Five Burning Questions: Cal Vs. Maryland

WarderroCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2009

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 22:  Kevin Riley #13 of the California Golden Bears signals for a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal during an NCAA football game on November 22, 2008 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For those of you wondering, no I'm not trying to imitate Jim Rome (as of today, I still have yet to grow a successful goatee). Anyways clones, with about a week before the season starts, let's get down to business.

Here are the biggest questions surrounding the tilt with the Terps next Saturday.

How will Kevin Riley debut?

This past week, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Bears was solved, as the redshirt junior Riley was officially named the team's starter. To me, that was a non-story.
He was the most experienced signal caller on the roster and has taken the most first team snaps in camp. I would have been shocked to see him get unseated by a quarterback who has thrown six carer college passes (no offense, Brock).

But now we must find out whether or not Riley will take advantage of this opportunity. He has more familiarity working with his receivers and a game breaking running back to set up the air attack.

He will also face a weak Maryland pass defense that ranked 10th in the ACC in 2008 (and that was with Jahvid Best's vomit inducer, Kevin Barnes, who is now gone).

Riley does not have to be absolutely spectacular, but showing a completion percentage closer to 60 percent, making sound decisions, and leading the team on some longer touchdown drives would certainly ease some fan concerns.

Just who are these Terps?

Last year, there were few more baffling teams than Maryland, as the Bears unfortunately found out.

The Terrapins barely beat Delaware and lost to Middle Tennessee State before blindsiding Cal. And jammed in between wins over top 25 foes Clemson and Wake Forest was a trouncing by Virginia.

It's no surprise that Maryland comes from the always unpredictable ACC, where it seemed that practically every team except Duke and Virginia was in contention at some point.
Much of the Terps' inconsistency was embodied in quarterback Chris Turner, who has recorded nearly as many picks (18) as touchdowns (20) in his career. He will play in Berkeley without his two leading receivers from 2008 (Darrius Heyward-Bey and Danny Oquendo).

And who knows how much Maryland, despite flying in a day early, will be affected the time difference on the west coast road trip?

Can the Bears ground Maryland's rushing attack?

The nation knows plenty about Jahvid Best, but Maryland boasts a solid ground game of their own, led by Da'Rel Scott. The junior racked up 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

Scott did some very early damage when the two teams met last year at Maryland, outrushing Best and gaining 87 yards and two touchdowns before suffering a shoulder injury in the third quarter.

He also has a solid back up in Davin Meggett. The 5'8", 220 pound back notched 457 yards and four scores last year, including 82 yards and a touchdown against Cal.

They are joined in the backfield by Morgan Green, who should see significant playing time in 2009. The trio will face off against a Cal defense that ranked 26th in the nation against the run, but one that will debut three new starting linebackers.

(Projected starters) Mike Mohamed, Mychal Kendricks, Eddie Young, and D.J. Holt should expect a heavy dose of the ground game.

They will have to be quick enought to keep Scott (a former 100m sprint champ) from getting into the second level, while also stopping the bruisers Green and Meggett on short yardage.

Will Cal's receivers make a statement?

Don't get me wrong, I love Jahvid Best, but when he has nearly as many catches (27) as Cal's leading wideout (29), that doesn't speak too well about Cal's receiving corps.

The wideouts showed flashes throughout the year, but did not develop into reliable pass catchers; no Cal receiver caught more than five balls in a game.

If the Bears want to keep opponents from loading the box to stuff the run, their receivers must develop into consistent targets that catch balls to keep drives alive on longer passing downs, as well as in the endzone.

The team desperately need a go-to target, someone the Bears can count on for around 70 yards per game and making big catches.

Last year, the closest thing was tight end Cameron Morrah, whose eight touchdowns were as much as Cal's top two wideouts had combined.

Who will step up this year?

Senior Nyan Boateng, the leading returning receiver (439 yards, five scores), has played an increased leadership role over the summer, while the return of a healthy Marvin Jones should provide an immediate spark.

Both are projected to start come game day, and only then will be begin to know the answer.

Facing a pass defense that ranked 77th in the nation last year, Sept. 5 will be as good a chance as ever for Cal's wideouts to show how far they have progressed since last year.

Can those big Bears up front gel?

Cal's offensive line will have some big shoes to fill in 2009. Gone is all-everything center Alex Mack, along with guard Norris Malele.

That being said, almost all of this year's projected starters all have valuable playing time from last season.

Junior Chris Guarnero should be more than capable in anchoring the line (he was Mack's back-up and started three games last year), while the tackles boast the experience of sixth year senior Mike Tepper and sophomore Mitchell Schwartz.

The Bears also have two experienced options at right guard (Justin Cheadle and Chet Teofilo). Matt Summers-Gavin, a high-profile recruit from 2007 projected to start on the left side, is the only one who didn't see the field last year.

Cal's offensive line must come together quickly before tough tests like Oregon and USC, and has a great opportunity to do so against a Maryland defensive front that ranked near the bottom of the ACC against both the run and in sacks .

The Bears have the pieces and depth to have be quite formidable up front; it's just a matter of how well (and how quickly) those big guys gel.


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