Wednesday, December 26

The Emerald Bowl - The First of Several Reminders that Two BCS Conference Teams Plus Kickoff after Christmas Does Not Mean Exciting Matchup

The Emerald Bowl was one of about 12 bowls that’s cropped up since the 21st century began (11, if you count the old Poinsettia Bowls), and like most of the other 11 bowls, it has a couple of key points you’ll need to keep in mind:
1 – the team quality generally sucks
2 – the game quality generally sucks
The Emerald Bowl also has another important quality: the weather usually sucks. It’s held in San Fran in December, so it’s going to be spotty anyway. As for this year…showers. The game’s also held in AT&T Park for reasons that pass understanding – they can’t even kick the Raiders out for a week? Or the 49ers? It’s not like either of those teams are good. Instead these guys are running out routes on the infield hoping like hell they don’t get tackled into the dugout.

Oh, and none of the games have been within 7 points. Are you ready for some football?

Maryland (by Coach Lawrence)

Beat Villanova, Florida International, Rutgers, Georgia Tech, Boston College, and NC State. Good enough for bowl qualification? HELL YES. Maryland has had a season of epic proportions, beating two overrated teams and four plain ol crappy teams. Sure, along the way they lost to Wake Forest and UNC... but it doesn’t matter. Fear the Turtle!

Maryland has a pair of senior runningbacks, Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball, who get 15-20 carries per game apiece and average about 135 yards per game combined. The passing game is terrible... barely over 200 ypg passing between Turner and Steffy combined... who also have combined for 7 TDs and 9 INTs on the season! The defense is just as mediocre, giving up 220 ypg passing and 136 ypg rushing. Joy.

Keys to Victory:
1. Stop the running game at all costs. That’s right, bring all 11 if you have to. Maryland gives up 67 ypg rushing in wins, 205 in losses. Oregon State rushes for 197 ypg in wins, 104 in losses. This is clearly a key area of the game for both teams... don’t lose it. If Moevao beats you with his arm, then so be it.

2. Closer to 4 than 3. Maryland averages almost exactly 3.5 ypc over the season. That breaks down to 3.94 in wins, 2.97 in losses. It’s amazing what a difference a yard makes... 2nd and 6 vs 2nd and 7, then 3rd and 2 vs 3rd and 4. With a pair of horribly unreliable QBs, Maryland must stay ahead of the chains.

3. Smart passing. Maryland has 5 TDs, 3 INTs in six wins... 2 TDs and 6 INTS in six losses. Without the turnovers, scoring opportunities will present themselves, and a long field for Oregon State will put the pressure on their equally mediocre-at-best QBs.

Oregon State (by Coach Pendley)

From losing to Cincinnati to going 6-1 in the final 7, the Beavers have seen both extremes. There’s no excuse to losing to UCLA by 26, but wins over Utah, Cal (before the tailspin), and Oregon are all solid. That Cal win deserves extra credit, as Cal was #2 at the time, which then spawned both Cal’s tailspin and the massive spate of upsets the #2 team in the country suffered – Oregon State was first! Of course, if they knew their reward for that was getting to play in nasty San Fran weather, you’d have to wonder if they would’ve lost to Oregon at the end of the year.

As for the Beaver offense, it’s basically …Yvenson Bernard. He’s the third-leading rusher in the Pac-10 and 6th in overall yardage, averaging just over 120 total yards a game on the season. Oregon State’s passing game is the pits, totaling just under 2,449 yards on the season (yeah, it looks like a lot, but divide by 12) with a 10/20 ratio. That’s what we term “pitiful” in these parts.

Fortunately for OSU, they have the 2nd-best rushing defense in the nation, allowing 75 yards a game. Their secondary has made up for most of the mistakes the passing game made, pulling down 20 picks on the season – if the offense averaged only an INT a game they’d have a +9 turnover margin on the season. While they don’t do well on special teams (worst in the country in punting coupled with nonexistent return games), they at least hold onto the ball.

Keys to Victory:
1: For the love of god, keep the ball on the ground. Or just throw a lot of screens and short, easy routes. Maryland will give the Beavers plenty of opportunity to get some picks – 26 attempts per game – but it’ll be key to not give turnovers up through the air. Of course, since Oregon State averages 34 attempts per game, maybe that’s part of the problem.

2: Exploit the ground game. In what’ll likely be an ugly environment and – let’s be honest – an ugly game, Oregon State will need to take every advantage they can. Bernard gives them a great edge and should be able to wear down a non-stellar Maryland D.

3: Don’t be a big team. Maryland’s gotten up for its games against big teams – witness the wins over Rutgers and BC – but laid eggs against North Carolina and Florida State. I’m not suggesting that Oregon State come out wearing Duke’s jerseys, but …okay, I am suggesting that.