Maryland @ No. 12 California: From East to West

Brett GellmanCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2009

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - NOVEMBER 29:  Da'Rel Scott #23 of the Maryland Terrapins carries the ball in the first half against the Boston College Eagles on November 29, 2008 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)


While the California Golden Bears defeated Washington State by a whopping 63-point margin in the second week of college football last season, the Maryland Terrapins suffered defeat from the unlikeliest of foes in an ugly loss to Middle Tennessee State.  Both teams were scheduled to face each other the following week, with Cal being the obvious favorite to win.

Who could’ve predicted that Maryland would possess a 28-6 advantage in the fourth quarter and eventually come out victorious in College Park when the two teams finally met? 

Certainly not many, as both fanbases were stunned.  Maybe it was the hot and humid weather, or that the Terps needed to redeem themselves after falling to MTSU, or even the early 9:00 a.m. Pacific kickoff time.

This time, however, things will be much different. 

Maryland will travel to the west coast for not only a 10:00 p.m. Eastern kickoff, but will be surrounded by a crowd channeling Tobias Funke in a Blue-Out atmosphere.

Then, there’s the fact that Cal is undefeated in home-openers under head coach Jeff Tedford, not to mention that they’re 27-4 overall in Berkeley through the last five seasons.

Oh, and let’s not forget about Heisman candidate Jahvid Best, one of the nation’s most prolific running backs.

The odds of Maryland coming out of Memorial Stadium victorious are rather slim.  Even Vegas wasn’t too kind to the Terps, as they listed them as 21.5 underdogs.  Now, I’m not a betting man, but I don’t think bookies are giving Maryland enough credit.

The Terps return quarterback Chris Turner who enters his third season under center, and his second under offensive coordinator James Franklin’s west-coast oriented system.  Turner played one of his best games against the Bears, as the California native went 15 for 19 and threw two touchdowns.

Maryland also brings back All-ACC running back Da’Rel Scott to the fold and will be complemented by sophomore Davin Meggett.  The two backs combined for nearly 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the Bears.  And while the Terps will miss the playmaking abilities of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland will bring no less than nine receivers to Berkeley.

Just like Cal, the biggest question mark for the Terps is their young, unproven offensive line.  The Terps return only two starters and will insert three new players, two of which are former walk-ons.  Maryland will have to heavily rely upon senior fullback Cory Jackson for additional blocking until the line ultimately finds its groove.

One thing that Maryland fans won’t have to worry about is the defense.  First-year defensive coordinator Don Brown has implemented an aggressive 4-3 style that is wildly unpredictable, which is a stark contrast to the read-and-react style Maryland previously used.  Look for cornerback Nolan Carroll and safety Kenny Tate as breakout players to excel under this new scheme.

Prediction:  31-21, California.  Ralph Friedgen’s teams always seem to get out to a slow start, but shipping them out west to a highly-ranked team looking to exact revenge in a hostile atmosphere will be tough, to say the least. I’m sure that Jahvid Best wants to rack up as many yards as he can after he was repeatedly seen on YouTube last fall tossing up his breakfast following a vicious hit by Kevin Barnes.

Breaking in an offensive line with players who have less than 30 collective starts under their belt could be a recipe for disaster.  Furthermore, the Fridge hasn’t even named a starting placekicker yet, leaving special teams as another question mark.  Then there’s the defense—we have absolutely no idea how they will perform, as this will be a brand new system for the Terps.

There are just way too many question marks going on for the Terps to leave Memorial Stadium victorious. However, I do believe it will be closer than Vegas predicts.