After a convincing opening win over FIU, Maryland faces what could be a much stiffer test against Old Dominion, a team transitioning to FBS play. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon in College Park.
The Monarchs are moving from the Colonial Athletic Association in the FCS to Conference USA in the FBS, and were one of the best teams in the FCS last season. Old Dominion lost to Georgia Southern in the quarterfinals, but ranked tops in the nation in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense.
From that offense, an incredible nine starters return, including reigning Walter Payton winner Taylor Heinicke, who we'll talk about more later. Five return on defense, but only three start. Of the 28 players Old Dominion played on defense in their opener last Saturday, eleven were newcomers.
This will be the first time Maryland and Old Dominion face off in football. The Monarchs played their first-ever game against an FBS school in Week 1, when they lost 52-38 to East Carolina. Old Dominion is not used to losing - in four years under head coach Bobby Wilder, the Monarchs are 38-11.
Let's run the matchup down, unit by unit.
Maryland offensive line vs. Old Dominion defensive line:
Old Dominion returns just two starters from last year's defensive line - Dominique Guinn-Bailey (six starts, 52 tackles, seven for a loss, 2.5 sacks) and Preston Smith (11 starts, 50 tackles, four for a loss, three sacks) - but neither will start against Maryland. Instead, the Monarch's front four will comprise of converted linebacker Terrell Reid, junior college transfer Chris Smith, senior Nate Barnes (seven tackles, one-and-a-half for a loss in 2012), and sophomore Andrew Everett (19 tackles, two sacks).
Against East Carolina, the Monarchs received a surprising amount of pressure on the outside from cornerback Eriq Lewis, who recorded three-and-a-half tackles for a loss on the game. The two returning starters who are now reserves, Guinn-Bailey and Smith, led the defensive line with three tackles apiece (and a half a sack for Guinn-Bailey), while the starters totaled just five tackles on the day. A note - they were playing East Carolina, a team dependent on the pass, so defensive line totals were obviously skewed low.
Meanwhile, Maryland's offensive line did a fine job against a strong FIU defensive line, clearing space for C.J. Brown in the running game. There were some concerns when other Terrapins carried the ball, but as has been mentioned repeatedly, that only opened up space for Brown throughout the game.
Maryland defensive line vs. Old Dominion offensive line:
Old Dominion returns four of their five starting offensive lineman, but much of their ability to avoid the pass rush comes from their quarterback, Taylor Heinicke. The Monarchs allowed just over two sacks per game last year - an incredible statistic considering Heinicke dropped back to throw over 45 times per game. Heinicke is mobile, but is most importantly able to get the ball out quickly to avoid a rush.
For Maryland, the Quinton Jefferson show started early against FIU, as the defensive end recorded seven tackles with a half a sack and looked generally dominant. Keith Bowers had five tackles, Alex Walker had two tackles, Nate Clarke had a tackle for a loss, Roman Braglio and Darius Kilgo each recorded a sack, and Andre Monroe had half a sack. Maryland ended up with five sacks on the day, three of them coming from the defensive line,
Maryland rushing offense vs. Old Dominion front seven:
Maryland ran for 251 yards against FIU, led by C.J. Brown (11 rushes for 105 yards), Jacquile Veii (eight rushes for 53 yards), Albert Reid (nine rushes for 45 yards) and Brandon Ross (ten rushes for 21 yards). Ross is the starter, but Maryland was able to spread out the carries fairly equally in the blowout win. The Terps will also be getting redshirt freshman Joe Riddle back in the fold, who could take carries away from the true freshman Veii.
Outside linebacker John Darr is the only defensive player returning this season for Old Dominion who started all 13 games last year. The redshirt senior was third on the team in tackles last season, with 75, behind Craig Willkins (now gone) and Caleb Taylor, who is now a backup at inside linebacker. Darr is joined by true freshman Richie Staton and senior Paul Morant (50 tackles in 2012) as the starting linebackers. Against East Carolina, Darr tied for a team-high nine tackles, while Morant had five and Staton had four. D.J. Simon, who shares Staton's backup role with Taylor, had four tackles with a fumble forced.
The Monarchs held East Carolina to just 34 yards rushing on 22 attempts, including starting running back Vintavious Cooper to 38 yards on 12 rushes. East Carolina does not have C.J. Brown. Old Dominion also ranked 100th in the FCS in rushing defense last season.
