Cal-Maryland: Bears Must Beware Turtle Trap

Greg RichardsonCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2008

If I'm Jeff Tedford, I'm sweating extra hard this week.   The Bears are in a no-win position heading to Maryland.  This is a game that will be far more difficult than folks realize.

* Maryland looked awful barely beating Delaware and even worse losing to MTSU.  As a result, Cal is a 14-point favorite on the road against a BCS conference team that went to a bowl last year and returns most of its starters.  If Cal wins big, everyone will shrug.   If it's close, eyebrows will be raised—and if the Bears lose, the sky will be falling.  Not much upside here.

* Maryland has a ton of talent, at least on par with Michigan State.  They have a future NFL running back, center, and WR on offense, and a defense that returns a ton of starters after finishing 2007 in the top 25 in total defense nationally

* Think of the Terps like Cal was in the Keith Gilbertson era: talented and capable of beating anyone on a given day, but poorly coached and wildly inconsistent.  Moreover, they play down to the level of their competition.

* This is Maryland's marquee game of the year.  The fan and player interest in Delaware and MTSU were close to zero.  This is the game they've been thinking about all summer: It's on national TV, their pride is at stake, and they know they're playing a ranked team with a lot of talent.  They are going to bring it on Saturday.

* No Pac-10 team travels as far this season as California will for this game.  The team flies basically all day on Friday and then has to be ready to play at 9 am PST the next day.

* The Cal team is young and has to be feeling good about themselves after the first two games and a newly minted top 25 appearance.  When they look at film of Maryland and their 1-1 record against bad competition, how can the Bears not feel a bit of overconfidence?

That's a whole lot of hand wringing given the evidence to the contrary.  Despite all signs pointing towards a classic "trap" game, Cal has some big advantages.

Maryland's passing offense is nonexistent.   Their O-line has struggled to give their QB time—and even with time, he's not been accurate.  Their D line has yet to create any pass rush even against the less than formidable Hen and Blue Raider offensive lines.  Moreover, Maryland looks sloppy and undisciplined.

The Bears should have a chip on their shoulders after last year's meltdown, and no doubt they will be excited about the opportunity to play in front of a national TV audience.

So which is it?  A blowout win for the Bears or a Turtle trap?

I strongly suspect Cal will win, but unless the Maryland players have given up completely on their coach and mail the game in, I believe it will be a lot more reminiscent of the Bears' victory over Michigan State than the pummeling in the Palouse from last week.