New Kids on the Block
Maryland and Rutgers were the two newest additions to the Big Ten conference and both have had some success although it is clear that Maryland is having a lot more of it. Rutgers, the birthplace of college football, and Maryland weren't added for their athletic prowess but because of their markets and TV sets and revenue that they would bring the conference. Rutgers comes in at 6-5 and Maryland comes in at 7-4.
Gary Nova leads the Scarlet Knights and he is fourth in the conference in passing yards, third in touchdowns and fourth in QB rating. He has 16 touchdown passes against 12 picks this season. He is an experienced quarterback and he led Rutgers to wins against Washington State, Navy, Indiana and Michigan this year and almost beat Penn State. Otherwise he has looked clueless against Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
C.J. Brown broke Maryland's all-time total touchdown mark against Michigan last week, recording his 54th score for the Terps. He wasn't great throwing the football against Michigan, only going 13/24 for 165 yards and no touchdowns. He didn't turn the ball over through the air which was very important and made some big plays with his feet, carrying the ball 18 times for 87 yards and a touchdown.
In a battle of the seniors, I'm going to take C.J. Brown. He doesn't wow you but he has gotten wins this season and he will be playing his last game as a Terp. Expect him to find the end zone at least twice tomorrow.
A Quest for Revenge (Offense)
Ralph Friedgen led Maryland to a BCS bowl in the 2001-2002 season as Maryland's head coach from 2001-2010. Maryland went 8-4 in the regular season and he was named ACC Coach of the Year. His contract was bought out after leading the biggest turnaround in the FBS that season. Maryland pounded East Carolina in the Military Bowl in Friedgen's final game, bringing their record to 9-4. Ralph now coaches for Rutgers as their offensive coordinator. Do you think he forgot? Do you think he didn't circle this game on the calendar when the schedule came out? Every player on Rutgers' offense knows how badly he wants to win this game.
Thankfully, Rutgers doesn't have a great offense. They score just 24.2 points per game but they pass for 220.5 yards per game. They are decent at running the ball, averaging 148.2 yards per game. Rutgers got shut-out by Wisconsin and only scored three points against Michigan State. They put up 26 against Michigan and 17 against Ohio State. Rutgers has shown the ability to score but they haven't shown the ability to score consistently and beat very good teams. We have seen enough to know that Maryland is a very good team with an above average defense. Leonte Carroo is second in receiving yards in the Big Ten, second in yards per catch and second in touchdowns. He is the Rutgers passing attack. Desmon Peoples and Paul James are decent runners but neither has gone over 450 yards this season.
Maryland scores 28.3 points per game and throws for only 3.4 yards more per game than Rutgers does. But they have scored more consistently this season than Rutgers has against quality opponents and even though they probably won't have Stefon Diggs, C.J. Brown's ability to hurt teams with his feet gives Maryland an extra weapon that Rutgers doesn't have. Wes Brown played well in the 4th quarter. Jacquille Veii had his name misspelled by ESPN when the recap graphic came up (I was appalled!). Time for a big game from a rising star. I think he will play well. Outside of C.J. Brown, no Maryland rusher has even cracked 300 yards rushing.
Maryland has the edge here statistically and they are playing at home. They have the edge over the incredibly motivated Scarlet Knights.
Enter the Dragon (Defense)
I couldn't resist making a Bruce Lee movie reference while also adding to my play on the Scarlet Knights and quests.
Rutgers has given up an average of 30.3 points per game. That means on average they are giving up six more points per game than they are scoring. Somehow they are 6-5. The Rutgers defense just gave up 45 points to Michigan State last week. Maryland isn't that dynamic offensively but they have definitely shown the ability to score against good teams. Watch out for Kemoko Turay on the Rutgers defensive line. He has eight sacks this season.
Maryland gives up 27.8 points per game but Nova and Carroo can't beat Maryland single-handedly. Andre Monroe is one of the Big Ten's best pass rushers and Will Likely is one of the Big Ten's most explosive play-makers. Maryland's defense should be just fine against a mediocre Rutgers offense.
A Tribe Called Quest (Special Teams)
One of Tribe's best songs is called 'Award Tour'. The reason I picked this for my sub-heading is because Maryland field goal kicker Brad Craddock has been named as a Lou Groza award finalist along with the field goal kickers for West Virginia (who beat Maryland on a field goal as time expired) and Florida State (who is 21/23 on field goals this season and is the reigning Lou Groza award winner).
Brad Craddock is a perfect 17/17 on kicks this season and he had the go-ahead winner against Penn State. Will Likely is dynamite on kick and punt returns. Kyle Federico is 12/17 on kicks this season for Rutgers. Janarion Grant leads the conference in average kick return yards but doesn't have a return for a score.
Maryland has had the edge on special teams against almost every team this season. Rutgers is no exception.
There may not be a huge crowd because plenty of people will be at home enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday but there should be a very large pro-Maryland crowd at the game. It is the last home game for Maryland's seniors and the Terps are looking to get to eight wins to give them a chance at getting to nine wins in a season for the first time since Ralph Friedgen was the head coach. Maryland is the better team. I think they will play a better game and they will win decisively by double digits.