Hey Terp fans, it's time to end the sabbatical. I'm back and ready for a countdown to this San Francisco showdown downtown.
Yeah, you liked that.
For those of you still comatose from finals, wake up! It's the last hurrah for football season! I know about 95% of you dear readers didn't think we would even get to play a game in December but we are. I also know that 99% of you aren't going to San Francisco, but it's OK, sometimes you get a better view on TV. At least that's what I'm hoping.
On to the matchup: It's the Maryland Terrapins (6-6) vs. the Oregon State Beavers (8-4) in The House that Barry Built on Dec. 28 at 8:30.
The bottom line is these teams do not know each other at all. It's demonstrated particularly in this quote from an Oregon newspaper, which may or may not be true depending on Oregon State academics:
"I'm really looking forward to playing Maryland," senior center Kyle DeVan told a media gathering. "I don't even know where that is. Do you want to point that out on the map for me?"
Yes, Kyle, I can. Maryland is the machine-gun looking state on the Eastern Seaboard squashed between Virginia and Pennsylvania. Crabcakes and football: That's what Maryland does. Tell me about Oregon - I always thought it was a mythical land at the end of a trail in some computer game.
But no matter where Oregon is or if anyone actually lives there, we are playing the Oregon State football team next week and Fridge will have to have his boys prepared. I was doing some reading on OSU (you can look up some of this info here and here) and this is the No. 3 team in the Pac-10 conference, which is really saying something. On the other hand, Maryland is the No. 6 team in the ACC, which is really saying nothing.
A few things that stick out about OSU:
- They have the No. 2 run defense. Yes, that is in the country. The good news: We already played the No. 1 run defense (Boston College) and ran on them. But Oregon State is also the No. 12 defense overall. The Oregonian's Paul Buker says, "The overriding attribute of this group is speed," and goes on to compare them to the mighty Pete Carroll defense. High praise indeed.
- The Beavers have won 6 of their last 7 games. The one loss? To No. 13 USC. They're pretty hot right now.
- The Beavers are No. 3 in sacks. Aren't you praying All-American Andrew Crummey and Jaimie Thomas can play? Me too.
- They have a completely underrated back in Yvenson Bernard, who has over 1,000 rush yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games. I'm hoping the Terps respond to this more like they did against Ray Rice (97 yds, 1 TD) than Steve Slaton (137 yds, 3 TDs). Some running backs you can only hope to contain.
- Their coach, Mike Riley, has posted a 3-0 record in bowl games.
This is a really good team that somehow got matched up with the battered and embattled Terrapins. Our best hope is that they somehow underestimate us, and I get the feeling they won't. This is not a big-name program and they play every game hard because they have to.
That doesn't mean there aren't a couple positives:
- Bernard is injured and might not be 100% for the game. Plus, Lance Ball has as many rushing touchdowns as Bernard. Keon Lattimore has one more.
- Our coach, Ralph Friedgen, is 3-1 in bowl games and, as we saw last December, the team is usually very prepared.
- We will be facing another sophomore quarterback in Lyle Moevao. He's actually more similar to Chris Turner than you might think - he replaced an injured starter, gained the trust of the team, didn't put up huge numbers (556 yds and 2 TDs), and reeled of three wins. Now he's the legit starter. But I'm not sure if Riley will make him do anything more. I think you need to be able to throw on us to beat us. Will he?
- We aren't terrible at defense as we rank 28th in scoring D nationally. Oregon State is No. 35 in that particular category.
- The Terps are ranked No. 26 in strength of schedule and Oregon State is No. 30. Maybe that's relevant?
- We'll have time to recover from the ridiculous amount of injuries we sustained this season.
- We have giant-killer potential, as we beat then-No. 10 Rutgers and then-No. 8 Boston College during the regular season. If we come out swinging with an open playbook, there's no telling what we could do. The Beaver's biggest win is against then-No. 18 Oregon in OT, sans Dennis Dixon.
I think that the best thing that can happen for Maryland is to be counted out as the underdog in this matchup. We've seen again and again that this team feels that they are better than their record and they win games when they absolutely have to. They can knock off big teams, and they will have to bring that ability to the game to be able to win.
I see they stack up a little unevenly, but given the X-factor type nature of the Terps and reserving my right to be optimistic, I'll give the Terps a narrow win.
PREDICTION: Maryland wins it, 30-28.
I've been waiting for a golden opportunity to post this video. Since this is the biggest game of the year and since it appears that basketball might not get a postseason this year, now seems to be the time.
I hope that pumps you guys up! Go Terps!