There's no Place like Home
Unfortunately for Maryland, both of their losses have come at home this year in different but excruciating fashions. West Virginia won on a field goal as time expired and Ohio State had their way with Maryland in front of a packed house on national television. Maryland needs a home win. Period.
How do I Respond?
Had to throw a line from Diddy's song in there. The Terps just had their clocks cleaned against a great Ohio State team. They had a bye week to stew and get ready for the Hawkeyes from the heartland. Iowa isn't Ohio State but they are a very good team. It's time for the Terps to show what they are made of. Games against Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State loom after this one. That very well might end as three losses on the Terps schedule so Maryland really needs a win this weekend.
Home Alone 2: Quarterbacks
Some of C.J. Brown's decision making this year makes me want to make this face. He has played sub-par football for most of the year as evidenced by his 57.5% completion percentage and the fact that a little over halfway through the year he only has 1,067 yards passing. He threw for 71 yards and a pick against Ohio State and was replaced by Caleb Rowe (who we will touch on in a moment). He isn't playing well but he has had the bye week to prepare so he has that going for him.
There are some Maryland fans who are pining for the Caleb Rowe era to start as soon as possible. That day will come eventually but it may have to wait. There are rumors about that the young gunslinger may be injured, but nothing has been confirmed by the team or by any reporters known for breaking news. Rowe has been effective running the Maryland offense and is clearly the more proficient passer of the two quarterbacks. He fits Maryland's personnel and scheme well and losing him would be an enormous blow for the Terps because there is a huge drop-off if C.J. Brown gets pulled from the game. Right now, Randy Edsall may have to keep Brown in there even if he is struggling. It could be a a bad scenario for the Terps but if Brown struggles similar to how he played against Ohio State, Edsall may have a tough decision to make.
Iowa's signal caller is Jake Rudock. He is listed as probable for the game so I am going to assume that he is playing. He has thrown for 1,008 yards on the season at a 67.5% clip and while he has the same number of touchdown passes as C.J. Brown (7), he has half of C.J.'s number of interceptions. He makes good decisions with the football and this is not going to be his first Big Ten road game. He already went into intimidating atmospheres in Pitt and Purdue and won. Maryland may be the best defense he has seen this year but Rudock has shown that he has the skills and the play-making to win close games. Three of Iowa's six games have been decided by four points or fewer and the Hawkeyes are 5-1 on the season. I'm going with Rudock here.
Home Run Ball: Offense
Just from looking at the statistics, Maryland seems to clearly have the advantage. Maryland hasn't scored less than 24 points in a game this season and Iowa has only exceeded 24 points against an FBS opponent once this year.
However, statistics can be deceiving. Iowa averages 151 yards per game on the ground. Maryland averages 140. Now that may not seem like a big difference and it really isn't but the average is only that high because of Maryland's early season games. In Maryland's last three games, they ran for 89 (Syracuse), 123 (Indiana) and 66 (Ohio State). In a similar way for Iowa they are rushing for 151 yards per game but they are averaging less than four yards a carry on the season. Neither one of these teams runs the ball particularly effectively. Brandon Ross is still second in rushing on the team behind C.J. Brown. That is a bad sign for the run game. Tevin Coleman had a field day against Iowa last week. Unfortunately for the Terps, they don't have any running backs that are nearly as good as Tevin Coleman. I would keep an eye out for Jacquille Veii to break a big run if the Terps can get him the ball.
I have said it repeatedly throughout the year. Maryland has two of the best wide-outs in the conference in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Maryland needs to get the ball in their hands. Diggs is 52nd in the country in receiving yards right now with 450 yards and that should be a crime. He is one of the most explosive play-makers in the entire country and he is not being utilized. His potential is being wasted. Mike Locksley has to dial up some screen plays and quick slants to give him and Long the ball in space and allow them to make plays.
Iowa's offense isn't flashy. They have been running the same offense more or less for a decade and a half. It's a pro-style offense. They will run the ball at least 40-50 times with Mark Weisman (who has eight rushing touchdowns on the season) and Jordan Canzeri to set up the play-action pass to receivers like Kevonte Martin-Manley, Damond Powell and Tevaun Smith. They will attempt to control possession the tempo of the game and Kirk Ferentz-led teams don't often beat themselves. The stats say that Maryland has a more potent offense as evidenced by their scoring offense which averages almost 8.5 points per game more than Iowa. Again, Iowa has only gone over the 24 point mark against an FBS team once this year and Maryland's season low scoring output is 24.
(Please) Protect this House: Defense
Maryland's defense got worked over by J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes who ran an up-tempo spread offense. No need to worry about that this week. Iowa operates a very traditional pro-style offense that will look to attack line of scrimmage and pound the football. Maryland has a depleted linebacker corps and Maryland gives up over 200 yards per game on the ground. Those are two bad signs for the Terps. Iowa likes to grind it out on offense and their style will tire the Terps out if Iowa's offense can keep getting into third and short situations, which is Mark Weisman's bread and butter. One blowout against Ohio State doesn't mean that the Terps have a bad defense all of a sudden but their flaws were exposed in a very bad way and Iowa will look to take advantage.
Iowa's defense is very good along the defensive line but their only consistently great linebacker is Quinton Alston. Hawkeye cornerback Desmond King had a pick-six against Indiana but his counterpart, Greg Mabin, is nowhere near as good. I expect Maryland to target Mabin repeatedly since King is one of the conference's better cover corners.
Iowa comes into this game only allowing 19.2 points per game. They have only surrendered at least 21 points twice and the most points they have given up this season was 29. Those are fantastic numbers but they haven't played anyone of Maryland's caliber. We are about to find out if this defense can hold up against an offense that averages almost 35 points a game. Statistically, Iowa's defense has the edge here.
Sweet Home (Alabama): Special Teams
Maryland has one of the nation's best special teams units. Brad Craddock has a great chance to win the Lou Groza Award this year. He is a perfect 11/11 on the year including the 57 yarder that he made against the Buckeyes. Diggs and Will Likely are dangerous return threats who can both take it to the house.
Marshall Koehn is 6/9 on field goals this year and strangely all three of his misses were during the first two weeks of the season and they were in the 30-39 yard range. He has made all three of his kicks over 40 yards including a 52 yarder against Pitt.
No contest here. Maryland has the edge.
Maryland will play better but not great on offense and they will continue to struggle to move the chains on third downs. Each team will have one turnover. Iowa will run somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 times and will probably eclipse the 200 rushing yard mark. C.J. Brown will throw for under 200 yards in another underwhelming offensive performance and it will hit Maryland fans that Caleb Rowe isn't going to play any more this season. Maryland is stuck with C.J. Brown for better or for worse and this season that hasn't often been for the better. Iowa is a solid all-around team and they don't beat themselves. Kirk Ferentz is a great coach and he will have this team ready to play. I think Iowa dominates both lines of scrimmage and wins a typical Big-Ten slug fest.