Boise State's first game this year will be against Georgia at Athens.
While I think Boise State played (and lost) to a team better than Georgia last year--Louisville in a memorable Liberty Bowl game--this game does represent a threshold for the Broncos. Boise State's reputation is that it is a good mid-major program, but it cannot yet compete against one of the elite football programs. There's a lot to support that perspective. Boise State has yet to beat an SEC team, and they have only beaten two BCS Conference teams in its history: Oregon State and Iowa State. Those wins were notable in Bronco history, but they were hardly earth-shattering in the college football world.
Under coach Mark Richt, the Georgia Bulldogs have retained their old luster under the Vince Dooley years. He's an exceptional coach, motivator, and recruiter. Georgia has been a legitimate top 6 team over the last four years. With the loss of their starting quarterback, defensive end, wide receivers, and inside lineback to the NFL draft, the Bulldogs are expected to have a slight drop, likely a top 15 initial ranking, perhaps third or fourth best in the SEC. I expect the Bulldogs to beat those expectations--their drop isn't so precipitous with their own talent, and teams like LSU, Florida, and even Tennessee are over-hyped. I think Georgia will have a legitimate shot at the SEC crown for 2005.
Having said that, I will be going to Athens with Carson, expecting a Bronco victory. While Georgia should slow down the Bronco running game, I think Boise will be able to do well enough with the run, as Georgia will likely try to overcompensate against BSU's mid-range passing game, which I don't think Georgia can stop. Boise State, on defense, will fall back on its tried and mostly true routine of putting eight in the box, blitzing on occasion, all to test the Bulldog quarterback, D. J. Shockley. I expect the Bulldogs to try to overpower Boise State with its big, experienced offensive line. Boise State won't stop Georgia, but I don't think Georgia's offense can be consistently productive against the Broncos, and so BSU will put some key stops on Georgia's drives.
The intangibles for me will be how focused the Broncos will be, after the loss to Louisville and before the 92,000 in Sanford Stadium; how the Bronco offensive line will perform; how often the Bronco defense can force long third-down situations for the Georgia offense; how the Broncos may be able to take advantage of the relatively weak Georgia special teams. Prediction? Boise State 35, Georgia 24.