Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pregame Thoughts: Maryland-Cal

So here we are, one of the most anticipated matchups (at least for Terp fans) on the 2008 MD Football schedule. Unfortunately, questions are abound as the Cal Bears come into town, all the way from quarterback to kicker on this Terrapin football team. The Terps, as I'm sure most of you remember, are coming off of a humiliating loss to Middle Tennessee State last week in which the 24-14 score belies the level of control that Middle Tennessee had over the game. If you'll remember my report card I was somewhat overcome with anger/frustration/depression at the time, but we'll see what a new week brings.

So, as No. 23 ranked Cal comes into Maryland, what things can the Terps (realistically) do to have a shot at an upset?

Open holes for Scott and Meggett in the running game: There's no doubt that Da'Rell Scott and Davin Meggett both have outstanding ability and breakaway speed, but as we saw in Middle Tennessee, that ability means nothing if the offensive line can't have some control of the line of scrimmage. Certainly this offensive line can't be expected to dominate for 60 minutes, but they need to do just enough to open up some lanes for Da'Rell and Davin.

The "good" Chris Turner needs to show up: In his limited starting time at Maryland these past two years, the one thing that can be said about Chris Turner is that he can be great one day but terrible the next, and vice versa. Terp fans need that trend to continue because anything outside of a crisp and efficient performance will lock this game away in the loss column. Chris Turner needs to play with poise, where he can limit his mistakes and make sound decisions. Last week he lost that poise and it showed, but again, Terp fans know that he can bounce right back the next week against superior competition.

Utilize all of your playmakers on offense: Outside of the duo of running backs mentioned earlier, this team is actually pretty deep when it comes to offensive playmakers. Obviously Darrius Heyward-Bey, the outstanding redshirt junior, has been the focal point of the passing game(and rightly so). More receivers are going to have to get involved however, as Cal will no doubt lock down on Heyward-Bey and force the Terps to look elsewhere. Isaiah Williams, La'Quan Williams, Danny Oquendo, and Adrian Cannon among others are all viable weapons in the passing game from the wide receiver spot who can hopefully take some pressure off of Maryland's msot dangerous weapon.

Make a field goal: Preferrably convert on all of the field goals, if possible, although I know I'm probably asking alot. I apologize that was awfully rude, I need until after the game to act like that. Back to the point; Obi Egekeze has gone 0-4 for Maryland on field goal attempts this season and while Friedgen has hinted at a possible change if things don't go right, smart money is on Egekeze getting the nod today. This might be his last chance, and making any field goals will most likely be the Terps only chance to pull the upset.

Limit the damage on defense: The Cal Bears will not be shut out. The End. So let's get rid of any of those ideas, but! The Terps defense can try to slow this attack down and limit the number of points Cal can score. Kevin Riley has flourished for the Bears since taking over at quarterback but he has not been asked to do too much in the passing game. The Terps will have to shut down their running game which has been dominant in Cal's first two games in order to get to Riley and force some mistakes.

Now all Terp fans can do is wait for kickoff and see what happens. The game's on ESPN, so the nation is watching, and there would be no better time than now for the Terps to stand up and make a statement. This team has surprised and disappointed fans equally these past few years, and this would be a fine time to pull a stunning surprise out of their collective pockets. But no, I cannot in all fairness call the upset in my prediction. Cal wins, 38-21.

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