First, some (not so seemingly) random factoids.
- Outside of Bowman, OSU’s receiving corps is green. Bowman is the only wide receiver on the roster with a touchdown reception. (The TE is somebody to watch, though.)
- Oklahoma State hasn’t defeated a nationally ranked non-conference opponent on the road since a 31-17 win at Washington 22 years ago. But, OSU has won 15 of its last 18 nonconference games, including bowl matchups.
- In wins last year against South Carolina, Auburn and Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs did not allow touted receivers Sidney Rice, Courtney Taylor and Calvin Johnson to amass 60 yards combined. They held Johnson to two catches for 13 yards a year after holding him to two catches for 14 yards.
- Safety Kelin Johnson is Georgia’s only returning player who had an interception last season. Starting defensive ends Marcus Howard and Rod Battle combined for two sacks last year. Brandon Miller is the only linebacker who has started a game.
- Under Richt, Georgia has not lost a regular season game to a non-conference opponent. Ever. As in 25-0.
- None of OSU’s defensive linemen have started a D-1 game before.
It’s tempting to look at the game tomorrow and focus on Bowman, Stafford and the green Georgia secondary and predict a shootout, but I think that for the Dawgs to win, they’ve got to be successful at running the ball and controlling the Cowboy running game. Running the ball lets them keep the OSU offense off the field and takes pressure off of the young, untested offensive line. Limiting the OSU running attack forces Reid to pass to a group of wide receivers that, outside of Bowman, are inexperienced.
I think Richt wants to do every thing he can to control the pace of the game. The over/under on the game is somewhere around 55-56. Barring something crazy happening (like Georgia going +6 in TO margin), I think there won’t be more than 45 points scored combined.
What the factoids tell me is that (1) Richt knows how to control a regular season game with an OOC opponent; (2) OSU hasn’t shown the ability to win this kind of a game in a very long time; (3) Martinez knows how to nullify a big threat at wideout; and (4) Georgia’s inexperience at offensive line may not be quite as big an issue in this game as we fear (although Bobo expects it to be tested with a good deal of zone blitz). I lean towards Richt getting his way.
ESPN’s Bruce Feldman describes Oklahoma State as a more talented Kentucky, which sounds about right. And, before you say “Georgia lost to UK last year!”, remember that the Daws outgained the ‘Cats in that game. The loss resulted from Georgia being -1 in TO margin (including a pick of a spectacularly bad throw by Stafford inside the Georgia 5) and Andy Bailey missing two FGs. If Coutu had played and Stafford had been just a little more mature, you’re looking at a final score of 26-17, Georgia.
And that’s about where I see things coming out tomorrow.