SANTA CLARA — The Foster Farms Bowl is hardly the place Stanford and Maryland wanted to end up.
The Cardinal (7-5) had made a BCS bowl each of the previous four seasons, including back-to-back Pac-12 titles, before falling back in 2014. Randy Edsall has taken the Terrapins (7-5) to two straight bowls as coach, but he's trying to build them into a Big Ten football champion.
Both teams are touting Tuesday night's game at Levi's Stadium as an important step in the process of getting where they want to be in the future.
“Eight wins sounds a lot better than seven,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “The big thing for me is finishing on a high note, finishing playing our best football.”
While coaches and players on both sides talked a lot this week about where they're headed, just getting to this point has been quite the journey.
Maryland traveled 2,800 miles from College Park to the Bay Area, and Stanford is driving about 11 miles from its campus to the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.
The Terps have had few problems away from home, though, winning a Big Ten-best five road games in their first year in the conference — including the program's first wins at Penn State and Michigan. The road victories also were the school's most since 1984.
“It's still nice having that kind of home feeling here in the Bay Area and we're going to try to take advantage of it,” Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan said.
Stanford had hoped to play at Levi's Stadium all along, though not in this contest. The Cardinal missed a chance to play in the Pac-12 championship game — won by North Division nemesis Oregon over Arizona — at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 5 after an inconsistent season in the conference.
One more win will not get either team where they want to be or define their program. The outcome, however, will go a long way in shaping how they remember the season — and look toward the next.
“You beat a program like Stanford after what they've been doing, it's something that people are going to recognize,” Edsall said. “It would do a lot for our program moving forward and propel us into the offseason.”
Here are some things to watch in the Foster Farms Bowl:
DIGGS RETURNS: Maryland star wide receiver Stefon Diggs is back after missing two games with a lacerated kidney. He caught 52 passes for 654 yards and five touchdowns in nine games. He'll be facing a Stanford defense that is seventh-best in the country, allowing only 175.7 yards passing per game.
HOGAN'S SPLITS: As Kevin Hogan has gone this season, so has Stanford's offense. Hogan threw for 2,603 yards, 17 TDs and eight interceptions. He's coming off his best performance of the year, going 16-for-19 passing for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinal's 31-10 win at UCLA on Nov. 28 that showed just how much he means to the Cardinal attack.
NO MONTGOMERY: Stanford will be without its top playmaker, Ty Montgomery, for the second straight game. Montgomery sprained his right shoulder early in the win at Cal on Nov. 22 when he was tackled by two defenders. He led the Cardinal with 61 receptions for 604 yards and three TDs. He also returned two punts for scores and rushed for 144 yards and one touchdown.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Quarterback C.J. Brown and the Terrapins face the difficult task of solving Stanford's physical defense. The Cardinal rank second nationally in points allowed (16 per game) and fourth in total defense (287.4 yards). Maryland is 64th in scoring offense (29.1 points) and 106th in total offense (352.1 yards).
KICK THIS: If the game comes down to kicking, the Terps appear to have the edge. Maryland's Brad Craddock won the Lou Groza Award, which recognizes the nation's top kicker, after making 18 of 19 field goals this season. That included a school-record 57-yarder against Ohio State and 11 in all from beyond 40 yards. Stanford's Jordan Williamson has made seven straight field goals and 14 of 20 this season.