December 23, 2014

While Stanford mostly had its hands full against ranked opponents, coach David Shaw's team took care of business against everyone else.

That doesn't bode well for a Maryland team which is the bowl season's biggest underdog.

The Cardinal enter a school-record sixth consecutive postseason appearance favored by two touchdowns over the Terrapins in the Foster Farms Bowl at nearby Levi's Stadium on Tuesday night.

After back-to-back Pac-12 championships, Stanford (7-5) failed to reach double-digit wins for the first time since 2009 - and its lack of success against Top 25 foes is a big reason why. The Cardinal went 1-5 in such games, with their lone victory coming 31-10 at then-No. 9 UCLA in their regular-season finale Nov. 28.

They easily won their other six games by an average of 24.8 points, including a one-sided 38-17 victory at archrival California the previous week.

Stanford hopes to carry the offensive success from its back-to-back wins to close the regular season into this matchup. The Cardinal still finished with the Pac-12's lowest-ranked offense at 386.5 yards per game and tied Oregon State for fewest points (25.7 per game).

"I think the big thing for us is to worry about us and make sure we're playing our best football," Shaw said. "We want to continue doing what we started doing late in the year. ... We need to play with high efficiency and have the ability to make big plays down the field."

The Cardinal racked up 854 yards of offense in their last two games behind an efficient Kevin Hogan, who completed 31 of 39 attempts for 448 yards. He also ran for 92 yards on 14 carries in those wins while Remound Wright accounted for 156 on the ground with six touchdowns, helping Stanford surpass 200 yards rushing in both games after not doing so in any of the first 10.

While Wright could be in for another big day against a Terrapins defense that's been gashed for an average of 201.6 rushing yards, Stanford's defense enters as one of the stingiest in the country. The Cardinal ended the regular season ranked second in points allowed (16.0 points per game), fifth in total defense (287.4 yards per game), seventh against the pass (175.7 ypg) and 11th against the run (111.8 ypg).

Stanford could also have a big edge when it comes to the crowd with this game being played 11 miles from campus. Maryland fans, on the other hand, will have to travel roughly 2,800 miles to see their team play.

"They're excited. They understand what this is. They understand this is something that we earned by how we played, positively and negatively," Shaw said of his players. "Now it's a chance to go back and play one more game in a great stadium. And hopefully in front of a loud home crowd."

Unlike Stanford, Maryland (7-5) closed the season in disappointing fashion. The Terrapins blew a 25-point lead and were outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter of a 41-38 home loss to Rutgers on Nov. 29 to cap their first season in the Big Ten.

"It hurts a lot, there is no doubt about that," coach Randy Edsall said. "We accomplished some things that nobody thought we could accomplish, and it's not going to take away from that. We get an opportunity to get to play another one, but it's disappointing.

"What we have to do as a program is just look at these things and make sure they don't happen again, and when we play again ... utilize this season to propel us forward, to make us better. That's what we will do, because that's the kind of kids we have in the program."

Maryland's offense focuses squarely on quarterback C.J. Brown, whose 148 rushing attempts were 50 more than any teammate. He ran for team highs of seven touchdowns and 569 yards, including 194 in the last two games, but he was the Big Ten's ninth-rated passer and ranked eighth with 173.6 passing yards per game.

Brown could get a boost from the expected return of top wideout Stefon Diggs, who suffered a lacerated kidney against Penn State on Nov. 1. Diggs leads the team with 52 receptions, 654 yards and five TD catches despite playing in just nine games.

Brown was limited to 38 yards on 19 carries in last season's 31-20 loss to Marshall in the Military Bowl.

Stanford had appeared in the past two Rose Bowls, losing to Michigan State last season after a win over Wisconsin, and is 11-13-1 all-time in the postseason.

This marks the first meeting between these programs.

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