Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 8:57 AM
There are quite a few good matchups Saturday in college football. Perhaps the game involving the most longterm impact is Boise State at Georgia in prime time on ESPN.
From the Boise State perspective:
A potential BCS appearance may be riding on this game. It's currently the toughest challenge on another weak slate (tougher than when Boise was in the WAC, but not as tough as playing in a major conference). Skepticism about whether or not Boise could play with the big boys was swept aside last year when they beat Virginia Tech away from home in a national TV showcase. This was no longer the undersized finesse team that needed gimmicks to compete when they stepped up in class. They had upgraded their size...and were now IN the top class.
A potential Heisman Trophy for quarterback Kellen Moore. He got consideration last year, but was hurt by his soft schedule and an upset loss at Nevada. If this year's team runs the table...and Moore has big games vs. the best competition...he becomes a fairly obvious choice for the award.
A potential berth in a Super Conference as college football reshuffles. There's a growing belief that the "majors" are about to merge into a small handful of 16-team super-conferences now that Texas A&M is fleeing the Big 12. Teams not currently in major conferences are hoping to sneak in. TCU did that last year by agreeing to join the Big East. Boise State doesn't want to be the last team standing at the gate when the train pulls away. A loss to Georgia would allow the big boys to exclude them from the party down the road. A win...and SOMEBODY is going to have to take Boise State...or the power base will have to acknowledge a new Mountain West type superconference (mix of MW and WAC) as a major league. What's the longterm future of Boise State if Chris Petersen eventually leaves as coach and they can't replace Moore after he graduates? What's their longterm future if Petersen stays after a run at a BCS championship? Talk about a wide range of possibilities!
From the Georgia perspective:
Coach Mark Richt is on the hot seat. Last year was an embarrassment. The Bulldogs lost to Colorado in the regular season and Central Florida in their bowl. The SEC East was there for the taking with Florida's fall from grace. South Carolina took it instead of Georgia. We wouldn't expect Richt to be fired Sunday morning after a Saturday Night loss. But, a loss here would probably set the tone for another disappointing campaign that would end with dismissal. A win could easily launch a stellar season that puts Georgia back on the map.
The natives are getting restless, and not just about the coach. The whole program may be in for wholesale changes if 2011 doesn't go well. Major programs don't always respond well to wholesale changes! Without getting overly dramatic, the 2011-2015 seasons could feel the ramifications of an extreme result Saturday Night. A blowout loss to Boise sends the future careening in one direction. An impressive win launches it in another.
We mentioned in the Preseason conference previews that we thought Georgia was getting way too much respect. Athlon had them at #14 over the summer, and best in the SEC East (third best in the whole SEC). The wire services aren't quite that enthusiastic, but still have Georgia in the Top 25.
AP: Georgia ranks 19th, 5th best of SEC teams (though only one spot ahead of Mississippi State who just won 59-14 over Memphis Thursday Night).
USA Today: Georgia ranks 22nd, 7th best in the SEC (and only one spot ahead of Florida).
As we pointed out in our summer previews:
Georgia ranked 56th on offense last year nationally
Georgia only returns 4 starters on offense this year
Georgia ranked 23rd on defense last year
Georgia's average rank was 39.5 combining offense and defense
Georgia's intensity came and went last year
How does all of THAT add up to a top 20 team? They're capable of playing "with" top 25 teams...or anybody in the nation in a given week. That's not the same thing as BEING a top 25 team. Powers don't lose to Colorado, or blow off bowl games with Central Florida.
Yes, it's true that Georgia won plaudits for its recruiting. Texas supposedly reaped a harvest last year before going 5-7. Make the Bulldogs earn it on the field!
Boise State is currently a 3-point favorite as we write this, for the game to be played in the Georgia Dome. That means home crowd for Georgia, but not home field. Early outlaw numbers had Boise up by a touchdown. Respect for Georgia's recruiting and sense of urgency has brought the number down to a field goal. Is that respect misplaced? If so, Boise by 7 was a better number, and may not even be enough. If Georgia really is loaded, this could be an instant classic that matches Boise-Virginia Tech for thrills.
We're not going to go in depth with handicapping tips in this game. We could very easily have a major release here, and we have to protect that for our clients. We can tell you that our scouts and sources have been studying the Georgia situation very closely. Attitude and preparation for the newcomers will probably be the deciding factor when it's all said and done. If the game is played to last year's Power Ratings, stats and preparation, Boise State wins and covers. What's "changed" if anything will determine our play here.
Boise State/Georgia is one of several marquee games we're looking at today. Among the others:
Northwestern at Boston College on ESPNU (interesting early kick)
UCLA at Houston on Fox Sports (Case Keenum is back)
South Florida at Notre Dame on NBC (big game for Irish)
BYU at Mississippi on ESPN (BYU's an Independent!)
Oregon at LSU on ABC (high rankings, but negative headlines)
Of course some of the best value plays on the first big Saturday of the season come off the beaten path. There will be some 20-point favorites who win by 40. There will be some favorites of a TD or two who can't even win their games straight up. JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has combed the entire card to find the two very best opportunities for our annual BACK-TO-SCHOOL PARLAY! You can purchase it right here at the website with your credit card. Or, sign up for the whole Labor Day Weekend and have the BTS Parlay included.
The bankroll building started Thursday with a Kickoff Special on Mississippi State over Memphis 59-14 (easily covering the 31-point spread). Today's parlay games are just as strong if not stronger. And, the money will keep rolling in with bonus action Sunday and Monday (more on those games here in the NOTEBOOK the next time we're together). If you have any questions about our Touchdown Club or Red, White, and Blue Package, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.
The Boise State/Georgia game is going to make or break the 2011 campaign for each of these teams. A huge win for one, a devastating loss for the other. This first weekend is going to make or break YOUR campaign too! You don't want to dig out of a hole because you lost with your own bets. You want to start travelling down the road to riches with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!