Maryland started off this season like gangbusters, starting out 4-0 and culminating in a 37-0 destruction of West Virginia. Maryland had even climbed into the national polls, sitting at 25th. Then, it all came crashing down as the Terps visited Doak Campbell Stadium last week. FSU does not like it when visitors come into their stadium riding high and confident. The Noles came out firing on all cylinders and destroyed the Terps 63-0. This tied for the most lopsided score ever between two top-25 teams.
The Hoos, on the other hand, have struggled since a big opening weekend win over a solid BYU team. Unsurprisingly, Oregon crushed the Hoos. But Pitt and Ball State both took down the Hoos with the team showing inconsistency in all 3 phases and playmakers utterly lacking, especially on offense.
This game marks the 78th and last matchup of two longtime rivals. The Terps are moving into the Big Ten following this season, and there are no plans for the two teams to face each other again. As has been mentioned before on this site, Good Riddance.
WR: #1 Stefon Diggs - 6'0" 195 lb, Sophomore; #83 Malcolm Culmer - 5'11" 190 lb, RS Freshman; #6 Deon Long - 6'0" 190 lb, Junior; #8 Levern Jacobs - 5'11" 185 lb, Sophomore; #3 Nigel King - 6'3" 210 lb, Sophomore; #84 Amta Elta-Tawo - 6'1" 190 lb, RS Freshman
LT: #77 Mike Madaras - 6'5" 295 lb, Sophomore; #61 Jake Wheeler - 6'7" 300 lb, Junior
LG: #70 De'Onte Arnett - 6'4" 295 lb, Senior; #68 Silvano Altamirano - 6'2" 290 lb, Junior
C: #65 Sal Conaboy - 6'4" 285 lb, Junior; #50 Evan Mulrooney - 6'5" 285 lb, Junior
RG: #76 Michael Dunn - 6'5" 295 lb, RS Freshman; #66 Andrew Zeller - 6'4" 300 lb, Sophomore
RT: #55 Ryan Doyle - 6'4" 295 lb, Sophomore; #72 Moise Larose - 6'6" 296 lb, Freshman
Maryland's offense isn't nearly as explosive as some of the teams we've seen this season, but they are solid and balanced. They rank 47th in the nation in total yardage, 53rd in rushing yardage and 48th in passing yardage. They are 27th in passing efficiency. They are just 51st in scoring offense, in part because of 9 turnovers (7 lost fumbles) in their 5 games.
QB C.J. Brown is a true dual-threat QB who played pretty well as a sophomore in 2011. Other than that, he's spent most of his career dealing with various injuries. He's been having a big year so far, but he suffered a concussion last week against FSU, and is likely out for this weeks' game. His backup, Rowe, has limited experience. He's a true sophomore, and saw action in 2 games last year. He wasn't bad, completing 57% of his passes including 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Considering he was a true freshman, that is ok.
He isn't near the runner that Brown is, and will require a drastic change in the Maryland offense. They have been running a read-option based offense with a lot of designed QB runs. Brown has 286 yards rushing at 6 ypc, 2nd on the team. With Rowe in at QB, the Terp offense will have to be much more like a pro-style offense. Rowe's playing time has been limited to garbage time for the most part, but he has just 11 yards rushing on 7 carries.
Ross figures to be the main beneficiary of the expected change in offensive scheme. He's the primary ball carrier, and his carries should go up with Brown isn't around. He's a downhill guy, one cut and go. He doesn't have a ton of wiggle, isn't going to make people miss in the open field. But he's tough to bring down as he'll run through an arm tackle. Ross is also a good short yardage and goalline back. Reid will get some touches as well. He's a good complement to Ross. He's not nearly as powerful a runner, but he's a bit faster and has more open-field ability.
The Maryland passing game is named Stefon Diggs. Diggs is a truly outstanding talent. He is big, he is fast and he can do a lot of things on a football field. The Hoos saw that last year, as Diggs returned the opening kickoff for a TD. He led the team last year with 54 receptions for over 800 yards and 6 TDs. That was as a true freshman. This year, he has 20 receptions for 424 yards and 3 TDs already. He also has 5 rushes and has even thrown a pass. He also still returns kicks.
The Terps do have a few other weapons at WR. Deon Long has taken a long route, beginning at West Virginia, then New Mexico and then Iowa Western. He actually leads the team with 24 receptions this season, but he isn't near the big play threat that Diggs is. Long is a big guy who can go over the middle and make tough catches. Despite the talent that they have on the outside, the Terps miss Marcus Leak, who left the team during the summer due to personal reasons. He was 2nd on last year's team in receiving, despite missing 5 games. Nigel King is a guy the Terps like, he's raw but has looked dangerous at times.
They also miss Matt Furstenburg, who it seems was their TE for a decade. He's now with the Ravens practice squad. Stinebaugh has been solid, with 8 receptions and a TD, but he isn't the threat that Furstenburg was. At least not yet. P.J. Gallo is a guy the Terps are very high on, but he hasn't seen the field much yet.
