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This is news to no one, but now it is official that the Georgia Bulldogs will take on the Boise St. Broncos in the Georgia Dome to start the 2011 college football season. Although Senator Blutarsky was on board from the get-go, I shared the reservations expressed by Quinton McDawg. Nevertheless, the announcement has been made, the game is happening, and now it is time to get geared up for a marquee matchup to start next year’s critical campaign in Red and Black football history.
Since the ‘Dawgs thumped the Broncos to open the 2005 SEC championship campaign, the world has turned a few times. Georgia, which finished in the top ten for the fourth straight season that year, has been ranked in the top ten in the postseason polls only once since, and this year will mark the third time in five seasons that the Red and Black have failed to crack the top 20 at the end of the autumn.
Boise State, meanwhile, has traded up in changing head coaches, improved defensively, and moved up in weight class. The Broncos appear well on their way to a fifth consecutive season with double-digit wins, a fourth undefeated regular season in the last half-decade, and perhaps even a third unblemished finish in a five-year span. Along the way, BSU has claimed victories over Oklahoma, Oregon (twice), Oregon State (twice), and Virginia Tech.
One clear benefit to opening the autumn with an opponent of the caliber of Boise State is that Mark Richt-coached teams tend to start stronger when they spend the offseason preparing to face a top-tier opponent on Labor Day weekend. In the years Georgia opened with Clemson (2002 and 2003), Boise State (2005), and Oklahoma State (2007 and 2009), the Bulldogs went 53-14, finished no worse than tied for first place in the SEC East four times, won two out of three SEC Championship Game appearances, and went to three Sugar Bowls. In the years Georgia opened with Arkansas State (2001), Georgia Southern (2004 and 2008), Western Kentucky (2006), and Louisiana-Lafayette (2010), the Bulldogs so far have gone 42-19, have made no SEC Championship Game appearances, and have been done playing football before New Year’s Eve in all but two seasons.
There has been a lot of talk the last couple of weeks about how the Auburn Tigers have gone “all in” by continuing to play Cam Newton, adopting a high-risk/high-reward strategy that may leave them at 14-0 on the field and 0-14 or 0-0 in the record book. Well, Greg McGarity and Mark Richt have gone “all in” on Boise State as the season-opening opponent for a make-or-break year for Georgia football. In 2005, the Broncos faced the Bulldogs in the game that would establish whether they were yet ready to join the nation’s elite; in 2011, the Bulldogs will face the Broncos in the game that will establish whether they are yet ready to return to the nation’s elite.
Here’s hoping it works out better for Georgia this time than it did for Boise State last time. I’m excited, I’m worried, and I’m danged sure going. Ordinarily, I’m a Boise State apologist, and I have been for a while now, but, now that the Broncos are back on the schedule, they’re just another enemy wearing orange and blue.