"This is the perception of Maryland for many Cal fans, but is it accurate?" via www.dailycal.org
People might say that last night was the start of the college football season. But not me. No, to me, college football season hasn't started until I spent 4 hours in the baking heat in a Berkeley parking lot watching drunk people try to throw bean bags into something called a "Cornhole." No, to me, college football season hasn't started until I have OD'ed on blue and gold Oski claw shaped cookies. To me, college football season hasn't started until the Drum Major catches that baton (please catch the baton tomorrow!!!).
And, so, tomorrow college football season starts.
Last season, each week, I would take us all on the magician mystery tour that is statistics. Now, look, I'm not footballogist (though I did take several courses at a local community college and now play one on TV). But often times a cursory glance at the cold, hard number can help dispel many rumors. Especially for a team like Maryland that we saw once, we get a certain perception of their abilities based solely upon that game.
So, let's take a look at the numbers and see what we can gleam. Of course, these are all the 2008 numbers, so much has changed. For example, they don't have any more Wide Receivers. They just plum got rid of wide receivers. But by looking at the numbers from 2008, hopefully that can give us a better appreciation of how 2009 will pan out for Maryland. And thus, by corollary, Cal.
|Points Per Game||21.8||22.5|
|Yards gained rushing||2257||2181|
|Yards lost rushing||385||274|
|Average Per Rush||4.3||3.9|
|Average Per Game||144.0||146.7|
|Average Per Pass||6.7||6.6|
|Average Per Catch||11.8||11.0|
|Average Per Game||206.7||218.2|
|Average Per Play||5.5||5.2|
|Average Per Game||350.7||364.9|
|KICK RETURNS: #-Yards||54-1212||51-1145|
|PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards||27-189||20-83|
|INT RETURNS: #-Yards||10-43||13-151|
|KICK RETURN AVERAGE||22.4||22.5|
|PUNT RETURN AVERAGE||7.0||4.2|
|INT RETURN AVERAGE||4.3||11.6|
|Average Per Game||41.2||44.6|
|Average Per Punt||41.1||37.0|
|Net punt average||37.4||32.6|
|TIME OF POSSESSION/Game||27:47||32:13|
|RED-ZONE SCORES||33-41 80%||41-48 85%|
|RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS||21-41 51%||27-48 56%|
|PAT-ATTEMPTS||32-33 97%||35-35 100%|
|Games/Avg Per Game||7/47954||5/52766|
|Neutral Site Games||1/26781|
|Score by quarters||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||Total|
Ok, first let's take a look at the season statistics. The first thing that jumps out at me is that my irrational fear of Maryland is seemingly irrational. They don't appear to be a good team here. They gave up more points than they scored. They rushed less than they gave up. They passed less than they gave up. They even lost the time of possession battle by several minutes.
These aren't huge differences, but many Cal fans look at Maryland with this level of intimidation from our game last year. But remember this is a team that lost to Middle Tennessee State. I think that is what we have to remember here. Yes, we saw them in one of their best games last year, but they were not as good as they appeared last year. And we were not as bad as we appeared.
They do appear to have solid offensive balance. However, these numbers are based essentially on a different team. That team had Heyward-Bey, who is no longer there. I predict we see more of a running team this year out. Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett are two great backs, who will be dangerous. This actually makes me feel more confident. Really good passing teams gave us trouble last year (see: Arizona). We were able to handle running teams fairly well (See: Oregon).
Ok, so here we have what I predict will be the key to this Maryland offense, the RBs. They have two great backs here, Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett (son of David Meggett). Look for them to lean heavily upon Scott with Meggett supplementing him. Similar to Best/Vereen, Meggett, apparently, could be starting on many other teams. Of course, the difference between Scott and Best is that Scott only averaged 5.4 yards per carry last year.
"Davin Meggett" via grfx.cstv.com
"Da'Rel Scott" via grfx.cstv.com
Ok, let's take a look at passing. Turner is the undisputed leader of this rag tag group of surfers who go under cover to rob banks in Ex-Presidents masks. Or at least, he looks like he would be:
"Chris Turner" via grfx.cstv.com
His numbers don't look that unbelievable. 57% completion rate is good. 193 yards per game is good. 119.3 QB efficiency is not amazing. But they are all better than Kevin Riley did last year. Yes.
So, don't sleep on him. Of course, he did that with Heyward-Bey, the amazing WR who crushed both Cal and the Niner's dreams in the last year. Triple Le Sigh.
Now, on to passing:
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who the best WR was last year. And even I can still figure it out. But he is in the Silver and Black now, so who is left?
Is it Danny Oquendo? No, he's is out, too. Is it Dan Gronkowski? No, he is out, too, even though I'm pretty sure there are 4 other Gronkowskis ready to take his place. So, their Top 3 WRs: No longer with the team.
You still have Torrey Smith, Da'Rel Scott, and Ronnie Tyler. This is why I believe Maryland will focus heavily on running the ball. Losing your top 3 receiving targets is difficult to overcome. Look at how many problems we had in 2008 after losing DeSean, RoJo, and The Hawk after 2007.
Of course, there is a whole host of players starting at WR for Maryland. And, of course, that means there is depth and the potential for one or two to step up. Perhaps one or two will. But, in the first game, on the road, against a tough Secondary, I'm not sure I necessarily see it happening. I really hope the Marylanders don't prove me wrong here.
Defense: I had major problems with the D tables last year. I don't know why. Something about the table would cause SBN to break and me to lose all my writings. Which was terrible. So, let's avoid D. Sorry!
Final Thoughts: These numbers lead me to believe that we'll see a run-heavy offense coming into Saturday. The cupboard is uncertain at receiver, even with improved QB play. But there is much talent at the RB position.
This will be an early test for our revamped LB corp. Can they still play at the elite level we saw last year? Or will they take a painful step back? If they can contain the Maryland running game and force their QB to pass to their uncertain receivers (the very defensive strategy that worked so well for them against us last year!), this could be a fun, fun evening. If not, it could be a long night. Either way, GO BEARS!