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I've read a lot of ink surrounding this match-up this offseason and, many, believe that this is a "show me the money" game for Oklahoma State and a "how bad will they be" game for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Call me crazy, but, I don't think the Cowboys have a chance to beat the Dawgs in the opener.
Sure, they have a stout offense in QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Dez Bryant, but if memory serves, those guys play offense, not defense.
Below is a break down of a couple of the key match-ups in this game and which team has the edge in the grand scheme:
The Oklahoma State Offensive Line versus the Georgia Bulldog Defensive Line
Oklahoma State has one of the better lines in the Big XII this year, highlighted by the return of All-American left tackle Russell Okung—a beast in pass protection—he held his own against upper-tier pass rushers like Texas' Brian Orakpo last season.
Also returning is right tackle Brady Bond. He's not as highly-touted as Okung but he's just as solid and will provide good protection in the run game.
However, beyond that, the line will shuffle. The loss of center David Washington means that Andrew Lawrence (last season's starter at left guard) will move to center—leaving the guard positions to two talented, but relatively inexperienced, underclassmen.
How will the Georgia Defensive line fair?
It will be a tight battle but the guard play of Oklahoma State could be the difference.
Defensive tackles Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins are both quick off the snap and have the ability to shoot through the gaps quickly if they are not blocked effectively. I
f they are able to get beyond the guards and into the backfield, they can disrupt the rhythm of Zac Robinson and make life miserable for the passing game.
Georgia did not prove to be stout in the pass-rush last season but would do well to take advantage of the fact that, although skilled, this Cowboy offensive line will be new as a unit and will need time to gel before being as effective as they were last year.
Edge: Slight for Oklahoma State based on the presence of two premier tackles.
The Oklahoma State Wide Receivers versus The Georgia Bulldog Secondary
One name immediately comes to mind when discussing the wide receiving corps at OSU, Dez Bryant (1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2008). He's shaping up to be a top 10 pick in next year's draft and is the best offensive player on the team by some accounts
However, he's also injury prone and had knee surgery in the off-season. If he's not 100 percent, who will step up for the Cowboys?
They have options with possible stud in the making, Justin Blackmon, but beyond him there are more questions than answers.
Someone will need to step up if the passing game is to maintain it's prowess.
How will the Georgia Secondary fare?
Both Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans will be moving into new positions this season, but both are very talented and have the ability to be solid at the strong and free safety positions respectively.
Evans will need to get accustomed quickly if he is going to roam the field and act as the last line of defense for the Dawgs. He is a bit small but he can make the big hit when he needs to and has the work ethic to get better if he can master the technical aspects of his position.
Our corners are fast and should not have any trouble keeping up with whomever the Cowboys place on on the field. It wouldn't surprise to see Branden Smith, the five-star do-it-all recruit make an appearance in this game as he has the speed to keep up with even the fastest of wide outs.
One interesting note to ponder here, Dez Bryant has, at times, been criticized for not showing up in the big games. See if he rises to the challenge in this home opener.
Edge: With no true no. 2 receiver to speak of, Georgia has a slight edge here.
The Georgia Offensive Line versus The Oklahoma State Defensive Line
Joe Cox goes into the season with a luxury that no Georgia quarterback has had in quite some time—a healthy, experienced, offensive line.
Make no mistake, if this isn't the best offensive line in the nation in terms of depth, experience, and overall talent level, then it's pretty darn close.
The return of Trinton Sturdivant will be a huge boost and do-it-all stud Clint Boling is making a statement to anyone who dares to doubt his ability as a future pro—his versatility makes him the most valuable player on the line this season.
The loss of Tanner Strickland was a blow, but the Dawgs recruited like beasts in 09' and grabbed some stellar talent that is ready to step up and serve in a key reserve role this season.
Either way, you would be hard-pressed to find a better unit anywhere in the nation.
How will the Cowboys fare?
There's a new sheriff in town on defense and his name is Bill Young. He will be the defensive coordinator heading into the season and will need to determine if there are any playmakers to be had on the defensive line.
Currently, the Cowboys do sport some solid talent, in particular, Jeremiah Price could be just the man that Young is looking for to get the pass-rush started this season.
However, a ton of questions remain.
Much like the Dawgs, the Cowboys simply haven't been able to maximize the talent at the end position—leaving them flat in the pass-rush and leaving their stellar linebacking corps unable to capitalize on their speed and prowess in the passing game.
They weren't scaring anyone last season and aren't likely to be ready to shock the world in game one either.
The strength, experience, and overall skill of the offensive line will give Georgia quarterback Joe Cox the time he needs to make the plays he needs. He won't put up Matthew Stafford numbers, but he doesn't have to do that to win this game.
His leadership and poise will go a long way towards deciding the offensive tempo of the game and if our defensive line can find enough space to disrupt the rhythm and flow of the run game, it will make the passing attack nearly non-existent.
The Dawgs have been at their best when they are flying under the radar and when they are on the road; there is no reason to believe that they can't go into Stillwater and win this game despite the odds they have been given.
It should be a close one early, but the Dawgs should step it up on defense and manage to contain the Robinson Trio long enough to allow Cox and Company to get some points on the board.
Final Score: Georgia 28 Oklahoma State 17