By Ted Miller
When Jahvid Best infamously spewed his breakfast onto the Byrd Stadium turf at Maryland last September, it pretty much summed up the day for California. Cal, then ranked 23rd, sleepwalked into College Park and got knocked loopy, the final 35-27 count not doing justice to the shockingly lopsided nature of the game -- it was 28-6 in the third quarter. "For the first three quarters, we didn't play Cal football," Bears linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "It was ugly and left a real bad taste in our mouths."
Literally, at least in Best's case. So, obviously, there's a revenge angle for the No. 12 Bears as they welcome the Terrapins for a return visit to Strawberry Canyon on Saturday. Even more than last fall, the matchup seems to favor Cal, see a 21-point spread. For one, Maryland only welcomes back nine starters. The Terrapins, most particularly, are rebuilding both lines.
The primary concern for Mohamed and the Bears defense will be All-ACC running back Da'Rel Scott and senior quarterback Chris Turner, who seems to save his best stuff for nationally ranked foes. Yet the biggest test for Cal is recognizing that, if the goal is a special season, every game matters, which means treating every foe with respect.
Last year, it seemed as though the Bears read that the Terrapins had only beaten FCS Delaware 14-7 and had lost to Middle Tennessee and took the game lightly. They paid for that. Most 2009 projections have the Terrapins finishing at or near the bottom of the ACC's Atlantic Division, while Cal is being touted as the Pac-10's top challenger to USC. Though the Bears have fallen short of high expectations a number of times in recent years -- it's worth noting it wasn't too long ago when the program had no expectations -- Mohamed said he and his teammates are embracing the hype. "We have our sights set on the Pac-10 [title]," Mohamed said, "and maybe even higher."