Oklahoma State vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Stillwater, Okla. 3:30 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma State - 5.5
These two teams opened up the season in 2007 in Athens with Georgia winning handily. But Oklahoma State comes into 2009 ranked No. 11 and returning three of the most dynamic players on offense in college football.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have to replace two first-round draft picks from their offense, including the No. 1 overall pick.
Oklahoma State Offense vs. Georgia Defense
QB Zac Robinson returns for the Pokes with plenty of weapons to distribute the ball to. Robinson has been slowed during camp with a hamstring injury but should be ready to go on Saturday afternoon.
He will be protected by All-Big 12 LT Russell Chung on a line returning three starters from last year.
Kendall Hunter had over 1,500 yards last season but sometimes gets overshadowed by teammate Dez Bryant. Bryant is a top candidate for the Biletnikoff Award this season after catching 19 TD passes a year ago.
The biggest piece missing is TE Brandon Pettigrew, who was a force in both run blocking and pass catching.
Now comes word that Oklahoma State's projected starter at TE has left the team. The Cowboys will need to find a target to complement Bryant and prevent double and triple teams.
Georgia's defense gets back its top lineman lost in the season opener a year ago, Jeff Owens. The Bulldogs need to find a consistent pass rusher as UGA had just 24 sacks on the season.
The linebackers and secondary are solid but nothing spectacular. Georgia's secondary is on the small side, which will be a disadvantage against the much taller Bryant.
The biggest pieces missing from the Bulldogs' defense last year were tackling and adjustments in scheme. Due to injuries, UGA did not do as much tackling in practice a year ago, and it really showed down the stretch against teams who get the ball to players in space.
Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez drew fire in the offseason mostly for his inability to make adjustments. Martinez will have to make adjustments on Saturday if he wants to slow the Pokes' high-powered offense.
Georgia Offense vs. Oklahoma State Defense
Senior Joe Cox finally gets his chance after three years sitting behind No. 1 draft choice Matt Stafford at QB. Cox has been praised for his poise and leadership in the offseason, but there will be a physical drop-off.
The tailback position is somewhat settled with sophomore Richard Samuel getting the start, but expect to see Caleb King (if healthy) and redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas too. UGA may miss Knowshon Moreno the most in pass blocking and receiving out of the backfield.
The offensive line is much improved over the past few years and actually has some depth this season. Coach Stacy Searels is one of the best in the business, and his line may have to carry UGA in the opener.
Much like Oklahoma State, UGA must find a second receiver to complement A.J. Green. After an outstanding freshman season, Green will likely face double teams until a backup option is found.
Defensively...Oklahoma State didn't play much of it last year, but their numbers are inflated because of the offenses they played in the Big 12.
The linebacking corps returns just about everyone and should be pretty good. A starting CB was arrested earlier this week, and we don't know how that will play out in terms of him playing on Saturday.
The Bulldogs are going to play between the tackles more so than the spread passing teams Oklahoma State faces in the Big 12, so the Pokes' defensive line will play an important role.
Mark Richt is very good at home, but he is even better in opponents' stadiums. Last season, all the weight of being preseason No. 1 took a toll on his team's preparation according to the head coach.
He feels his team is better prepared this season with a tough opponent to look forward to in the first game.
Mike Gundy is famous/infamous for his press conference antics, but he has brought Oklahoma State back near the top of the Big 12 in a short time. His offense is very innovative and explosive, but the defense needs to improve to take that next step.
He brought in a new DC in Bill Young, Miami's DC last season, to improve a unit that ranked near the bottom of the FBS in pass and run defense.
Boone Pickens Stadium will be rocking with a new renovation and perennial SEC power Georgia visiting.
If the Bulldogs can get an early score or slow down the Pokes, they can start to take some of the emotion out from the crowd. Georgia needs to let their superior offensive line take over the game.
Oklahoma State wants to get players in space where they can test the tackling ability of a defense that really struggled last year.
I expect their defense to test Cox early with blitzes and stacking the box to help against the run and make him beat them with his arm.
I really like Richt's teams on the road, and although he has lost some star power, he might have gained in continuity and teamwork.
Georgia 34, Oklahoma State 31
Georgia Covers +5.5