Maryland's line has looked good at times, but was overmatched last week by FSU's front 7. At LT, Madaras is a talent, but he may be a year away from being a real difference maker. Conaboy is a solid C, but he'll have his work cut out for him facing Urban all game. There is no true weakness on the Terps' OL, but there is also no real dominant force there. They are also a bit undersized, which doesn't matter as much with the read-option game, but if the Terps may have trouble running the ball with a more conventional running game. And if the Hoos can shut down that ground game, turning Rowe into a drop-back passer, it could get ugly for the Terps offense.
The Terps use a 3-4 defense that DC Brian Stewart implemented last season. The Terps were very good defensively last year, finishing 21st in total defense. They were, however, 56th in scoring defense. Simply put, they gave up too many big plays. They also had plenty of big plays, finishing 38th in sacks and 35th in TFLs.
They lost a fair amount from last year's defense, including leading tackler Demetrius Hartsfield, and leading TFLs guy Joe Vellano. The Terps had to replace both DEs, and they haven't really been able to replace that production. Jefferson has been solid, but Bowers has been somewhat disappointing thus far. Monroe, a reserve DL, actually leads the DL in sacks and TFLs. He'll see action both inside and outside. Kilgo has been steady in the middle, and he's still improving.
The Terps also lost 3 seniors of last year's LB corps. There, though, they've done a better job of replacing the production. Whitfield leads the team in sacks and TFLs. Goree and Robinson are tied for the team lead in tackles, with Farrand just 1 behind them. The group of LBs are all fast, and they do a very good job of flowing to the ball. It is absolutely critical for the Hoos OL to get into the second level. Free to maneuver through traffic, these LBs will shut down the Hoos ground game. We have seen what happens to the Hoos offense when it becomes one dimensional. Continued use of the read-option should help, as any kind of misdirection is good against fast, flowing LBs.
The Terps secondary didn't lose as much as the front 7, at least not to graduation. But the loss of Dexter McDougle to injury was devastating. Likely has stepped up and performed well, but he lacks McDougle's experience and playmaking. McDougle was lost during the Terps third game, and yet still leads the team in INTs and passes defended. The early playing time will help him in the future, but right now he is a weak link in an otherwise solid secondary.
Davis and Nixon have provided solid play at safety. Neither is a real ball-hawking safety, but both are capable of covering a TE while also providing solid run support. Both are young and can be beaten by misdirection and play action. A.J. Hendy has also played well, forcing 3 turnovers by himself in the Terps 37-0 win over West Virginia (one of those came on special teams). The Terps will likely show a fair amount of cover-2. They rely on the LBs to pressure the QB, so look for the Hoos to keep RBs or TEs in to help in blitz pickup. OLBs Robinson and Twine are both good pass coverage guys. They'll likely spent a lot of time in the flats looking to shut down the Hoos' oh-so-dangerous WR screens.
Maryland's D is legit. Especially their run defense. They've had a number of injuries in the secondary, so they can be beaten through the air. But considering the Hoos struggles passing the ball this year, the Terps have to feel confident they can stop the Hoos offense. If Watford is able to make some plays with his legs, that will help slow down the Terps pass rush, and maybe give him the chance to hit a long pass over the safeties. Of course, that will require nobody on the OL either holding or being downfield too early.
PK: #15 Brad Craddock - 6'1" 180 lb, Sophomore
P: Nathan Renfro - 6'1" 205 lb, Sophomore
KR: Diggs; Likely
We saw in last year's contest how special teams can change a game. Diggs took the opening kickoff back for a TD, and the Hoos were unable to claw their way back into the game, despite a good effort. That TD ended up being the margin of victory in an otherwise close game. Diggs will be back to return both KOs and punts, so the Hoos cover teams will have to be steady.
Craddock is a good kicker, who is 10/12 on the season, including a 50 yarder. He's attempted three from 50+, so clearly Edsall is comfortable with his range. Renfro is solid, 49th in the country in punt average. The team is middle of the pack in punt coverage, but they are 23rd in KO coverage.
The specials team's improvements that the Hoos showed over the first couple of games disappeared the past 2 weeks. We'll see if they can get back to what was working, or if special teams will continue to be a weakness for about the 8th consecutive season.
At this point, the Hoos are struggling. It is tough to feel any confidence in the team right now. The Terps got crushed last week, so they are going to be itching to regain some of their lost pride.
If Brown plays, the Terps will be bigger favorites than they are now. He is having a wonderful season. The word at press time is that Brown is likely out. If Brown can't go, Rowe simply isn't ready to be a starting QB at this level. That means the game would come down to a battle of two solid defenses. Both are aggressive, pressure oriented defenses. One is a 3-4 and the other a 4-3. Those UVA fans who questioned Al Groh's use of the 3-4 may get to see, once and for all, which is better. (Or not, as there are vast differences in the way the Groh ran the 3-4 versus how Stewart runs it. Stewart's is far more aggressive than Groh's "bend-but-don't-break" defenses were.)
The Hoos have historically played well at Byrd Stadium. So I would be tempted to pick the Hoos if not for their propensity for turnovers and other mistakes. Those types of mistakes always seem to be magnified on the road, especially in rivalry games. I wish I could pick the Hoos, but I can't do it until I see some consistency from the offense.
Prediction: Terps 17, Hoos 7 (if C.J. Brown plays, up that by a TD or two for the Terps)