Georgia (4-5) vs. Idaho State (1-7)
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens
When: 12:35 p.m.
TV: WSB (Regional)
Last meeting: None.
Georgia’s goal will be to get ahead quickly enough to allow reserve quarterback Hutson Mason some more game action. Along the way, there will be some sub-plots: How will tailback carries be divvied up between Caleb King and Washaun Ealey, and will that impact who starts next week at Auburn? Will the offensive line be juggled again? And will the tight ends, Orson Charles especially, be as involved as they were against Florida?
Idaho State ranks last in its FBS conference, the Big Sky, in rushing, passing and total offense. Running back Tavoy Moore has good speed, but he’s only broken through for one offensive touchdown. The quarterback is Russel Hill, a 5-foot-11 senior who is not much of a threat to run.
The Bulldogs, who used a lot of nickel packages against Florida, could return to some more traditional 3-4 sets for this one. Justin Houston should have a chance to add to his SEC-leading nine sacks, since Idaho State has given up a league-high 35 of them. The secondary needs a confidence-builder: Its progress in avoiding big plays was stymied against Florida. You never say a shutout is expected, but given Idaho State’s ranks, it’s hard to see the Bulldogs giving up a lot of points.
The Bengals’ defense is only a bit better than its offense in the rankings: Sixth against the run, seventh against the pass. They have also only brought down the quarterback nine times in eight games. Idaho State employs a 4-3, and starts six seniors and four juniors.
Brandon Boykin is 22 kickoff return yards from setting Georgia’s career record. He already holds the single-season record. The question is whether Boykin gets more than one chance to return a kick against Idaho State. The Bulldog kick coverage unit, ranked first in the SEC, should get more opportunities.
This is the one category Idaho State may not be overmatched. Moore has been one of the nation’s most prolific return men: He has two punt return touchdowns, and two kick returns into the end zone, and ranks second in the nation in kick return yardage. Punter David Harrington leads the nation with a 45.1-yards per attempt average.
In 10 years under head coach Mark Richt, Georgia has never had much of a letdown against weaker opponent at home. The only nonconference home loss was in 2008 to Georgia Tech, and only once in that time has a non-BCS conference team played within single digits at Sanford Stadium. (UAB, which lost 16-13 in 2003.)
John Zamberlin, a former NFL linebacker, is in his fourth season as head coach at Idaho State. He has a 6-36 record, after going 63-41 at Central Washington, a Division II school.
Georgia’s tailbacks vs. Idaho State’s run defense. Georgia’s run game took a step back last week, not getting the burst it had in previous weeks. It won’t say much if they do it against the struggling Bengals, but it would instill some confidence heading into Auburn.
Moore vs. the Georgia secondary. The 5-7 Moore is capable of a big play, and the Bulldog defensive backs are prone to giving those up. That would seem to be Idaho State’s best chance to get a score or two.
Prediction: Georgia 58, Idaho State 7
- Seth Emerson