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Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Maryland

Penn State may have lost by four touchdowns to Ohio State last weekend, but hey, at least it isn’t 2-4 Maryland, which just fired its head coach and has lost its last three games. Our staff agrees that while the Nittany Lions have had their struggles this year, the Terps are on a whole other level, and James Franklin’s team will be bowl eligible after this weekend.

Ben Berkman (season record 6-1): Penn State 35, Maryland, 17

The last time Penn State played in an NFL stadium, a still-lossless Temple side jumped the Nittany Lions, 27-10. It should be better this time around, as Penn State travels to Baltimore for another mid-afternoon showdown in a professional stadium. Maryland lacks experience (interim coach Mike Locksley will head his first game Saturday), and wins (it’s only defeated Richmond and South Florida).

Expect Christian Hackenberg to become Penn State’s all-time leading passer (he needs less than 100 yards to do so), and a run-heavy attack headlined by Saquon Barkley to tame a Maryland defense that has allowed at least 45 points three times in six games. Penn State should break at least 30 points Saturday, and there’s no way its stellar defense will allow that to a listless Terrapin offense.

Patrick Koerbler (season record 5-0): Penn State 35, Maryland 14

Penn State should come away with a win here, but it isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. While Penn State was battling Ohio State last Saturday night, Maryland was taking it easy on a bye week — advantage Terps. Also, it’ll be Maryland’s first game with interim head coach Mike Locksley. That doesn’t so much count as an advantage, but it certainly could give the team a spark.

All that being said, I think Penn State comes out and plays well. Defensively, the Nittany Lions will look to take away the run from quarterback Perry Hills. Hills is similar to Indiana’s quarterback Zander Diamont — athletic and fast, but doesn’t have much success throwing the ball. If the defense stays disciplined on the read option (something it wasn’t last week against Ohio State), the Terrapins will have trouble moving the ball.

Offensively, Penn State will come out looking to focus on its ground game. Maryland actually has a solid pass rush, but it struggles to stop the run, allowing 196.83 rushing yards per game. Expect Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch to both see a healthy load of carries, as the Nittany Lions become bowl eligible.

Kaitlyn Dividock (season record 5-1): Penn State 28, Maryland 13

Don’t fret Happy Valley, your Nittany Lions are finally going to bring home their first away game victory. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Yeah…the punting situation is bad, the offensive line is still pretty shitty, and John Donovan shouldn’t be given a headset ever again. But keep in mind the positives: Penn State’s defense (especially its run defense) is impeccable, Hackenberg is putting up huge numbers through the air and moonlighting as a fearless runner when it’s necessary, and Saquon Barkley is…well…Saquon Barkley. The Terrapins’ only threats are their explosive running-style quarterback Perry Hills, and their gifted cornerback Will Likely. Both players can (and probably will) make big plays during the game, but what those two combine together in talent, the other 20 Terps on the field lack.

So to the lucky and faithful Penn State fans travelling to Baltimore, please do me a few favors. I want you to sit back, crack open a few soft shell crabs, and enjoy this win as your Nittany Lions put a big ol’ check in the 2015-16 bowl eligible box.

Doug Leeson (season record 5-2): Penn State 28, Maryland 7

Ohio State made Penn State’s defense look a lot worse than it is. Bob Shoop, Anthony Zettel, Carl Nassib, and all of their friends rarely give up 38 points, and you have to think they’re pissed, even if its struggles came against the nation’s No. 1 team. I don’t know how much Maryland will score in total, but I think its offense will score ten points or fewer. Special teams, on the other hand, might put up some points if the rare two-punter system of Gulla and Pasquariello doesn’t show any improvement. Return man Will Likely will likely put his team in great field position consistently, especially if he’s fielding punts at midfield, and if he isn’t scoring he’ll set up his team nicely.

On offense…Hackenberg, Barkley, etc. shouldn’t have a problem. At all. Hello, sixth win!

David Abruzzese (season record 5-2): Penn State 21, Maryland 17

The Terps might not be dominant, but Lord almighty can they run the football. Sporting a 2-4 overall record — not to mention standing 0-2 in the Big Ten — a once dominant Maryland program is still enduring growing pains after making the jump from the ACC. The team’s record is a microcosm of the larger issues this program faces. Randy Edsall was handed his walking papers on October 11 after another dismal start, and the program lacks overall talent — specifically at the quarterback position.

While the team’s signal-callers may be inconsistent, there’s no doubting the abilities of starter Perry Hills, who led the charge during the team’s first half display against Ohio State, which led by only a touchdown at the half during week six. Hills ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and cracked off a 75-yard scamper to give the Terps life. Now, Maryland may have collapsed in the second half, but it proved it could keep up with the big boys if the opposition let up, if only just barely.

