Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Boise State, a year later

Tuesday June 20, 2006

Boise State’s trip to Athens to begin the 2005 was seen as a possible watershed moment. More than a few people were calling the game the biggest in Boise State’s history. It was a chance for the wunderkind coach to take his scheme against a vulnerable old-guard program who had just lost no small amount of talent and leadership to the NFL. Favoring Boise State in this game was the fashionable off-season upset pick entering the 2005 season. The pressure was clearly on Georgia – how would they deal with the innovative and super-productive Bronco offense, and how tight would Georgia play if they found themselves in a dogfight in their own stadium with such an upstart? If Boise won, it would be a huge step towards legitimacy among the top programs after a near miss at the end of 2004 against Louisville.

I saw things a bit differently. Because of everything that was at stake, I thought a great deal more pressure was on Boise State not so much because of the quality of the opponent but because of the importance that they had placed on that game. I asked, “what does it mean if you come up short?” As it turned out, that pressure did them in, and the collapse was personified in the complete meltdown of quarterback Jared Zabransky. It was Georgia that put on the offensive dispay as D.J. Shockley demonstrated that he could handle the reigns of his team.

All that’s history now, but what a difference a year makes for Boise State. Hear that silence? That’s the hype for Boise State in 2006. Their high-profile head coach has left for Colorado (and will make for interesting storylines when he brings that team to Athens this year). Phil Steele includes the Broncos in his 2006 preseason rankings, but so far he’s the only one to do so. You won’t find them on anyone’s list of “it” teams anymore, and the great hope for the non-BCS conferences has moved on to others like TCU.

At best, Boise State is on the periphery of the discussion this year as observers wait to see if a new coach can continue the impressive run of relative success this decade. At worst, the consecutive losses to Louisville and Georgia deeply wounded the program. A chance to recapture the magic fell just short in the bowl loss to Boston College, and while the architect of the offense remains as successor, the guru is gone. Talent at quarterback and receiver is aging rapidly, and it will be interesting to see if the new staff can keep the players coming. Success can be fleeting and elusive for even the most successful programs. It’s infinitely more fragile for the programs taking risks to build something special from nothing.

I have nothing against Boise State. I enjoy(ed) watching them play and succeed. But the people who latched onto the Broncos as a representative of something bigger than they were put Georgia squarely in the crosshairs, and I can’t deny that I took a great deal of satisfaction from watching the Dawgs respond to the challenge as they did.

Last year everyone wondered if Boise State could beat Georgia and take the next step as a program. Now I wonder just how far that loss to Georgia set the Boise State program back and if they will ever recover to reach the level of expectations and optimism they had in the summer of 2005.

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