Emerald Bowl Preview: Oregon State vs. Maryland

Emerald Bowl
Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m. PST
Maryland (6-6) vs. Oregon State (8-4)
San Francisco, California
Payout: $750,000 (Maryland), $825,000 (Oregon State)
Spread: Oregon State – 5

Something about this game doesn’t feel right. Don’t expect a ton of fireworks. Oregon State plays great defense and Maryland is persistent with its two powerful running backs Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. Neither team can throw the ball efficiently and if they try to someone is going to end up with an interception or two. If turnovers are a big part of this game, it could go either way. Oregon State, as the de facto home team, is better than Maryland but the Terps have enough talent to pull off the upset. Neither team feels like their record indicates.

All signs point to an Oregon State win. Running back Yvenson Bernard should be healthy off minor knee surgery. When he’s in good form, he’s one of the best in the country. Bernard was drawing plenty of interest from NFL scouts after last season but hasn’t built on his ’06 production. He has really missed the element of a passing game that former QB Matt Moore brought to the table last year. QB’s Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao are inexperienced and haven’t done enough to keep team from keying on Bernard. Both QB’s have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and have completion percentages under 60. Maryland’s defense isn’t especially stout but if Bernard is the only threat, they’ll be able to keep him under wraps long enough to stay in the game. Oregon State won’t survive if they have to throw the ball.

Maryland has two bruising backs. Lattimore has 13 TD’s, Ball has 12. Both have had a 100-yard game this year and finished with over 750 yards apiece. Oregon State’s great linebackers will be tested as both backs outweigh two of the three starters in OSU’s linebacking corps. If those two can keep the chains moving it could be a long night for the Beavers defense. The Terps aren’t good enough through the air to win this game. Much like their counterparts it will be won on the ground. Quarterback Chris Turner took over in late September and has managed the offense well enough, throwing only three interceptions since taking the reigns full-time. At the same time, he’s only thrown five TD’s but at least he’s limiting mistakes. If he can keep the ball in the hands of his playmakers, Maryland will win this game. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey will get a lot of attention from the OSU secondary. He’s a real threat to score even though he only has 2 TD’s all season.

Surprisingly the Terps have fared well against top teams this season, beating Boston College and Rutgers when the two ranked in the top 10. Oregon State won some games they probably shouldn’t have, see California, Oregon, and might not be as good as their record. In a game like this, the wins and losses don’t really matter. Overachievers and underachievers tend to balance out when it’s all said and done.

I expect Maryland to come away with a close victory in a low scoring battle. It might not be exciting but coaches Mike Riley and Ralph Friedgen will have their teams ready to play. Like last week’s Memphis vs. FAU game, you don’t have to ruin your Friday night. Every time a quarterback completes a pass, finish your drink.

Prediction:
Maryland 14 – Oregon State 13

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