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A True Bellwether Game

Good morning, everyone. Less than five hours until kickoff. This is a true bellwether game for Ralph Friedgen and the Terrapins. Win and Maryland is where most people thought it would be after three games, with a 2-1 record. Win and an eight-win season is still very much a possibility. Win and critics of Friedgen will quiet down as the Terps prepare for next week’s opponent, Eastern Michigan. But if Maryland gets blown off the field against the best team by far it has yet played and one of the best teams it will play all season, then the state of the program will come into question two weeks before the ACC season begins. And if the Terrapins give a valiant effort and lose a close one, you be the judge. Here are five key questions heading into this afternoon’s game:

1) Will Jahvid Best have a play longer than 50 yards?
If Best gets in the open field, he will not get caught. Maryland free safety Antwine Perez told me Maryland needs to hit him hard so Best doesn’t want to run the ball anymore. With all of eyes on Best, Maryland also has to be aware of the play-action pass.

2) Where is Obi Egekeze’s confidence?
Ralph Friedgen is getting impatient with his kicker, who has missed all four field goals this season. Even more maddening, Egekeze has hit the upright or crossbar three times. Friedgen said it is high time for Egekeze to start making them. If not, Nick Wallace is waiting in the wings to see some action.

3) How can Maryland get any pressure on QB Kevin Riley?
Maryland is one of only four Division I-A schools without a sack. It didn’t help that MTSU QB Joe Craddock carved Maryland’s defense up with quick passes. But the Terrapins’ undersized defensive line will be tested today against Cal’s offensive line, which allowed only 11 sacks last season.

4) Does the kickoff time matter?
As I write, it’s a little after 4 a.m. in California. Are the Golden Bears ready to take the field at noon? Coach Jeff Tedford said they would become acclimated to the time difference in Berkeley before they left on Friday. If Cal is sluggish, it will likely be early.

5) Can Maryland’s offensive line live up to expectations?
This is a veteran group that has significantly underachieved in two games against middling competition. Friedgen said Scott Burley could see time at both tackle positions. What does that mean for senior right tackle Dane Randolph? Can the line give QB Chris Turner enough time to throw?

I will have several updates throughout the game as well as quick post-game analysis and feedback after the game. What other questions about the game are on your mind heading into today's game?

By Eric Prisbell  |  September 13, 2008; 7:16 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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