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Foster Farms Bowl preview: Maryland vs. Stanford

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Can the Terps move the ball against a stout Stanford defense?

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The difference between seven and eight wins is a sizable one for Maryland. For one, a bowl victory against Stanford Tuesday would signal a third straight year with an improved win total. For another, a win against the Cardinal would signal one of Randy Edsall's finest victories of his tenure with the Terrapins. The game will be broadcast at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN and streamed on WatchESPN.

After four straight seasons with 11 or 12 wins, Stanford took a serious step back this season with a 7-5 record. The advanced metrics point to a slightly different story, as the Cardinal rank 23rd in F/+ (Maryland is 45th). Stanford suffered from some bad close game luck and horrid red zone efficiency, leading to close losses against USC, Notre Dame and Utah. Stanford's other two losses came by a more emphatic nature to Arizona State and Oregon, but they ended the season with their best performance to date in a 31-10 victory over UCLA.

Stanford is coached by David Shaw, a former wide receiver for the Cardinal who spent about a decade as a position coach in the NFL. He joined Jim Harbaugh's staff at San Diego in 2006, following him to Stanford as his offensive coordinator the next season. Shaw took over for Harbaugh in 2011, taking them to three straight top-11 finishes and two straight Pac-12 titles before this season's disappointment.

Players to know

Kevin Hogan, senior, quarterback. A three-year starter, Hogan's regression has mirrored Stanford's this season. He's played very well in his last two games against Cal and UCLA, but his numbers are pretty uniformly down from last season. He's a big runner at quarterback and can hurt you either in the air or on the ground on a good day, but he could be in trouble if Maryland is able to pressure him.

Remoud Wright, senior, running back. Stanford's leading rusher is averaging just over 50 yards per game, gaining 4.4 yards per carry with eight touchdowns. The Cardinal rely more on a rotating backfield, with Barry Sanders, Jr., Kelsey Young and Christian McCaffrey also receiving carries.

Ty Montgomery, senior, wide receiver. Stanford's most explosive player, Montgomery will not play Tuesday. He's averaging 128.6 yards of offense per game (down from 157.7 last year), and is among the top home run threats in the nation when healthy. In his absence, expect tight end Devon Cajuste to see a lot of targets.

Andrus Peat, junior, offensive tackle. One of the top NFL prospects in the nation, Peat is an imposing presence at 6'7 and 316 pounds. If Andre Monroe lines up on him, that could be fun -- Monroe beat top NFL prospect Brandon Scherff, of Iowa, multiple times earlier in the year.

Henry Anderson, senior, defensive end. Anderson leads the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. The 6'6, 287-pound Georgia native could cause problems for Maryland's evolving offensive line, but new left tackle Jake Wheeler has been playing the best football of his career these past few weeks.

Blake Martinez, junior, inside linebacker. Stanford's leading tackler, Martinez has 95 stops and 4.5 sacks this season. He also leads the team with three interceptions, and C.J. Brown has been known to make a few early mistakes over the middle.

Jordan Richards, senior, strong safety. Richards shares that interceptions mark with Martinez, and has chipped in with 76 tackles from the defensive backfield. He has also broken up four passes and forced three fumbles this season.

Strengths:

Rushing defense. Stanford is giving up just 3.2 yards per carry this season, good for 12th in the nation. With Anderson, Martinez, A.J. Tarpley and Kevin Anderson, the Cardinal have an imposing front seven that could punish Maryland's run blockers.

Strength in the trenches. Harbaugh built a bruising model of Stanford while he was at Palo Alto, and Shaw has continued that in his time with the school. The Cardinal have a number of high-quality linemen on both sides of the ball -- a formula that has given Maryland problems in the past.

Weaknesses:

Red-zone offense. In 49 red zone opportunities, Stanford scored 35 times. That rate ranks 119th in the nation out of 128 teams. Their failures in the red zone cost them the USC game, at least, and has come back to bite them all too many times this season.

Offensive explosivity. With Montgomery unable to play, Stanford doesn't have a whole lot of scoring ability on offense. Without the ability to score in the red zone, long drives get stalled, and without the ability to score from farther out, points become scarce. Maryland's best chance is forcing mistakes from the Cardinal and hoping the Terrapins' explosive weapons can make just one more play than the opposition.

Key matchup:

Stefon Diggs vs. Stanford secondary. Speak of Maryland's explosive weapons, their star receiver will return after missing two games with a lacerated kidney. His ability to score points nearly on his own brings a lot to Maryland's offense, but he's facing a Cardinal passing defense that hasn't given up more than 300 yards in any game this season. They played Washington State and gave up 292 yards on 69 passing attempts. Everyone knows the Terrapins' struggles in the passing game -- for Maryland to succeed, they'll likely need a big play from Diggs.

Prediction:

Stanford 21, Maryland 17. The Terrapins keep it closer than expected thanks to defensive pressure and one big play, but are unable to consistently move the ball against the Cardinal defense.