It's game day! We've waited so long...
While you can go anywhere to see a fuller, more stat-filled preview than this, here's a short look at what you can expect from the game today:
Maryland's Offense vs. Cal's Defense - The Golden Bears' defense looks to be one of the better ones this year, with 8 returning starters. The problem, though, is that all three new starters are linebackers; the Golden Bears are replacing a trio of starting ‘backers, which is probably their weakest point on defense. The defensive line and secondary should be good enough to compensate, but it's a point of interest, especially in the 3-4 defense, when much more pressure is placed on the LBs. There are quite a few great players on Cal's defense, though: Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu are Cal's stars along the defensive line at DE, while Syd'Quan Thompson is one of the top cover corners in the nation.
On Maryland's side, the worst thing Maryland's young offensive line could face is that 3-4 alignment. It's traditionally more confusing and tougher to handle than the traditional 4-3, so missed assignments may be plentiful. If the line can handle the different look, Maryland should look to run...a lot. Hey-Bey had his way with Thompson last year, but Torrey Smith - as much as I like him - doesn't have that ability. The passing game will probably be limited to second and third options while the running game attempts to attack the weak LB corps with 6 or 7 yard runs.
Maryland's Defense vs. Cal's Offense - Jahvid Best, Jahvid Best, Jahvid Best. That's pretty much all you need to know about Cal's offense. Kevin Riley is an adequate QB , but not much more. The WRs for Cal are probably the biggest weakness on the team. Cal's offensive line is very good, and Best benefits from having a decent amount of holes opened up for him. I don't expect there to be any problems against Maryland's inexperienced DL. After getting knocked out of the game last year, Best is probably looking to get some revenge, and he has the ability to make Maryland hurt.
I wouldn't be surprised if Don Brown took Chris Cosh's stategy of stopping Best at all costs - Kenny Tate or Antwine Perez may be a fourth linebacker when they're on the field. The secondary is experienced enough to handle an average Cal passing game; the biggest problem will be stopping Best. Of course, Brown does have a card up his sleeve - there's almost no tape on his defense, making it near impossible to adequately prepare for it.
Special Teams - Maryland and Cal are spookily similar in this category. Both had placekicking battles during the spring, and both were decided only recently. True freshman Vince D'Amato will handle the duties for Cal, and the Terps' kicker has been decided but not announced. It's very possible that both teams will sport true freshman kickers, so field goals may be few and far between. Both have great punters - the Bears' Bryan Anger was a Freshman All-America first teamer, while Travis Baltz is a Ray Guy award semifinalist. To top it off, both have electric kick returners - Best will field kicks for the Golden Bears, while Torrey Smith - the record holder for kick return yards in a single season in the ACC - returns for Maryland.
Cliff Notes Version: Too lazy to actually read that? Here's the Cliff Notes:
- Cal's defense returns 8 starters, so there's a lot of experience.
- All three new starters are LBs, though, so that could be an area of weakness.
- Cal's 3-4 defense might confuse Maryland's young offensive line.
- Expect Maryland to try to run the ball and take advantage of a weaker LB corps with 5 to 7 yard runs.
- Jahvid Best is the core of Cal's offense.
- Expect quite a lot of running from Cal, as Kevin Riley and Cal's WRs aren't all that great.
- Fortunately, there's no DI tape of Don Brown's defense, so it's possible that Cal isn't prepared for it.
- Both teams have young kickers, great punters, and explosive returners.