But Penn State is known for its rushing prowess, and expect the astonishingly talented Saquon Barkley to be unleashed against the Terps in what could be another 150+ yard outing. Hackenberg should pick apart the Maryland secondary — pending John Donovan’s blessings. This should be hard fought, but expect the Lions to pick up a much-needed conference win in this one.

Matt Coleman (season record 4-2): Penn State 27, Maryland 14

After a tough loss last week to Ohio State, the Nittany Lions are looking for vengeance against a much weaker team in Maryland. The game last week gave us a lot of hope for the future of Penn State football. Yes, it lost 38-10, but for most of the game, the Nittany Lions were alive and hopeful they could still win.

James Franklin talked this week how the coaching staff expects Maryland to run the quarterback a lot, and the Nittany Lions’ defense will be prepared for it. As long as J.T. Barrett doesn’t transfer to Maryland this week, I think Penn State will be fine on defense.

Maryland is coming off a bye week and not only three straight losses, but three straight blow outs. West Virginia, Michigan, and Ohio State all ran over Maryland, and Penn State has the potential to do the same. It may not score 40 points against the Maryland defense, but this game will be all Penn State for a majority of the time.

This one’s easy for me. Penn State wins its sixth game and clinches a bowl berth for the second year in a row.

Cade Reed (season record: 3-1): Penn State 31, Maryland 17

Maryland isn’t very good this year, and with the recent departure of Head Coach Randy Edsall, Penn State should handle the Terrapins with ease. Couple this with last year’s handshake debacle, and Penn State will look to make a statement on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions put up a good fight against the No. 1 team in the country last week and freshman running back Saquon Barkley showed that he can keep up with anyone. Penn State will try to bounce back and win in the neutral location of M&T Bank Stadium, all the while earning a chance to play in post-season bowl game for the second season in a row.

We’ll have to wait until Saturday to see if James Franklin employs a red-zone specific quarterback, but we all know now that with or without it, Penn State will easily win against Maryland.

Ethan Kasales (season record 5-1): Penn State 24, Maryland 17

Penn State was clearly outmatched against the top-ranked Buckeyes last weekend, but it has an opportunity to get things going again in Baltimore this Saturday.

Maryland quarterback Perry Hills didn’t exactly light Ohio State up through the air two weeks ago (the Terrapins are coming off a bye), but he rolled up 170 rushing yards and two scores on the ground.

The Nittany Lion defense struggled to contain the highly elusive J.T. Barrett last Saturday, and while Hills lacks that supreme level of athleticism, he’s no slouch. I’m interested to see what Bob Shoop dials up against the hungry Terps. Plus, I’m sure James Franklin’s squad hasn’t forgotten about last year’s pregame shenanigans, so getting up for this neutral site contest shouldn’t be an issue.

Jacob Abrams (season record 6-1): Penn State 35, Maryland 21

This matchup is a nice game to help the Nittany Lions rebound from the tough loss in Columbus last weekend. After facing the No. 1 team in the country, the Nittany Lions will get a break when they travel to M&T Bank Stadium to take on the 2-4 Terrapins this Saturday.

For Penn State, the defense will be there. The front line is one of the best in the country, and expect Perry Hills to run for his life on Saturday. Even though it looked shaky against Ohio State, fans should remember that it kept Penn State in the game against the No. 1 team in the country, which is no small feat.

Saquon Barkley seems to be at 100 percent and will be the spark the offense needs, especially against Maryland’s porous run defense. With Barkley in the game, Hackenberg will only need to put up decent numbers to bring the Nittany Lions home victorious.

On Maryland’s side of the ball, it will focus on the run game. Along with dual-threat quarterback Perry Hills, the Terrapins have a running back that has the athleticism to put up 100+ yards. Penn State will need to be ready up front as Brandon Ross’ ability to make defenders miss is hard to stop, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Penn State should be able to take this game by two scores, which will result in going bowling for the second straight year.

Sara Civian (season record 1-1): Penn State wins, Maryland loses

Big Ten road games aren’t exactly Penn State’s specialty, but I think it will be able to pull this one off. It doesn’t really have a choice if it wants to definitively qualify for a bowl game bid, considering the schedule is going to get increasingly difficult as the season progresses. Interim coach Mike Locksley steps up for his first game with Maryland on Saturday, and this could go either way. The Terps are ranked really low nationally in terms of defense, and last week the Nittany Lions were put to the test against the best team in the country. The downhill aspect of this game will certainly give Penn State an edge, and the fact that the game takes place in Baltimore, not College Park, does the Lions some subtle but important favors regarding atmosphere. Maryland’s cornerback Will Likely isn’t having as great of a season as he should be, although he’s an insanely good return man. Bottom line, Penn State’s contentious offense has a chance to shine against Maryland’s relatively weak defense. The Nittany Lions are usually at their best when something more than just a win or a loss is at stake, and I’m pretty sure they want to go bowling.

What’s your prediction? Let us know in the comments below.

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