The ACC meets the Pac-10 this weekend, as the Maryland Terrapins make their way across the country to take on the 12th- ranked California Golden Bears at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.
The Terps rebounded nicely in 2008, although things could have been a whole lot better for Ralph Friedgen's club if not for a late collapse. After posting just a 6-7 record the prior year, Maryland went 8-5 last season and that included a 42-35 win over Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl. It sounds like a nice accomplishment, but the fact is, the Terps had a letdown in late November. With a shot at participating in the ACC title game, Maryland was defeated by Florida State and Boston College in back-to-back weeks and had to settle for a much lesser bowl game. Still, Friedgen has turned out consistent winning teams at his alma mater and Maryland figures to be competitive once again in 2009.
As for the Golden Bears, they head into their 114th season of football with lofty expectations following a Top 15 ranking. Under head coach Jeff Tedford, Cal has notched seven straight winnings campaigns and appeared in six consecutive bowl games. In 2008, the Bears finished 9-4 overall and capped off their season with a 24-17 triumph of Miami-Florida in the Emerald Bowl. It marked the fourth bowl win in a row for Cal, which returns the type of talent that could land the program its first Rose Bowl berth since the 1958 season.
California and Maryland met for the first-ever time on the gridiron last season, with the Terps pulling off a 35-27 upset of the Bears in College Park. The Terps did a nice job in rushing for 144.0 ypg and passing for 206.7 ypg in 2008 and those numbers should remain steady thanks to the return of signal- caller Chris Turner and tailback Da'Rel Scott. A three-year starter, Turner threw for 2,516 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and he has room for improvement in 2009.
For Scott, he burst onto the scene last year and finished second in the ACC in rushing with 1,133 yards. He also added 21 catches, to go with eight touchdowns, and his 5.4 yard per carry average is evidence of his explosiveness. Scott though, will lose some carries to Davin Meggett, who came on in his own right last season. As just a freshman, Meggett rushed for 457 yards and four scores and he is expected to see a much larger role now in his second year. With the departure of All-American Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland is left without a proven receiver, but they do have some options to stretch the field and take some of the pressure off the ground game.
The biggest issue for the Terps comes along the line, where only two starters are welcomed back in tackle Bruce Campbell (6-7, 310) and center Phil Costa (6-3, 300). The line will need to come together quickly if Maryland hopes to move the ball successfully.