Baltimore Sun Media Group sports reporter Matt Zenitz previews the Maryland (7-5) and Stanford (7-5) matchup in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
SAN FRANCISCO — Maryland players C.J. Brown, Cole Farrand and Brad Craddock sat in the front row at a Foster Farms Bowl news conference Saturday.
They watched and listened as the bowl's executive director, Gary Cavalli, ran through the same list of Stanford's accomplishments of which the Terps have been reminded since the matchup was announced Dec. 7.
As Cavalli noted, the Cardinal (7-5) went to four straight Bowl Championship Series games before this year, finished the regular season with two straight wins and beat No. 8 UCLA, 31-10, on the road in their regular-season finale.
Those facts have served as motivation for Maryland (7-5), which is a 14-point underdog heading into Tuesday's matchup with Stanford.
"Nobody in California is giving us respect to win," Terps outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue said. "They kind of see us as a mediocre team, and we're just taking that, and we're eating that up right now and just using that as fuel to go hard on Tuesday."
The biggest obstacle for the Terps will be overcoming the Cardinal's defense, a highly-ranked unit that held UCLA, which is ranked 22nd nationally in total offense, to 262 yards Nov. 28.
"They played very well [against UCLA]," Terps coach Randy Edsall said. "You watch the film. They played very well not only offensively, but [also] defensively. They are playing the best they have played all season. Hopefully, the layoff will hurt them and we can do some things to hurt them. That's what we'll find out on Tuesday night:"
Stanford is ranked second nationally in scoring defense, fourth in total defense, sixth in sacks, seventh in pass defense and 11th in rush defense.
The Cardinal allowed 45 points to an Oregon offense that ranks among the best in the country. Stanford limited its other 11 opponents to an average of just 13.4 points per game despite facing some capable offenses such as UCLA, California, Arizona State and Notre Dame.
"It's not complicated what they do," Edsall said. "You've got to block them up front. You've got to recognize what they do. Then what we've got to do is execute the things we have in place to take advantage of what they do.
"They are well coordinated and play well together. What we've got to do is execute at a very high level against them."
Working in Maryland's favor is the return of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who has not played since suffering a lacerated kidney against Penn State on Nov. 1.
One of the Big Ten leaders in both catches and receiving yards per game, Diggs was cleared for contact Dec. 1, and Edsall said he has looked good since returning to practice.
Even without Diggs, Maryland scored 14 fourth-quarter points in a 23-16 win at Michigan on Nov. 22 and 35 first-half points during a 41-38 loss to Rutgers on Nov. 29.
"We're underdogs, the usual," Diggs said. "Our back's always against the wall. It's nothing new. We're going to say that we have something to prove, but we always have something to prove when we step out on the field. We're used to it. We're going to go out and do what we have to do and play the game."
Stanford also has one of the Pac-12's top quarterbacks, Kevin Hogan, and an offense that has scored 69 points in its last two games even without wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who will not play against Maryland because of a shoulder injury.
But Edsall's pregame message has not changed, Diggs said.
"The main thing he's going to say before every game, 'We're going to go out. We're going to work hard. We're going to compete. We're going to do everything that we need to do to win the game,'" Diggs said. "It's the same thing. He's going to give you the script every week.