Military Bowl 2013: How will Maryland's passing offense fare against Marshall's passing defense?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Terrapins have a tough task ahead of them as they face the Thundering Herd.

Maryland's passing game has suffered without Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, but how will the Terrapins fare through the air against the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Military Bowl? Let's take a look.

Pass rush

Defensive line:

Starters: Ra'Shawde Myers, Brandon Sparrow, James Rouse, Alex Bazzie

The Thundering Herd were in the middle of the pack of Conference-USA in sacks this season, getting to the opposing quarterback 29 times. Myers led the way with 4.5 sacks, while Rouse had four and freshman Gary Thompson had three. Bazzie led the team with eight quarterback hurries, while Thompson had seven.

Linebackers:

Starters: Jermaine Holmes, Neville Hewitt, Stefan Houston

Holmes and Hewitt combined for four-and-a-half sacks this season, and the linebackers have not been too much of a threat in the pass rush this season. If you recognize Houston, it's because he actually transferred to Marshall from Maryland.

Maryland:

The Terrapins' offensive line has looked markedly better with their new unit of Ryan Doyle, De'Onte Arnett, Sal Conaboy, Andrew Zeller and Michael Dunn, and did not allow a single sack to NC State. Maryland has given up an average of two per game, and would appear to hold the advantage here.

Pass defense

Cornerbacks

Starters: Monterius Lovett, Darryl Roberts

Contributors: Derrick Thomas and Corey Tindal

Roberts and Lovett each have two interceptions on the season, and Lovett leads the team with ten passes broken up this season (while Roberts has three). Tindal has broken up six, while Thomas has broken up three.

Safeties

Starters: Tiquan Lang, Taj Letman

Contributors: A.J. Leggett

Leggett, a freshman, leads the team with three interceptions, and has also broken up three passes. Lang and Letman have each picked off one pass this season. Opponents are averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt against the Thundering Herd, with 15 touchdowns against 17 interceptions -- it's a unit that has found success against their competition this season.

Maryland:

Stefon Diggs still leads Maryland in receiving despite missing the last five games of the year, but Levern Jacobs has proved an adequate replacement, catching 40 passes for 540 yards and two touchdowns. The Terps are averaging 14 yards per catch and 7.8 yards per pass attempt, and have had some success using the passing game as a balance to the zone-read rushing scheme.

Overview

Marshall ranks 82nd in the country in Passing S&P+, while Maryland ranks 32nd in Passing S&P+. For those that aren't familiar, S&P+ is an advanced metric that combines whether or not plays are deemed "successful" (50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second, 100% on third/fourth), how explosive said plays are, efficiency on field position, and adjusts for caliber of opponent. The Terrapins gain two advantages in these numbers: playing in a better conference and having two of the most explosive players in the country in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

Without Diggs and Long, that task becomes harder. Maryland will need to stretch the field against Marshall to open up plays for the running game, which has consistently struggled to find explosive plays from Brandon Ross (but has improved with C.J. Brown's return to health). Amba Etta-Tawo is a valuable deep threat who continues to get better each and every game, while Jacobs has excellent quickness and Nigel King is a strong threat in the red zone.

The pass rush should not really be a concern, between Maryland's improved offensive line and Brown's mobility in the pocket, but the Thundering Herd have some playmakers in the secondary that could pose problems. Marshall has done well to contain opposing passing offenses this season, but they'll have a tougher task with Maryland's weapons Friday.

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