still having trouble getting my "mind right." That bad 2010 bottle of wine we all drank really had a helluva kick because I'm honestly still pretty hungover.
2010 is over. It's time to get your mind right.
We are roughly 60 days away from our season opener in Atlanta. The July 4th weekend has passed, evidenced by the husks of spent bottle rockets and the blackened shells of a few roman candles that still litter my street on this hazy morning. There is nothing left but insufferable hot days, weekend mowing, and baseball. It's the worst of times because of these; it's the best of times because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I guess it's time to start talking about Boise State. And I have absolutely no idea what to expect in 2011.Did you know that Boise State only began playing football in 1968? That was the last season Jake Scott played for the Red and Black. That was the year before my little sister was born. Boise State has played 512 games in their history. Georgia has played 1188. Boise state has played in 11 bowl games, compiling a 7-4 record. Their first bowl was in 1999 against Louisville in the Humanitarian Bowl; a 34-31 BSU victory. But the rise of Boise State as a national player is really quite remarkable. In the last 12-15 years, this team has literally come "out of the blue."
A+ for originality. B for blueness. F for aesthetics
BSU reminds me a little bit of the Miami Hurricanes in terms of their ascension. Miami's rise was faster and simpler. The "U's" recruiting base essentially comprises of 3 or 4 very populous South Florida counties, and arguably the most fertile recruiting ground in the country. Boise State has to go far and wide to build their program. What they have done in a short amount of time deserves praise. To me, they are almost more of a known commodity than our own team because of their experience. And the media love.
Boise State returns seven starters on both offense and defense. Their most important player (natch) is QB Kellen Moore. A senior, Moore is a legitimate Heisman Trophy Candidate. That cannot be underestimated. I do not expect him to throw an interception on the first play from scrimmage, as happened in 2005. He might not throw a single pick in four quarters of play. Four interceptions and two fumbles, a la 2005? Not going to happen.
In the Maple Street Press Annual, Kyle breaks down Boise's 2010 stats quite succinctly:
- 45 points per game
- 521 yards per game
- 200 rushing yards per game
- 179.95 Pass Efficiency Rating
- Points allowed per game: 12.8
- Yards allowed per game: 254.7
- Rush yards allowed per game: 103.8
- Opponent passing efficiency: 95.19
I don't care who their competition was, those are very impressive numbers. But you knew all of this, I'm sure. Since this game was announced, the tendency to research our opponent has probably drawn several of you over to BSU's SB Nation website, where the back and forth has been fairly jovial and in good-spirited (except for this predictable little
butt nugget. There is one in every crowd).
I'm not a numbers guy. We've got some fine regular contributors on this site who can break down stats much better than I can. But it doesn't take an Archimedes to look at what their team is capable of doing to know that we've got a tough assignment. And when you factor in the specter of possibly looking ahead to the following weekend, this game takes on a new danger. Our first two games this season are about as high-risk/high-reward as I can ever remember. But I also contend that Boise State has all the pressure on them. We lose this game, we can rebound at home against South Carolina. From there, it is possible to win the SEC East. There is even the possibility of playing for a BCS National Championship. This is the kind of clout playing in the SEC affords you. An early season loss to a quality opponent is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it a deal breaker. 2007 certainly bore that out, and with a little luck (and a Kentucky place kicker worth a crap), we're playing for all the marbles with two losses that season.
If Boise State leaves the Georgia Dome with a loss, it's over. I don't care what they do the rest of the season, the only thing they can play for is a BCS bowl. And that would be a stretch because of their non-AQ status. Yeah, I know Boise State won their BCS game against Oklahoma...in 2007. They beat a good, but flawed Va. Tech team last year in a similar venue set-up as to our Georgia Dome "home field" advantage. But I don't completely buy the pundits, "they are a proven big-game team" meme. There is peril in every new season. This is the beauty of it. Boise State has some key losses in personnel, too. And how can they possibly know what we are bringing to the party if we don't fully know ourselves. Who are we? What do we have?
John Jenkins. He's big.
For a guy who has never taken a snap for the Georgia Bulldogs (or a D-1 school for that matter), there are an awful lot of hopes and dreams that is being placed on this kid's substantial shoulders. But I believe that his arrival on campus a few weeks ago was the most important of any 2011 recruit. I understand the whole "Dream Team" concept and am every bit as excited today as I as in early February when our coaches closed the deal on some of the best talent anywhere. But those guys are all freshmen. Big Bad John, despite his level of experience in the Mississippi MACJC (uh, that's the Mississippi Association of Colleges and Junior Colleges) has played against the body types he will encounter week-in and week-out in the SEC. Big Bad John has been ballin' in a league full of ballers. These kids are good. Big Bad John might just be the best of the bunch.
I hate to point to one guy and one position when trying to ascertain the fortunes of my team. That isn't fair. In fact, it's absurd. It takes more than a run-clogging nose tackle to win. I know that, and you do, too. But if we're going to get unstuck and actually excel in 2011, it's got to begin with defense. Right out of the friggin' gate. This team does not have the luxury of time any longer. Not if this current regime is going to survive. This thing has got to come together on the opening kick in Atlanta. We're about to play a high-octane kind of offense that blends finesse with power. Just look at their tailback, Doug Martin. He's a load and can play in any league.
We've got to become geological. We've got to pressure their lines of scrimmage; turn it into metamorphic rock. Heat, pressure and time. Shape it to our will. Mold it. Bend it. Break it. We've got to push them off the ball, take away the middle of the field. No running lanes. Make them run for their lives on every single play. And I believe we've got the beef to do this.
Our safeties have to know what they're doing this year. From the first snap. Our linebackers have to be able to run. In year two of the 3-4, no more blown assignments. Third and long has to equate to 4th and punt! Kellen Moore has to be pressured like he's never been pressured in his career. Bend them. Break them. Geology.
Do this, and we create offensive opportunities. We're not going to win a shootout; nor do I expect this game to become one. A magic number on defense? I say we have to hold them to 21 points. No more.
The next 60-odd days are going to be long. Hot and long. They always are. In a few months, we're going to find out if all that moving and shaking has really worked. All those weights that have been lifted at 6 in the A.M. All those egg-whites in lieu of a big ol' sloppy hamburger.
We are going to win this game with defense. They are in our (almost) backyard. We have the intangibles in terms of crowd and geography. And here's where the eternal optimist emerges in me: When our pressure begins to wear them down, the crowd begins to wear on them. Make it loud in the Dome, Dawg fans. Make it loud no matter what.
Pressure. All game long.