2014 Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland vs. Stanford

    Maryland (7-5) vs. Stanford (7-5) Dec. 30, 10:00, ESPN Here’s The Deal: For Stanford, the location is familiar. The event, most certainly, is not. While

    December 28, 2014

    Maryland (7-5) vs. Stanford (7-5) Dec. 30, 10:00, ESPN 

    Here’s The Deal: For Stanford, the location is familiar. The event, most certainly, is not. 

    While the Cardinal won’t have to leave the county to play this year’s postseason game, the program is in the unfamiliar position of participating in a second-tier bowl game for the first time since 2009. It’s been a humbling season for the two-time defending Pac-12 champs, as the Foster Farms Bowl invitation reflects. Unlike in recent years, Stanford just wasn’t quite good enough to get over the hump, losing its first five matchups with ranked opponents, including three by a field goal. But David Shaw’s kids did rally to win their final two games to achieve bowl-eligibility. And the 31-10 rout of No. 8 UCLA on Nov. 28 showed that the Cardinal still has the talent to run with just about anyone in the FBS. 

    While Stanford is playing in its own backyard, Maryland is trekking cross-country to play in a second-straight bowl game under Randy Edsall. The significance for the Terps is that they’ve captured bids as members of two different leagues, the ACC in 2013 and the Big Ten in 2014. The regular season was marked by predictable swings of ups-and-downs, from notable wins over Iowa, Penn State and Michigan to a second-half collapse at the end of the regular season versus Rutgers. But the overriding theme in College Park right now is that the future is bright, and the Foster Farms Bowl affords the Terps a chance to spread the news from coast-to-coast. 

    Why Maryland Might Win: Can Stanford possibly be motivated to play in a consolation prize bowl game against a middling Big Ten team? The Cardinal is accustomed to Pasadena this time of year, not Santa Clara. The Terps, on the other hand, are revved up to face a Pac-12 team on the West Coast. Plus, they won’t need a ton of points to deliver a signature upset. Stanford lacks its usual punch in the running game, and its inability to score touchdowns in the red zone has been one of the biggest impediments to success this fall. 

    – The return of All-Big Ten WR Stefon Diggs will provide a huge boost to the Maryland offense, specifically QB C.J. Brown. Diggs missed the final three games with a lacerated kidney, robbing the Terps of their best field-stretcher. The junior will complement fellow receiver Deon Long, while forcing Stanford to respect the passing game. Maryland also boasts a couple of the better special teams weapons in the country, Groza Award winner Brad Craddock and incendiary return man Will Likely. 

    – Stanford has struggled with turnover margin this season, turning the ball over 20 times. Maryland can keep the trend going by applying pressure off the edge, while Likely reaps the benefits out of the defensive backfield. The sophomore corner is a feisty ball-hawk, with six interceptions and a pair of pick-sixes on the season. And the unheralded combination of DE Andre Monroe and OLB Yannick Ngakoue has 25 stops for loss and 15.5 sacks between them. 

    Why Stanford Might Win: This is a horrible matchup for the Terp attack, which stands 110th nationally in total offense. Actually, most everyone outside of Eugene, Oreg. matches up poorly with the Cardinal D. Stanford descended this year, but the defense is as stout as ever, leading the Pac-12 in run defense, pass defense and scoring D. Brown is a nice veteran quarterback, but he lacks the talent and the supporting cast to keep the chains moving on a unit yielding 3.2 yards per play and 14 points to teams not named Oregon. 

    – Maryland’s biggest problem on Tuesday night will be winning the line of scrimmage. Blocking for Brown and the backs are a collection of journeymen who’ve allowed 30 sacks in 2014. The Terps are about to get abused by a grown-up front seven that’s helped produce 40 sacks in a dozen games. With DE Henry Anderson and DT David Parry up front, and Kevin Anderson, Blake Martinez and A.J. Tarpley working from the second level, Stanford is going to spend much of the night making introductions at, near or behind the line of scrimmage. 

    – Sure, Stanford has been a big disappointment on offense in 2014. But Maryland and its twelfth-ranked Big Ten defense won’t make the Cardinal shutter with fear. QB Kevin Hogan is a seasoned veteran, with a nice ensemble of playmaking targets that includes Ty Montgomery, Devon Cajuste and TE Austin Hooper. Plus, Stanford should be able to move the line of scrimmage against a Terp D that’s given up more than 200 rushing yards to six different opponents. This could be a career day for senior Remound Wright, who’s still looking for his first 100-yard game.

    What’s Going To Happen: The only way the Foster Farms Bowl is competitive in the second half is if Stanford arrives completely unmotivated and unfocused, which is usually not a problem for a David Shaw-coached team. 

    The Terrapins will be more motivated, but that’s where their advantage will end. Maryland won’t have much luck moving the ball on the salty Cardinal defense. Stanford, though, will build on its strong regular season finish, particularly if Montgomery can return from a shoulder injury. Hogan on play-action will be potent, while Wright puts a bow on his career by rushing for more than 100 yards for the first time. 

    Prediction: Stanford 37 … Maryland 20 
    Line: Stanford -14 o/u: 48 

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