TSR Breakdown: The California Golden Bears

TSR breaks down Maryland's opponent in Saturday's non-conference, nationally televised clash against the Cal Golden Bears.

California Golden Bears (2-0) at Maryland Terrapins (1-1)

Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD

September 13, 12:00 pm, ESPN

California Golden Bears

Head Coach: Jeff Tedford (52-26 in 7th season at California)

Conference: Pac-10

Series History: First meeting

Last Week: Cal won at Washington State 66-3

California Offense: The Golden Bears have a very prolific offense to say the least, and that begins with their running backs. Sophomore Jahvid Best might be the most explosive back in the country and has the stats to back up that statement. At Washington State, Best ran for 200 yards on only 14 carries, three of which went for a touchdown. That was after tallying 111 yards in a season-opening win over Michigan State. Best is not their only productive back, however. Redshirt freshman Shane Vereen has rushed just 18 times in Cal's two games this year but has totaled 181 yards and 2 TDs. Both backs have tremendous speed and each have scored on runs of 80 or more yards so far this year.

If there was one area of concern for Cal entering the season, it was a completely inexperienced WR corps after losing DeSean Jackson to the NFL draft after his junior season as well as other experienced receivers to graduation. Senior Sean Young, who had 3 receptions in his career prior to this season, leads the team with 6 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. And a familiar name to Maryland fans is second among WRs for the Bears. Nyan Boateng notched 4 catches for 44 yards against Washington State. The Cal passing game obviously was not tested against Washington State but in the close game Michigan State game, sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley completed 17 of his 24 passes for 202 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Under Tedford Cal has always had a great passing game and if not for their dynamic duo at RB, this year might be much the same.

Of course no running or passing game can succeed without a strong offensive line and Cal has a great one. Not only are the linemen opening holes for Best and Vereen, but they have surrendered only one sack so far this season. This is nothing new for a Tedford offense as the previous two seasons have seen the Bears give up only 24 total sacks. Maryland already lacks a consistent pass rush so may have to get creative in order to get to the quarterback.

California Defense: It is always tough to read anything into a blowout win, but the fact remains that Cal shut down Washington State's offense last week, limiting the Cougars to only 167 total yards. In their opener, however, the Bears surrendered 402 total yards to Michigan State with 321 of those coming through the air. Of interesting note is that Spartan WR Mark Dell was especially able to do damage to the California secondary as he recorded 9 catches for 202 yards and a TD. Junior cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson has been a star in the secondary as he currently is tied for the national lead in interceptions with three.

Meanwhile, Cal has surrendered only 138 total yards on the ground in its two games this year. Even if you throw the Washington State game out the window, the Bears still gave up only 81 yards on the ground to Michigan State. This season the team switched to a 3-4 defense to take advantage of their deep and athletic LB corps. Against Michigan State, their front seven held RB Javon Ringer to 81 yards with an average of 3.0 yards per rush and a long run of 10 yards. The good news, perhaps, for Maryland is thus far Cal has recorded only 2 sacks on defense, both coming from linebackers.

California Special Teams: In both of their games now, Cal has blocked a kick and returned it for a touchdown. Against Michigan State it was a punt and last week it was a field goal attempt. Maryland should be most concerned with the field goals as they have struggled mightily already on the season in that department.

Prediction: Cal's 66-3 romp on the road against a conference opponent contrasted with Maryland's loss at Middle Tennessee and close win over Delaware would not seem to bode well for the Terps. Cal has an explosive offense that can score at any time from any point on the field as well as a solid defense. Meanwhile, Maryland has been unable to put points on the board in two games thus far and could not stop Middle Tennessee's offense. It is hard to see Maryland being able to stop Cal's offense or score enough to keep up with them. Look for Cal to win going away.

Final Score: California 45, Maryland 21

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