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2011 Georgia Football Schedule: Opening Date With Boise State Looms Large

You can accuse athletic director Greg McGarity of bringing a Florida scheduling philosophy with him from Gainesville, but don't think for one second that Mark Richt is one to back down from a challenge. Supposedly Richt was one of the driving forces behind the schedule shuffling that put Georgia in this season's Chick-fil-A Kickoff versus the Boise State Broncos, who've won 61 games and two BCS bowls in five years under Chris Petersen. Against a top-quality opponent, on perhaps the biggest stage of college football's opening weekend, we'll find out in a hurry whether the Dawgs have bounced back from the doldrums of the past two-plus seasons.

Coach: Chris Petersen, 61-5 in five years at BSU
Last season: 12-1, 7-1 WAC; beat Utah 26-3 in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl; ranked 9th in the final AP poll
Returning starters for 2011: 14 (seven offense, seven defense, zero special teams)
Key returners: QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin, LB Byron Hout
Key losses: WR Austin Pettis, WR Titus Young, DE Ryan Winterswyk, K/P Kyle Brotzman

Best-case scenario: Georgia survives a shootout with the Broncos and earns a big opening victory that puts them in the top 25 for the first time since week 1 of last season. Boise State is a great team, but they're not the Boise State of last season, who returned all but one starter from a squad that went undefeated and won the Fiesta Bowl. This BSU team actually bears a lot of similarities to Georgia -- talented QB with a depleted receiving corps, an O-line experiencing some changes on the right side, depth issues on defense. So with the SEC's best quarterback in Aaron Murray and a running game that could get a shot in the arm from blue-chip recruit Isaiah Crowell, going up against a Boise team playing in hostile territory far from home, it's hardly outside the realm of possibility for the Dawgs to pull the upset.

Worst-case scenario: Boise turns the Georgia Dome into the Terrordome and carpet-bombs the Dawgs by 20, leaving Georgia to start the season 0-1 without a lot of answers on defense and even less momentum. Let's be real here -- this isn't the same Boise team that got shellacked by Georgia in the 2005 opener, not to mention the fact that this year's Georgia team, coming off a miserable 6-7 campaign, is a far cry from that '05 squad. Though the heralded 2011 recruiting class brought in a number of players who can make near-instant contributions on defense, nose tackle Johnathan Jenkins being among the most important, Todd Grantham is still dealing with depth issues in the front seven, and the secondary still seems to be hung over from its steep decline over Willie Martinez's last few years in Athens. To beat a team as good as Boise, they'll need to toughen up physically and fill a leadership void that has nagged at this team for several seasons now.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.