Thanks to the crew over at On The Banks, SB Nation's Rutgers hub, for answering our inquiries about the Scarlet Knights before the Terps face them on Saturday. As you enjoy the rest of this holiday weekend, read up on Maryland's final regular season opponent of 2014.
TT: Maryland and Rutgers are obviously in similar territory this year as the Big Ten's newest members. How has the transition been for the Knights and their fans?
OTB: Aside from some of the on-field results, the transition has been nothing but spectacular. It's the first season that High Point Solutions Stadium has been sold out multiple times in one year, and general attendance is up on average. The expanded coverage of the Scarlet Knights on BTN has been terrific, as the increased exposure is definitely better than what we used to get while in the Big East and American Athletic Conference.
We'd like to see more competitive games against the top dogs in the conference, as we've witnessed quite a few blowouts at the hands of Ohio State, Michigan State, and others. Hopefully the program can utilize the B1G to get better recruits in the future.
TT: To what degree are fans satisfied with the direction of the program under Kyle Flood?
OTB: Based on what I've seen in our community and others, fans are somewhat split evenly on Kyle Flood. On the one hand, he's a pure-class guy that we'll never have to worry about regarding scandal (he handled the defensive coordinator fiasco as good as anyone could), his players excel in the classroom, and he's a New York metro native that loves coaching for Rutgers.
On the other hand, his record speaks for itself. He struggles against FBS teams with winning records, with his best wins being over Cincinnati and Syracuse in 2012. His best recruiting class decided to leave for other programs at the last minute in 2013, and he hasn't reached that level again to this point. Finally, the blowouts to the better programs in the B1G are very alarming. While it's true that a team like Nebraska or Wisconsin are better than Rutgers at this point, as a fan all you want to see is a competitive team take the field. 2015 will most likely be make or break for Flood.
TT: Rutgers has a senior quarterback playing out his career right now in Gary Nova. What sort of signal-caller should Maryland expect to see on Saturday?
OTB: You'll see a guy who can make an amazing play or a boneheaded play at any given point in any given game. He's been more consistent this season depending on the team: Against Michigan and Indiana, he's been close to perfect. Against teams like OSU and Wisconsin, it's been brutal. Not all of the losses can be pinned on him, but he's definitely capable of being rattled by a good defense. Expect a player to take plenty of chances on deep balls that may or may not work out in our favor.
TT: Rutgers has done a good job keeping Nova on his feet, but the Knights' running game hasn't gotten going much at all. Is this an offensive line that's a lot better in pass protection than run blocking, or is there more to that contradiction?
OTB: One of the biggest issues was starting running back Paul James going down with an injury early in the season. He was a great talent, and when the offense lost him for the year, they weren't able to recover fully with backups Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples. True freshmen backs Josh Hicks and Robert Martin looked great in the win against Indiana, and Martin continued to play well in a blowout loss to the Spartans the following week.
The key has been the competition. Against star pass rushers like Joey Bosa and Shilique Calhoun, the line has struggled in both pass protection and run blocking. The size is there to compete in the conference, but there's no doubt it has been tough stepping up in competition.
TT: Leonte Carroo seems to be Nova's option A, B and C in the receiving game. What's the key for Maryland to limit his success on Saturday?
OTB: A great corner, with some safety help to boot. Nova has a tendency to just throw it up to Carroo so he can make a play, even in double coverage. He just has great hands. Earlier this season, DT Darius Hamilton said in an interview that Carroo has bigger and stronger hands than he has, which is why he catches everything that's thrown his way.
Michigan State was the first team to truly shut down Carroo, limiting him to one catch for six yards in the second half.
TT: What's the weakest element of the Rutgers defense that Maryland should look to exploit?
OTB: The pass defense continues to be swiss cheese. It's been an issue that began last season and still hasn't been fully addressed, and I expect Maryland to attack the secondary and find plenty of open space. Probably the weakest element however is the run defense. After posting back to back top five rush defenses in 2012 and 2013, the wheels have officially come off for Rutgers against the run. The Knights are giving up over 200 yards per game on the ground, and the biggest issue has been tackling. Time and time again, teams would run to the outside against RU and find plenty of room and break all the tackles on the way to the end zone.
This will be an interesting matchup to see because Maryland's leading rusher is C.J. Brown. I expect Rutgers to shore up the run defense against the Terps, but containing the receivers is still a liability.
TT: Fill in the blanks: ______ will win, because _______ will _______.
OTB: Tough prediction, because I see some similarity talent-wise in both teams. I'll say Rutgers will win, because Ralph Friedgen will do everything he can to leave his former home with a win.