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Testudo Times staff roundtable: Football at Penn State as basketball teams get underway

Our staff discuss Maryland's football game at Penn State and the start of basketball season.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland football team plays at Penn State on Saturday, and the men's and women's basketball teams start their exhibition slates this weekend, too. Thanks to Todd, Noah, Andrew K., Pete, FlaTerp, John and Dave for participating this week.

Let's get into it:

Q. I'll start with a weird one. Was there anything you liked about Maryland's effort against Wisconsin? Like, even just a smidge.

Todd: I'll get things started with a comment I posted more than once in other posts on the site. I liked the defense holding Melvin Gordon to under 4 yards per carry until he broke off two 20+ yard runs late in the third quarter after the offense had run, I think, nine straight possessions after a first down. Reiterating another statement, I don't think the 1999-2000 Ravens defense could have withstood that type of offensive performance.

Noah: They didn't get shut out? Nate Renfro's 380 punting yards (giving him 720 punting yards in his last two games)? Edsall didn't go for it on 4th and 12 after he didn't get it the first time? I will have to agree to disagree with Todd about whether or not that Ravens team could have gotten the job done against Wisconsin. What is not in dispute were Melvin Gordon's first three runs on Wisconsin's first drive. His first went for 9 yards, his second went for 7 yards and a first down and his third run was 6 yards for a touchdown. That four play scoring drive set an early tone for the game.

Andrew K.: Only that after the game Edsall admitted (after saying the players didn't execute well) that the coaches didn't do well. That's an understatement as Maryland looked like they were totally unprepared. There were also seemingly no in-game adjustments.

Pete: I was impressed by Jesse Aniebonam, who I think stepped his game up closer to the level of Yannick Ngakoue (who has been excellent this year). I was also encouraged by Deon Long's bigger role in the offense.

FlaTerp: No.

John: Is it bad that it got to the point I was laughing during the game? There's not much positive you can take from that game. Burn the tape and move on. That's all you can do.

Dave: Knowing that Maryland isn't really that bad?

Being 5-3 and .500 in the conference now, what's an acceptable record for Randy Edsall's team over the last four games?

Todd: Acceptable? Depending on perspective, I'd have to say minimum 2-2 because then a bowl game win gets the team to eight wins which I think should be the floor for him in his fourth year. By this time, we're seeing mostly the players he's recruited and has had a chance to coach and the on field performance remains maddeningly middle of the road. I think my expectations for Maryland football have been moderate but I surely never thought what he inherited would turn into a half decade or longer rebuilding project.

Noah: Since I can often be glass half-empty I will add that going 2-2 with a bowl game loss would make them 7-6 which I think is unacceptable. I think normally it would be acceptable to lose to Michigan and Penn State since those are typically elite Big Ten programs. It isn't acceptable to lose to Rutgers and Michigan this year. The only game that the Terps shouldn't be in is Michigan State. I'll say 2-2 is acceptable but I have a feeling that they will only win once in the final four game.

Andrew K.: 3-1 is acceptable. Counting MSU as the defeat, this year the Terps should be better than State Pen(n), Michigan, and Rutgers. If we don't go 3 - 1 and end up 7-5 (or worse) then we haven't progressed. In fact, given the injuries to Diggs and Long last year (which cost us one or two games), a case could be made that we've regressed.

Pete: Minimum is 2-2, but 3-1 is what I think should happen.

FlaTerp: I'm expecting 2-2 at best. Acceptable? I don't know. Maybe that ship has sailed for me. Maryland has come out of the gate flat, unprepared and lifeless in what, five games now? (USF, WVU, OSU, Iowa, Wisc. ... yeah five, at least.)  Wisconsin was one humiliating blowout loss too many. Go 3-1 and maybe I'll change my tune, but something has to be done about game preparation and pregame motivation/focus. I said this plainly in last week's roundtable: It's OK if you can't win at Wisconsin, but come out of the gate ready to play, put up a four-quarter fight, and show you belong on that field. The opposite of that happened.

John: Anything short of 3-1 will be disappointing, but 2-2 is acceptable, depending on who you ask. As has been noted, a 2-2 finish puts them at 7-5 and in a bowl game. However, 8-4 would at least show progress, rather than being at 7-5 again. If Edsall wants any sort of relief from the fanbase.

Dave: I think 3-1 is certainly what I expect but Maryland has been so up and down all season, I could see them going something like 1-3 or 2-2. But I think they'll ultimately end up 8-4. One thing Maryland has done well this year is bounce back from a tough and or blowout loss. Here's hoping that continues on Saturday.

Q. Penn State's defense is functionally just as good as Wisconsin's, at least on paper. What path do you see for Maryland to actually score some points against the Nittany Lions on Saturday?

Todd: Get the ball to Stefon Diggs as often and as creatively as possible.

Noah: Three things specifically. C.J. Brown shouldn't start. Stefon Diggs should get the ball early and often. DON'T GO FOR IT ON 4TH AND FREAKING 12.

Andrew K.: Two things. Don't let Brown throw anything longer than 15 yards, except one or two bombs to keep the defense honest. I'm not sure what his QBR is for passes over 15 yards (not including YAC) but it's trending towards single digits. On a related note, throw more bubble screens and short slants.