Maryland front seven vs. Old Dominion rushing offense
Marcus Whitfield was the recipient (of sorts, #GoNCAA) of the defensive game ball against FIU, as the senior linebacker had five tackles with one-and-a-half sacks. The rest of the unit was pretty stellar as well. L.A. Goree had ten tackles, marking the fourth straight game that he's tied or led the team in the category. Whitfield's backup Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil had seven tackles with a half a sack, Cole Farrand had seven tackles, Alex Twine had four tackles and a forced fumble, and Matt Robinson had four tackles. Maryland gets to add Bradley Johnson into the mix this week, making an already-impressive linebacking corps even deeper.
Old Dominion has very little rushing offense to speak of, as non-Heinicke players ran 12 times for 38 yards against East Carolina. Heinicke is potent on his feet, scrambling 11 times for 52 yards and a score.
Maryland receivers vs. Old Dominion secondary
Old Dominion's coverage has been described as "soft", and that is a kind way of putting it. The Monarchs allowed Shane Carden to complete 46 of 54 passes against them Saturday for 447 yards and five touchdowns, and ranked 74th in the FCS in passing defense last year. Safeties Andre Simmons and Fellonte Misher tied for the team high in tackles (nine), while cornerbacks Jevon Neal and Reggie Owens struggled to keep up with the Pirates' attack.
Simmons is a transfer from Vanderbilt, and is the only player on Old Dominion's roster with a scholarship offer from Maryland.
Meanwhile, Maryland saw five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown from Stefon Diggs and an incredible nine-catch, 110-yard debut from Deon Long.
Diggs also did this:
Maryland secondary vs. Old Dominion receivers
Now things start to get interesting. All four of Old Dominion's starting wideouts started at least six games last season, with two of them starting at least 11. Even with leading receiver Nick Mayers gone, the Monarchs have a fearsome receiving corps that should give Maryland some troubles.
First up is Antonio Vaughan, the diminutive redshirt junior who caught 60 passes for 885 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Against East Carolina, he caught six passes for 50 yards - fifth best on the team.
Next is junior Blair Roberts, who caught 56 passes for 707 yards and seven scores last year. He led the team with nine receptions against East Carolina, totaling 74 yards and two touchdowns.
After that is redshirt junior Larry Pinkard, who had 55 receptions for 830 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012. Against East Carolina he caught eight passes for a team-high 92 yards. Also contributing will be Jakwail Bailey (six receptions for 70 yards against ECU) and running back Colby Goodwyn (seven catches for 73 yards).
For Maryland, the secondary looked pretty excellent against FIU and Jake Medlock, holding the starter to just 1.7 yards per attempt. Dexter McDougle, who was offered by Old Dominion as a wide receiver, had a tremendous interception in the game, and Maryland will return both Alvin Hill and Zach Dancel to enhance the secondary's depth.
Maryland quarterback vs. Old Dominion quarterback
So we've talked quite a bit about C.J. Brown's performance in the opening week blowout - 20/23, 281 yards, three touchdowns and 105 rushing yards with two more scores - but it was a truly incredible game (and a record-breaking one - it's the highest completion percentage ever by a Maryland quarterback with at least 20 attempts).
On the other side of things, Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke is the reigning Walter Payton Award winner - the FCS version of the Heisman. He gained national attention last year after setting Division I records for total offense (791) and passing yards (730) in a game during a come-from-behind win over New Hampshire. Heinicke completed more than two-thirds of his passes in 2012, passing for 5,076 yards and 44 touchdowns against 14 interceptions, while also running for 470 yards and 11 more scores.
Against East Carolina, Heinicke completed 38 of 51 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 11 times for 52 yards and another score. He is a handful, and Maryland's success on Saturday will largely be dependent on their ability to contain Heinicke.
Overall impressions and final tally
Maryland takes it, 5-0-2. With Heinicke and that group of receivers, Old Dominion can win any game, but their defense is too suspect for a reasonable pick otherwise.
Our official prediction: Maryland 55, Old Dominion 20.
A thanks to Virginian-Pilot ODU beat writer Harry Minium for helping us out with returning starters information.