What: Maryland tries to rebound from last week's loss by taking on better-than-expected Florida International
Where: Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
In a Turtleshell:
Maryland Offense vs. FIU Defense: FIU's defense has been pretty impressive against some pretty good competition. They like to blitz and they've excelled at forcing turnovers; they're 15th in the country in turnovers forced and 12th in the country in sacks. Given Maryland's beaten-up offensive line that will be without Justin Gilbert (starting freshman Pete DeSouza in his place), that should be more than mildly concerning.
There's not really a defensive star, though Jonathan Cyprien - a sophomore safety with two forced fumbles and more tackles than Alex Wujciak - may come close. It's just an all-around solid unit, equally anchored by Cyprien, second-leading tackler Toronto Smith, and leading sack men Jarvis Wilson and Greg Hickman. The secondary is stacked with players that, while not imposing in terms of talent, have put up great stats. Oh, and they're 20th in the country against the pass.
Where Maryland's advantage should be is in the running game. Texas A&M rushed for over 200 yards against FIU, and the Terps have an average advantage of 40+ pounds a man. Considering that's Maryland strength and FIU's biggest weakness, you'd expect the Terps to heavily rely on the running game, ala the Navy win.
FIU Offense vs. Maryland Defense: There's some talent here for FIU, but not a lot of production so far. Wes Carroll, the starting QB, used to be the starter at Mississippi State before he transferred. Running back Jeremiah Harden used to get playing time for Syracuse, but he transferred, too. Neither have really been that impressive since joining the Golden Panthers.
Carroll has thrown more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2), and hasn't topped 200 yards passing in either game. Harden hasn't had 100 yards rushing yet, either, and averages 3.9 yards per carry. As you may guess, neither the line nor the wide receivers are particularly imposing - T.Y. Hilton, FIU's starting WR, is good, but Carroll's been getting him the ball inconsistently.
Ultimately, FIU has stayed competitive on their defense, and their offense is probably why they haven't won yet. Not too many teams will lose two games that they force eight turnovers in, but then again not a lot of teams will be competitive in two games in which they score just one touchdown without the benefit of a short field. Until Carroll or Harden can prove themselves as viable offensive options, the offense remains a facet of the team that isn't good: no matter the talent, it's tough to defend an offense that's 73rd in rushing, 99th in passing, and 108th in scoring.
Keys in Cliches:
- Run early and often. I'm not sold on FIU's passing defense being that good, but why test it? Texas A&M won with their passing game, and Maryland should, too.
- Avoid mistakes. That's how FIU's been competitive in their past two games; block, hold onto the ball, and don't make bad throws. They're an opportunistic team.
- Stop committing penalties. Yes, this gets its own bullet point. Maryland had 100+ yards of penalties against Morgan State and nearly 80 against West Virginia, including a bunch of procedural calls. That needs to get cleaned up sometime, and now would be as good a time as any.
Players to Watch:
- T.Y. Hilton, WR, FIU - If Carroll doesn't improve, Hilton won't make a difference. But if he does, look for him to look at Hilton, the Golden Panthers' top receiver and a third-team all-Sun Belt selection last year (despite being injured).
- Anthony Gaitor, S, FIU - An all-Sun Belt first-teamer last year, Gaitor's had two interceptions so far this year, including one he ran back for 54 yards.
- Da'Rel Scott, RB, Maryland - He's arguably been surpassed by Davin Meggett, but he's gotta bounce back eventually. Ralph Friedgen should feed him and feed him often.
- Cameron Chism, CB, Maryland - Chism's been average through two games this year, and even though Carroll hasn't had success, he has talent. Chism needs a solid game, both for confidence and practical reasons.