Cal Heads East
California was ranked as high as No. 2 last season before a freefall left the team limping into its bowl game. After climbing into the Top 25 for the first time in 2008, this year's Golden Bears want to avoid another letdown.
Coming off their highest-scoring game in more than six years, the 23rd-ranked Golden Bears look to continue their strong start as they visit Maryland on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made California -14.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 88% of bets for this game have been placed on California -14.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Cal went 5-0 in September 2007, capping the month with a 31-24 victory over Oregon and taking over the No. 2 spot in the AP poll the following week. From that point, however, the Golden Bears won one of their seven remaining regular-season games before edging Air Force 42-36 in the Armed Forces Bowl to salvage the team's sixth straight winning season at 7-6.
The 2008 Golden Bears (2-0) likely have higher expectations than merely extending that streak. Though they entered the season unranked for the first time since 2003, they're back in the poll thanks to wins over BCS conference opponents in the first two weeks.
After defeating Michigan State 38-31 in the season opener, Cal totaled 505 yards - including 391 on the ground - in a 66-3 rout of Pac-10 rival Washington State last Saturday. It was Cal's highest point total since a 70-22 win over Baylor on Aug. 31, 2002, and its third-highest since World War II.
Jahvid Best ran 14 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns as the Golden Bears compiled their highest rushing yardage total since 1991. It was the second consecutive 100-yard game for Best, who totaled 221 yards on 29 carries in 2007 while backing up Justin Forsett.
The 5-foot-10, 193-pound Best scored on runs of 80, five and 86 yards last week, and ranks fifth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 311 rushing yards and 14th with an 8.2 yards-per-carry average.
Overall, Cal is tied for sixth in the FBS with 104 points. Maryland (1-1) is near the other end of the spectrum with 28.
The Terrapins pulled out a 14-7 win over Football Championship Subdivision opponent Delaware in the season opener before falling 24-14 to Middle Tennessee State last Saturday.
"We came and were not focused, and that is what I am concerned about," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, whose team was held to 118 yards and three first downs in the first half.
"I just wasn't able to get our guys to understand, and that is my fault. We need some more consistency in our offense."
The Terps' inability to score early this season can't be blamed on running back Da'Rel Scott, who like Best, has delivered his first two 100-yard rushing games to start the season. Scott has run for 320 yards in those games - the third-highest total both in the FBS this season and for any Maryland player in his first two career starts.
Scott didn't get much help last week from quarterback Chris Turner, who completed 13 of 28 pass attempts with one touchdown and three interceptions. Despite his struggles and those of the rest of the team, Friedgen has decided not to shake up the roster quite yet.
"I thought it was very important for us to be positive with the players," Friedgen said Tuesday. "Our players are feeling this loss just as much as our coaches are. ... I told them they've got to start playing better, or we will make some changes. In the past when I've done that, they've responded."
Maryland center Edwin Williams is convinced the team will answer that call again.
"We just need to get sharper, just on the little things like footwork and fundamentals," he said. "The good thing is, it's things we can fix. It's not lack of effort. We've got to stay consistent. As long as we do that, I don't see why we can't be positive and do well this week."
Maryland, which has never faced California, has won its last two games against ranked teams after dropping eight of the previous nine. The Terps beat then-No. 10 Rutgers last Sept. 29 and then-No. 8 Boston College on Nov. 10.
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