Week 1 Game Matchup: Maryland Terrapins VS. Cal Bears
Maryland Terrapins (0-0) vs. Cal Bears (0-0)
Saturday, September 5, 7:00 PM PST
Las Vegas Favorite: Cal -21.0
Sam’s Take (0 – 0):
The Bears couldn’t have started any worse at Byrd Stadium last season. A 28-6 hole was too much to overcome, and Maryland took full advantage of a Cal team that didn’t look ready to play. I foresee a much different outcome in 2009. Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen combined for only 38 rushing yards last year, and I can guarantee that was an anomaly. I expect a big day on the ground for the Bears, as the Terrapins defensive line is in rebuild mold (lost three starters and six letterman on the D line). Kevin Riley’s play in College Park was one of the few bright spots last year (423 yards passing), and he will have a great chance to start his 2009 campaign with another big game against the Terps.
I respect Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen and his program, but Cal always seems to start fast at home in non-conference games, and the Bears will have payback on their minds to boot (see Tennessee two years ago).
Prediction: Cal 38 – Maryland 17
Maryland Player to Keep an Eye On: WR Torrey Smith - Maryland will need a new receiving threat now that Darrius Heyward-Bey is gone, and Smith may be it. He should be matched up with CB Syd’Quan Thompson.
Cal Player to Keep an Eye On: ILB Mychal Kendricks – Stop the run! The Bears failed to do it last year and they must be better this time around. The Terps have a very good stable of tailbacks led by All-ACC performer Da’Rel Scott, so the dynamic Kendricks will be a key for the run D.
Dave’s Take (0 – 0):
As I mentioned in the Oregon write-up, I’m a sucker for the revenge angle in college football. And I can guarantee you that no returning player on the California Golden Bears has forgotten what happened last year on the Bear’s trip to Maryland.
That loss set the tone for what would be an embarrassing campaign on the road in 2008, and really took the wind out of the season’s sails. Jahvid Best had an uncharacteristically pedestrian game as well, averaging only 2.5 yards per carry on 10 carries.
More importantly than just the revenge angle, I can see Cal dominating the battle of the lines on both offense and defense. Maryland is heavily rebuilding their defensive line, and their offensive line should have fits trying to handle Cal’s 3-4 attack. Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott is always a threat, but with a new-look offensive line in front of him, I don’t expect this to be his day. On the other side, Jahvid Best will be particularly fired up for this one, and I expect him to have a huge day in the home opener.
Taking nothing away from Maryland, Cal is the much better team here, and if they are going to slip up this season I don’t believe it will be in their home opener against a team they learned the hard way not to take lightly last year. Look for Best to get his Heisman campaign off on the right foot with a big day this Saturday, and the Cal Bears to keep the foot on the gas all the way to the finish.
Prediction: Cal 45 – Maryland 16