Sept. 4, 2009: Mids, Terps Face Tough Road Tests
By Matt Zenitz
Navy @ Ohio State
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Traveling to Columbus, Ohio isn’t exactly the ideal way to kick off a football season. The Ohio State Buckeyes are ranked sixth nationally and haven’t lost a home opener since 1978 -- exactly ideal circumstances for a Navy team that hasn’t defeated a top-10 opponent in 25 years.
Ohio State will have to replace running back Chris “Beanie” Wells, but sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor is expected to take a huge step forward after accounting for 18 touchdowns as a freshman. Pryor has drawn comparisons to former Texas star Vince Young for not only his arm, but also for his rare ability as a runner. At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, Pryor has reportedly been timed as low as 4.33 in the 40-yard dash.
Meanwhile, the run-oriented Midshipmen will have to replace five of their top seven rushers from last season. Junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs saw action in seven games last year, rushing for 495 yards and eight touchdowns.
Navy has led the nation in rushing the last four seasons, but yards may be tough to come by against a Buckeye defense that ranked 18th nationally against the run in 2008.
Maryland @ Cal
Time: 10:00 p.m.
The odds appear to be stacked against Maryland heading into the season opener at 12th-ranked California.
The Terrapins return just nine starters while the Golden Bears bring back an experienced squad that has its sights set on their first BCS berth in school history. Making matters worse, Maryland is just 8-10 over the last three seasons on the road, and California hasn’t lost a game at home since 2007.
The Terrapins will look to pressure Cal quarterback Kevin Riley early and often, as the red-shirt junior has been inconsistent in the past with his accuracy and decision making. Riley completed a meager 50 percent of his passes in 2008 and was sacked five times in last year’s 35-27 loss to the Terrapins, although he did throw for a career high 423 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Maryland was one of the few teams able to keep running back Jahvid Best in check, limiting him to a season-low 25 yards on 10 carries. As a sophomore last season, Best led the Pac-10 with 1,580 yards on the ground, averaging a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry. The speedster rattled off 19 runs of 20 yards or more, seven of 60 or more and three topping 80 yards.
For Maryland to have a chance Saturday, Chris Turner will need to continue his success against ranked teams. Turner is 6-1 in his career against opponents in the Top 25, and threw for 156 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Golden Bears last year.
A young and inexperienced Terrapin offensive line will not only be responsible for giving Turner time to throw, but will also try to create holes for Da’Rel Scott, Davin Meggett and the running game against a defense that limited opposing rushers to 3.2 yards per carry last season.
Posted Sept. 4, 2009