We're halfway into the week and Resource already has two lengthy diatribes to its credit. Time for a third.
If you're a regular reader of this blog you know we have been talking quite a bit about Boise State in general, and their game against Georgia, specifically. What follows is a more in-depth fleshing out of our thoughts on the game, and teams. We're not the first blog or writer to call this game for the Broncos. HeismanPundit called this one back in April and now the Sporting News' Matt Hayes thinks this one's going to the road trippers.
Hayes' argument centers around Boise's ability to punch holes in the Georgia defense and an inherent skepticism that Bulldog senior quarterback DJ Shockley has the skills to pull this one off. Decent points.
Now, for the Resource take.
Imagine, for a moment, that at the last minute Dan Hawkins' Boise State Broncos opted out of this game and substituted the USC Trojans in their place. Without a doubt the USC Trojans would be huge favorites to win such a game. And we all know why---the Trojans have both talent and a sophisticated style of play that trumps anything Georgia can do. Much like Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, Georgia would be flustered by the Trojans' various formations, substitutions, and use of personnel and play design.
That is because Georgia is a fairly low-tech outfit, but one blessed with outstanding athletic and talented personnel.
Similarly, Boise State is a program that does things much like the Trojans, if not better in many ways. Their offense is out of this world and flusters its conference peers, of which many such programs are used to witnessing difficult to defend offenses. Outpost programs sometimes are the breeding grounds of bright young coaches, so what happens out in Boise or Moscow may be reflected nationally a few years later. That said, Boise State doesn't have the overall talent to match the Trojans, or the Bulldogs---in terms of pure talent. But Boise is a talented team. They have a supremely confident and accurate quarterback who has that offense down pat, and he can run a little. They always have a thousand yard back or a handful of backs who can do just as much damage. Their linebackers are small but fleet. They're basically a lite beer version of USC or Tennessee or whoever.
As evidenced in the Orange Bowl and soon to be many games down the road, the high-tech stuff works, and often brilliantly against teams loaded with talent. Enter Georgia.
In this game, Boise State is more or less going to work Georgia at times, flustering their defense and making them look stupid at times. But this is football and the game isn't played in a vacuum. Georgia will make its stops, their coaches are paid well because they are in fact bright coaches and can find ways to make games of ones like this. But the advantage is all Boise's.
The real questions as to outcome are these---does Georgia have that much more talent than Boise State that it can overwhelm the visiting Broncos? Along that same vein, is Boise State truly confident it can win this game? Although we haven't written much about it, the concept of Belief is important for situations like these where brand name teams can sometimes intimidate a superior but lightly regarded foe. Look at last year's LSU/Oregon State game. Running a scheme far less sophisticated and also displaying far less confidence, the visiting Beavers let a nice lead slip away to the home Tigers, missing some crucial extra points but also blowing some key plays late in the game. The Beavers let the crowd take control and their confidence slipped, giving the Tigers the necessary breathing room to escape.
If Boise truly believes it's the better team here, this game will be an annihilation in their favor.
Georgia basically has to follow the LSU model here, and hope that Boise doesn't quite have it all together this early in the season. That said, compared to Oregon State, the Broncos are a true balanced squad, running and passing the ball with equal effectiveness.
As fans we tend to look at games in a vacuum, using our rudimentary models to explain outcomes. Team A was more talented than team B, but B was gutty and thus put up a valiant but unfulfilled effort. Team A's better. Than kind of linear thinking is what's going to trip up a lot of analysts here. Every outcome, every game played, has a logical and rational explanation for what happened that becomes all too evident after said game is played, but not so much before it happens. But the more we know about teams within the less linear models and concepts such as sophistication and style of play, the more these games reveal themselves beforehand.
I'm still relatively new to the above concepts, but I have a firm enough grasp of them to feel fairly confident in what's expressed here.
Here are some other thoughts on the game-
Georgia under coach Mark Richt has never really been exposed to the kind of offense Boise State plays. Nobody in the SEC plays that kind of ball, not even close. Florida will sometime towards the end of this season or the beginning of next one, but until then, nope. The thing about the Boise type, USC type, Utah type offenses is not that they're fancy or high-octane, but that they're effective. They can do so many things, moving players all over the field, disguising tendencies, and keeping opponents off balance. It's a hell of a lot to prepare for.
Now, has Boise been adequately been prepared for Georgia's talent? I'm not sure, but I do know they had a decently talented foe in their last game, a wild 44-40 loss to Louisville. The Cardinal, one of our Big Six, had two star quarterbacks in Stefan LeFors and Brian Brohm, as well as backs Michael Bush, Eric Shelton and Lionel Gates, plus a fleet group of receivers, and an athletic secondary and group of defensive linemen. They also crushed Oregon State last year 53-34, a week after they took LSU to the wire.
As for the Georgia offense---despite his acclaim as a quarterback and offensive guru, Mark Richt's only been so-so offensively at Georgia. His squads have put up decent but unexplosive averages of 27.6PPG, 32.1PPG, 26.5PPG and 27.9PPG. In four seasons the Bulldogs have cracked the 30 PPG barrier just once! Yet this outfit is annually regarded as one of the nation's elite offenses. The talent is there, but the production less so. But look at Boise State in that same time period; 34.3PPG, 45.6 PPG, 43.0 PPG and 48.9 PPG. Mind you, many would argue those points came against inferior defensive opposition, but two valid counter-arguments are that their league mates are also more accustomed to facing some kind of sophisticated offense in any given season, thus making them more prepared to face such an offense (yet judging by Boise's totals remaining high, completely incapable of stopping said offense). The other argument is that regardless of conference, any team that has a truly balanced offense (Hawai'i need not apply) and is putting up those kinds of numbers should reasonably be expected to put up similar totals in any other conference.
That goes back to the style of play argument---what works in one place, can work in another. Smart offense and smart defenses are exactly that---smart. They can function reasonably well no matter the opponent or condition. Norm Chow's offenses still thrived when the BYU Cougars traveled outside the WAC, right? And they continued to work at NC State and USC. That's what separates a truly sophisticated offense from a gimmick one, for what it's worth. Gimmicks are usually too one-dimensional and lack the durability to sustain themselves against sound foes.
One interesting thought came to mind when writing this---Florida's fun n' gun offense was alright on the sophistication scale, but it was also a bit gimmicky. Yet it worked for well over a decade in the SEC! So imagine an offense better than that one (such as Boise's), albeit run with a less talented squad. Boise could very well destroy most of the SEC, if it were a conference member, in theory.
Lastly, there might be something good happening on the other side of the ball for Boise State. I've been talking this entire time about their offense, but their defense isn't too shabby either. The last four seasons, the Broncos surrendered 23.3PPG, 18.5 PPG, 17.1 PPG and then 25.7 PPG, all within an offensive conference. Two years out of four allowing under 20 PPG in the WAC is pretty good if you ask me. Also, given last year's unusually high total, one can reasonably expect that seasonal output to go down a bit, probably closer to that 20-23 level. In other words, their defense will have improved upon last year's version.
This is getting lengthy so we'll call it a night for now, hopefully you've enjoyed our take on the sure to be hyped Boise State/Georgia game (Saturday, Sept 3).
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