Maryland vs. Connecticut preview: Terps travel for Edsall Bowl II

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland goes on the road for the first time this season in the second Edsall Bowl.

After two dominating wins against clearly inferior opponents, Maryland travels to face what should be another overmatched team in the Connecticut Huskies.

It's the second version of the Edsall Bowl -- UConn's old coach left for Maryland in 2011, and the Terrapins hosted the Huskies last year in a 24-21 defeat for the home school. UConn will look to best their old head coach once again, but that will be a tougher test with Maryland's improved offense and a defense perhaps even better than last year's.

Connecticut, meanwhile, is not looking so hot under Paul Pasqualoni, who is right there with Lane Kiffin in the category of "coaches most likely to be fired in the next month." After two straight 5-7 seasons to start his tenure with the Huskies, it looks like UConn will have to claw its way just to that mark in 2013 after a 15-point loss to Towson in their opener.

Let's run the matchup down, unit by unit.

Maryland offensive line vs. UConn defensive line:

As in most areas, UConn's biggest strength on their defensive line is their experience. The Huskies start three fifth-year seniors -- ends Jesse Joseph and Tim Willman and tackle Shamar Stephen -- one redshirt sophomore (tackle Julian Campenni).

Joseph received an extra year of eligibility after suffering an injury last year, and is hoping to return to his early-career form, when he combined for 18 tackles for a loss over his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Joseph, listed at 6'2" and 262 pounds, had six tackles with one for a loss against Towson.

Willman, from local Reservoir High School, had eight tackles for a loss and three sacks in a breakout season off the bench last year. He stands 6'4" and weighs 267 pounds and had seven tackles with one-and-a-half tackles for a loss in the opener.

A preseason second-team all-conference selection by Athlon Sports, Stephen had seven tackles against Towson. At 6'5" and 313 pounds, he's a presence in the middle, and batted down four passes in 2012.

The young buck on the line, Campenni had three tackles in the opener. He stands at 6'0" even and weighs 298 pounds, and provides a speedier option in the middle.

Maryland's line averages at 293 pounds, while Connecticut's is at 286. The Terps saw big improvement in their blocking from the first game to the second, and will hope that continues on the road.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland defensive line vs. UConn offensive line:

UConn again has big experience on the line, with three fifth-year seniors and two fourth-year juniors filling out as the starters. The Huskies still allowed four sacks against Towson, and will be tasked with a talented Maryland defensive line that showed its significant depth against Old Dominion.

Maryland's defensive line has combined for four sacks, with just one-and-a-half coming from starters (the team has nine total, by the by). That's not to say starters Quinton Jefferson, Darius Kilgo and Keith Bowers aren't doing well -- on the contrary, they've been jamming blocking lanes effectively enough to let Marcus Whitfield have a career-high in sacks through just two games.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland rushing offense vs. UConn front seven:

After C.J. Brown exploded in Week 1, Brandon Ross and Albert Reid each excelled against Old Dominion, with the former posting a career high and the latter showing one of the nicest non-Diggs jukes we've seen in years. The Terps are averaging over six yards per rush, and the zone read has never looked better in College Park.

Meanwhile, the Huskies gave up 200 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground against Towson -- granted, the Tigers have an All-American running back in Terrance West, but they were extremely gaudy numbers.

UConn's best player on defense is undoubtedly linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who you may remember from his 14-tackle, two-sack performance in College Park last year. He finished the year with 120 tackles and 15 tackles for a loss, and has gotten off to a hot start with a 16-tackle game against Towson.

Also starting for the Huskies at linebacker is senior Ryan Donohue, who you most likely remember as a former Terrapin who returned an interception for a touchdown in 2010. He had a career-high ten tackles against Towson -- that's not only his career high for a game, it's his career high for a season.

Also starting at linebacker is sophomore Graham Stewart, who had eight tackles against the Tigers.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland front seven vs. UConn rushing offense

We talked briefly about Whitfield and his career year, but fellow starting outside linebacker Matt Robinson is also having a great year helping in coverage. Cole Farrand had a day off of sorts against Old Dominion, but he should be back with Lorne Goree in the middle for this one.

UConn's offensive strength is on the ground, as fourth-year junior Lyle McCombs (who ran for 94 yards last year in College Park) looks to cement his workhorse-back status. His 2012 may not have been as good as some remember (around 3.5 yards per carry), but he had a solid, if uninspiring, game against Towson, with 17 rushes for 76 yards.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland receivers vs. UConn secondary

I really don't think we have to do this section in the previews. Maryland's receiving talent is absurd. But I guess it is helpful to know the opponent, so...

Byron Jones and Taylor Mack are the Huskies' starting corners, and posted seven and ten tackles in the Towson game, respectively. Mack also had a pass broken up, and had four of those last year, but hasn't had an interception since Randy Edsall was the coach. Meanwhile, Jones had two interceptions his freshman year, one last season, and has broken up six passes in two years with the school.

Ty-Meer Brown will start at safety for UConn -- he's had at least 40 tackles each of the past two years and returned a touchdown for an interception in 2011 as a freshman. Against Towson, he had just one tackle.

Redshirt freshman Obi Melifonwu also starts at safety, and joins true freshman fullback Matt Walsh as the only freshman starters on the team. Against Towson, he had 11 tackles, one interception, a tackle-and-a-half for a loss, and one pass broken up.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland secondary vs. UConn receivers

Jeremiah Johnson is out, but Will Likely and Isaac Goins proved adequate replacements -- the former led the team with 11 tackles, the latter had his first career interception. Sean Davis got in on the fun against Old Dominion as well with his first pick, and Anthony Nixon has been happily quiet with just seven tackles (I say so because a safety racking up a lot of tackles is generally a bad sign for your yardage defense).

UConn starts two talented fourth-year juniors at wide receiver -- Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips. Davis caught five passes for 100 yards against Towson, building off of a strong 2012 where he averaged 13.93 yards per catch. Phillips had five catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns, setting a new yearly career high in touchdown catches.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland quarterback vs. UConn quarterback

Chandler Whitmer is the very definition of "serviceable", somehow managing to always average 7.4 yards per attempt. It's not good enough to make you notice, but it's not bad enough to call for a benching.

C.J. Brown, on the other hand, is averaging 12.4 yards per attempt, has nine total touchdowns, and is generally playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland special teams vs. UConn special teams

Stefon Diggs is averaging over 20 yards per return, and Will Likely has done well on punts since his first muffed attempt. Nathan Renfro is averaging around 40 yards per kick, and Brad Craddock has made all four field goal attempts (while routinely booting kickoffs out the back of the end zone).

Connecticut's punt returner, Brian Lemelle, has returned two punts for two yards, while their kick returners have combined for 18.33 yards per return (while giving up 21.33 yards per return to Towson). Their punter, Cole Wagner, is also averaging nearly 40 yards a kick (and has the same amount of punts as Renfro in half the amount of games), while their kicker Chad Christen, made 14 of 21 field goals last season.

Advantage: Maryland.

Overall impressions and final tally

Maryland 8-0-0. Our first (and likely only) clean sweep of the season. Chalk that up to us knowing more about Maryland's team after FIU and Old Dominion instead of UConn being worse than those two (which they are certainly not).

Our prediction: Maryland 31, UConn 13.

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