When: December 30, 10:00pm EST
Where: Santa Clara (San Francisco area), California – Levi’s Stadium
Spread: Stanford – 14 (via VegasInsider.com)
All-Time Series: First Meeting (0-0)
Last Meeting: N/A
Gift Bag: Gift suite; Fossil watch (courtesy sportsbusinessdaily.com)
Preview: (by Dave Fitzgerald)
If this doesn’t look like a Big Ten bowl game, don’t worry. The combination of a new member of the conference in Maryland plus a new bowl tie-in with San Francisco makes this game unfamiliar territory all around for the Big Ten fan. Maryland previously played in this game in 2007 as an ACC member and lost to Oregon State 21-14.
Illinois won in this bowl game 3 years ago and had such a good experience it got added to the regular bowl line-up, so at least the Terrapins should have a good experience. However, the experience on the field could be not as friendly to the Maryland program, at least if the two-touchdown Vegas spread set by the odds makers is to be believed.
Stanford struggled at times this year in getting to 7-5, but closing the year with a dominant win over top-10 team UCLA proved this team can still win with the power running game and a shut down defense. Stanford has only surrendered more than 20 points in two games: against Arizona State (26) and Oregon (45), which leads the Cardinal to have the second-ranked scoring defense in the FBS.
That defense will be tested by a Maryland passing attack that should be at full strength once again, with star receiver Stefon Diggs returning to practice this week. Diggs and fellow wideout Deon Long both average over 11 yards per reception from quarterback C.J. Brown, who has thrown for over 2000 yards on the season.
One potential key to Maryland’s offensive success or lack thereof will be how well Stanford’s star linebackers Blake Martinez and A.J. Tarpley drop into zone coverage when not pressuring the Maryland backfield. These linebackers are the two best tacklers on the team, combining for 172 tackles this year.
However, senior quarterback Kevin Hogan (2603 yards, 17 touchdowns) will be looking to finish his Stanford career as a big winner playing in his home state. Despite Maryland boasting one of the better secondaries in the conference with William Likely (who came in at No. 23 on our post-season countdown of the best players in the Big Ten), expect the Cardinal to find some gaps in the defense and pass against Maryland to exploit the defense.
Maryland was overwhelmed by the more physical teams on the schedule in Big Ten play, including Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Even Iowa almost came back from a huge deficit to beat the Terrapins. Without a strong running game to speak of, it will be difficult to open up holes in the Stanford coverage for C.J. Brown to throw into, leading to potentially a similar result as those Big Ten blowout losses.
Maryland does have a great weapon for a close game in kicker Brad Craddock, who won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker last week (trophy shown above) following a nearly perfect season (18-for-19 in field goals and 41 straight PAT conversions). Sadly, it is unclear that this game will be close unless Diggs is actually back to 100% effectiveness alongside Long in the passing game. Unfortunately, this X-factor probably will not come into play.
This is yet another game that does not look good for the Big Ten. However, with such a late kickoff time in the Eastern time zone and the big New Year’s Six bowls beginning the next afternoon, this result (even if poor) will almost certainly fly completely under the radar.
Andy: Maryland 31, Stanford 27
Dave: Stanford 31, Maryland 16
Zach: Stanford 34, Maryland 17