Pete: Maryland has to get more creative in their offensive playcalling in order to keep the pocket clear enough for C.J. Brown to make plays. When he's boxed in, bad things happen. The Terps have been able to do that in the past this year (see: Iowa, Syracuse), and we'll see if it can happen again Saturday.

FlaTerp: I agree with Noah. C.J. Brown has played his way out of a job, as far as I'm concerned. He couldn't make any throws at any distance. Let's see what Perry Hills can do (I know I know, it's not going to happen, but it should). Anyway, Penn State will stack the box, take away the run and force Maryland to the air. If the Terps can makes some throws, they'll have a shot to score. That's a gigantic "if" at this point though.

John: It's not rocket science, as the offense tries to make it appear at times. I agree with the sentiment that Brown has played his way out of a job, but the alternatives are significantly worse, in my opinion. So, you're in quarterback purgatory. The key is to get the ball to your playmakers in space. It sounds so simple, well, because it is. Get Diggs and Long the ball any way you can. And for Pete's sake (no pun intended), can they stop running that outside option pitch? I've counted many times where they get stuffed in the backfield. Also, Locksley needs to bring his A game, because it wasn't stellar Saturday.

Dave: Exactly what Pete said. Give C.J. better plays to thrive. For example, running more screens plays to Diggs 1). puts the ball in your best player's hands and 2). is a great way to combat a defense that's blitzing or focused on stopping the run by putting additional guys in the box.

Q. What's your prediction for Saturday's game?

Todd: Cloudy and windy with temperatures in the high 30s or low 40s.

Noah: I finally snapped my five game streak of picking incorrectly with the Wisconsin game so I feel revitalized and confident. Penn State had a tough double overtime loss to Ohio State and they are going to want to take it out on somebody. Maryland is that somebody. Penn State wins 34-17.

Andrew K.: Hackenberg scares me. Although he's having a "down year" he's still capable of tearing apart our pass defense. Further, Happy Valley is as loud an environment as Camp Randall stadium. However State Pen(n)'s rushing attack is poor and perhaps that will enable our linebackers to drop back in coverage more often. The chance to defeat a James Franklin-led team has got to light a fire in the Terps. The BTN Saturday pre-game show does something interesting in that its commentators pick winners and assign confidence points (2, 4, 6, 8, or 10). A particular confidence level can only be used once per week. Following that M.O. I'll take Maryland with a confidence level of 4.

Pete: Maryland, 27-20.

FlaTerp: I think it's going to be close because Penn State is really inconsistent. I'll reluctantly pick Maryland, against my better instincts, because the Vegas trends really hint at trouble for PSU. Terps, 23-21.

John:  I would love to pick Maryland, but it's a crap shoot when picking them. I'll go Penn State, 24-21.

Dave: In my 3 predictions posts this year, I've either been spot on or waaaaaaay off. At least last week I predicted Diggs would score a touchdown! I think Maryland wins, but I think the weather impacts this game more than people realize. The high winds, potential cold rain help to neutralize the Beaver Stadium crowd, impact Christian Hackenberg's ability to pass, and forces both teams to rely on their kickers, where Maryland has a huge advantage. Terps win 19-10.

Q. Men's and women's basketball both open their seasons with exhibitions this weekend. For each team, what one storyline are you most curious to watch develop this year?

Todd: For the men I'd have to say will Melo Trimble live up to all the preseason hype he's getting with the development of Cekovsky and Dodd a very close second. For the women, I'll jump on something Coach Frese said at media day and go in what may be an unexpected direction by saying I'm curious to see if Maryland becomes the high pressure defensive squad she predicted.

Noah: As exciting as watching Trimble will be, I will be curious to watch Mark Turgeon as he tries to manage the expectations surrounding this team. For the women's team, I will be interested in seeing who becomes the "alpha dog" of this team. Who will the leader in the huddle be? Who is going to call for the ball down the stretch?

Andrew K.: Seeing if Dodd/Cekovsky can play a respectable interior, offensively in particular. The other is how much missing Smo for a few weeks will impact the team. For the ladies, who will produce some of the points lost with Alyssa Thomas' graduation?

Pete: For the men's team, I'm interested to see how they distribute the scoring load, especially with their big men questions. For the women's team, I'm excited to see the continued growth of Lexie Brown.

FlaTerp: For the men, can they rebound competitively? That's what I'm most concerned about -- as long as Melo Trimble can hold his own as a true freshman PG. I'll agree with Pete for the women: I want to see if Lexie Brown can step into her own spotlight now and become the next superstar.

Dave: How does the men's team play together with Melo running the point and do they do a better job of running an offense than in past years. For the women's team, can they step in an immediately be the team to beat in a new conference? It certainly seems that way and Brenda Frese has an advantage being a former B1G coach at Minnesota.

Rate these events in order of probability of happening: a) Maryland men's basketball team makes the NCAA Tournament. b) Women's basketball team plays in the Elite 8. c) Football team wins eight regular season games. Go!

Todd: I see this question as a sneaky way to try and have me make two predictions in the same roundtable but I'll try: B then C, then A.

Noah: And Todd bites! B is definitely first. I think that A and C are both unlikely to happen, but I will say A and then C.

Andrew K.: B , C, and then A. If neither C or A happens, we might see at least one coaching change for 2015.

Pete: B, A, C, but I think all three occur.

FlaTerp: B-A-C

Dave: I think all three happen. I think B-C-A. But I don't think there's much of a difference, percentage wise, between B & A happening.