Breaking Down The Terps: Maryland Football Preview
Penn State is gearing up to take on the Maryland Terrapins this Saturday in a game that has already been dubbed “The Battle in Baltimore” by Maryland Athletics. This matchup is far from a rivalry, but the infamous pre-game antics of the Maryland team has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Penn State fans, coaches, and especially the players. As the Nittany Lions head into Baltimore for the game, it will be a homecoming for a plethora of players, which will only add to the hype of this long-awaited reunion. The fundamental difference between Maryland and Penn State this year is that the Nittany Lions have shown improvement across the board while the Terps have taken a steep decline in nearly every facet of their game, which has led them to an abysmal 2-4 record. Here’s a breakdown of each part of the Maryland football team.
The Maryland offense has struggled mightily this year, and it stems from its lack of execution, depth, and leadership at multiple positions. The Maryland Terps have three quarterbacks listed on their depth chart, none of which have a completion percentage above 48, and the quarterbacks have thrown one, four, and 12 interceptions thus far. The Terps have even gone as far as to convert a fullback, who is a former three-star quarterback, back into his former position. The Maryland pass game is weak, plain and simple. Guys don’t go up and make plays consistently and the quarterback, no matter who is slinging the ball, cannot create meaningful offensive production. However, the Terps’ run game isn’t as weak as their, for lack of a better term, pathetic passing game. Brandon Ross and Perry Hills are two talented runners who will get their carries, and get their yards. They aren’t highlight-reel players, but Ross plays a solid old-school running football style that gets the offense some production.
With that being said, they’re far from explosive and won’t fill up a scoreboard with their play, especially against the likes of a highly nationally ranked run defense like Penn State. The Terps overall offensive ranking clocks in at a meager No. 109 overall, which will take on one of the nation’s best defenses in Penn State.
What the Terps lack in offensive production, they also lack in defensive output. The Terp defense checks in at a low No. 109 overall, the same as the offense. Defensively, the Terps lack any hard hitters, or players who are game changers. They don’t have an explosive defensive line, as they almost all lack a quick first step on the line of scrimmage. Often times, they get beat off the ball because of that lack of quickness. Guys will go out and get wrap up tackles, but no one is altering the course of a game by forcing turnovers or having major TFL stats. The Terps’ defense has only one recovered fumble and five interceptions. It isn’t necessarily bad though, a more fitting term would be “mediocre” or “extremely average.” The Nittany Lions and their improving play up front will pave big holes in this defense for backs like Barkley and Lynch, and they will even provide enough protection for Hackenberg to light up the passing game.
Another week of Big Ten football means another opponent with solid special teams play. Maryland doesn’t have an elite punter by any means, but he has mastered that oh-so-tricky concept of consistency, which Penn State punters just can’t seem to crack the secret code for. Its kicking game is solid and consistent as well. The return game of the Terps is quite good. Will Likely is an electric returner, and if the Nittany Lions special teams is even remotely complacent, Likely will capitalize. Likely recently broke the Big Ten Punt return yards record, which had stood since 1939. Likely is only 5’8 but do not count this guy out. He will punish a special teams whether he is returning the ball, or attacking other returners on the punt team. He is an all purpose player, and he will have an impact on Saturday’s game.
One of the most complicated concepts for people outside of football programs to understand is coaching. As a figure-head and a leader for the team, community, program, and school, head coaches will take the heat from the media, fans, and even players and other coaches. At that same token, head coaches will get a large amount of the praise for the team’s success. Maryland lacks a strong central figure in their program, and it shows a great deal. When Randy Edsall was fired following a loss to the Buckeyes, the team fell apart even further. Head coaches don’t make every single call for an offensive play or defensive formation, but they approve the call or hire a trusted coordinator to do so. Edsall was providing disappointing results for the Terps, and so the Terps fired him and hired interim coach Mike Locksley. The last time Penn State faced a team without a head coach, the Nittany Lions did this:
The Maryland Terrapins don’t have a dominant defense, or an explosive offense. They will struggle mightily against the ferocious Penn State defense. On special teams, the Terps can and will make plays, but it will not prove to be too much of a game changer for the Terps. The most glaring weakness for Maryland will be its lack of depth at the coaching position. At such a pivotal role, the head coach often times can seal a team’s fate, and with Edsall gone the Terps have struggled and will continue to do so. The team isn’t that bad, but they are certainly below average. Penn State will light it up on both sides of the ball against a much weaker Terps squad.
Randy Edsall believed Penn State was a rival. So did Rutgers. We all saw the result in the inaugural Stripe Out against a team who thought Penn State was its rival and lacked a head coach. The only difference is that Rutgers shook our hands. Watch out Terps, the Nittany Lions are coming.