Coming off a season in which they put together an 8-5 record, capped off with a victory over Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl, the Terps enter the 2009 with vast amounts of experience on some fronts and very limited amounts on others. The Terps come into camp with a third year quarterback and fantastic running backs, but are dealing with a very young offensive line, a new defensive coordinator, and a receiving corps that doesn’t include Derrius Heyward-Bey. And how do the Terps open the season? On the road…at Cal…in a night game that will feel like midnight for the Terps. And you have to think that Cal wants revenge, especially after having to play the game at noon eastern time after traveling across the country from CA.
Last season's victory over Cal helped take away the sour taste Terps fans had in their mouth after losing to Middle Tennessee State the previous week and only beating Div 1AA Delaware by 7 the week prior to that. It also was the start of a three game winning streak for the Terps and would serve as a perfect example of the team's amazing inconsistency last season - beating a team like Cal and winning on the road at Clemson, yet getting shut out by UVA and losing to Middle Tennessee. The Terps again were in the driver's seat for a trip to the ACC title game and again faded down the stretch. What will happen with this year's team? Here is a breakdown of their first opponent, the Cal Golden Bears.
The inside scoop on the California Golden Bears
Maryland surprised several people last year when they knocked off Cal at Byrd Stadium, stopping one of the best running backs in the country in Jahvid Best and holding one of the nation's best running teams to just 38 total yards. And who can forget this awesome hit by Kevin Barnes on Best that knocked the gatorade out of the kid? That video never gets old. At the time, Cal was ranked 23rd in the nation and many people never thought Cal was going to lose to the Terps. Cal was probably #1 on that list and you have to think they really want to take it to the Terps to start the season.
This year, Cal will be looking to pay back the Terps when they fly across the country to play Cal at Berkeley to open the 2009 season for a late night game on ESPN2. You have to think the late start time in a way is a payback for the Terps starting the game last year at noon eastern time in College Park. Cal will have the nation's leading returning rusher in Jahvid Best, a possible Heisman trophy candidate. Last year, often criticized defensive coordinator Chris Cosh had a great game plan for Cal - stop the run at almost any cost and they were able to actually accomplish that. The Terps basically blew out Cal last year, as the score doesn't indicate how much Maryland dominated. The last second scoring Cal did was more the result of the Terps playing prevent D than anything else. Cal also returns starting quarterback Kevin Riley, who did throw for over 400 yards in last season's game, but who only completed just over 50% of his passes and threw for just over 1,300 yards last season. Riley normally makes good decisions (14 TDs and only 6 ints) but isn't an elite quarterback. Cal also returns most of their secondary, but lost most of their linebackers.
Best is obviously going to be the Terps number one concern and it will be interesting to see what schemes new defensive coordinator Don Brown tries to use to stop Cal. The Terps traveling across the country and playing late, coupled with the fact that this is the Terps first game of the season and the offensive line is going to still be coming together, seems to indicate that this game won't end well for the Terps. Cal is ranked anywhere from #13-20th, and having to play on the road is never easy, especially to start the season. I think Scott and Meggett could have a big day, especially if Turner can do a good job just managing the game. The inexperience on the o-line scares me though, and I think Cal get the revenge they're looking for, 31-24.
What do you think? Will the Terps beat Cal? Do you think they can beat Cal?