Huge opener should set tone for Boise and Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia is trying to get back to where it was not so long ago.

Boise State wants to bust up the BCS _ again.

For one, the hopes of a season will take a major blow on the very first Saturday.

“This is definitely a statement game for us,” Georgia defensive end Abry Jones said. “We’re trying to re-establish ourselves in the college football world.”

No. 5 Boise State is already well established as one of the nation’s winningest programs and an annual threat to crack the BCS monopoly. But the Broncos know there’s no room for error if they want to play in a major bowl for the third time in six years and, who knows, maybe get a crack at an improbable national title.

Last season, an overtime loss to Nevada _ the lone defeat of the season _ forced Boise State to settle for the Las Vegas Bowl. The Broncos certainly can’t afford a loss to 19th-ranked Georgia, the most appealing non-conference game on their schedule as they move from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West.

Coach Chris Petersen knows his team just doesn’t carry the same gravitas as the more established BCS programs _ even one such as Georgia, coming off its first losing season since 1996.

“Every year is a new ballgame,” he said. “Yeah, there’s some things we’ve done in the past. But no one really cares about that once this season starts. It’s ‘What have you done for me lately?’ We get that. If we play well, win some games this year, people will think highly of us. If not, they’ll think, ‘Well, they used to be good.’”

The Bulldogs know how that feels. They won a pair of Southeastern Conference titles in Mark Richt’s first five years as coach. They finished No. 2 in the rankings in 2007, then started the next season ranked No. 1.

It’s pretty much been downhill ever since, culminating in last year’s 6-7 debacle that put the heat squarely on Richt to get the Bulldogs moving in the right direction. If not, he’ll likely be looking for a new job.

“A good way to get Georgia football back on the right track is to beat a top-five team,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Obviously, it would give us huge momentum for the rest of the season to win such a big game.”

The Bulldogs should definitely have a good idea where they stand after this contest at the Georgia Dome and the actual home opener a week later against No. 12 South Carolina, the defending SEC East champion.

“We’ll make our season with these two opening games,” tight end Orson Charles said. “From there, we just have to keep rolling.”

Boise State arrived in Atlanta on Friday without three foreign-born players, including starting receiver Geraldo Boldewijn and starting safety Cedric Febis. They are being out of the opener, along with backup defensive lineman Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, while their eligibility is reviewed by the NCAA.

All three are from the Netherlands and played prep football for high schools in Boise. School officials said the NCAA review was not related to academics or violations of team rules. All three were cleared to play for the Broncos last season.

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