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Maryland football stats preview: Orange crush vs. Syracuse?

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Maryland heads north this week to take on the Syracuse Orange. Who is likely to prevail in Randy Edsall's homecoming?

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

With only 12 games on the college football schedule, each game is vital.  Maryland sits at a respectable 2-1, and their road game this week in Syracuse is crucial to the Terp's goal of bowl eligibility.  If Maryland heads into Big 10 play at 2-2, it's difficult to see where 4 more victories come from.  The stakes are high for only the 4th game of the season, and I hate to call any game a must win, but Maryland must win this game.  With the table set, here are how the teams stack up statistically.

Maryland Offense vs. Syracuse Defense (all statistics are per game)

Points

Total Yards

3rd down conversions

Time of possession

Passing yards

Completion Percentage

Rushing yards

Turnovers

Maryland Offense

37.7

411.7

45%

28:44

223.7

55%

188

2.6

Syracuse Defense

14.5

303

43.3

32:13

191

55%

112

0

Maryland's offense has faced a stream of criticism all season, displaying suspect quarterback play, and a porous offensive line.  Alex Kirshner gave a nice breakdown of this matchup and if you have not read it, go read it.  A few things about this matchup jump out at me based on Alex's article, and the table above.  I am terrified of Maryland's offensive line production.  The Terps have demonstrated an inability to succeed against pressure defenses like Syracuse's this season.  Maryland ran a lot of running back and wide receiver screens against West Virginia to try to slow down their pass rush.  The quick pass approach was not effective, but I expect to see more of the same against Syracuse.

One of Randy Edsall's comments from Tuesday left me troubled.  Specifically, Edsall said, "We don't call plays to target somebody..."  I find this philosophy deeply troubling given the playmakers Maryland has.  Perhaps some plays should be run to infact target Stefon Diggs and Deon Long and take some of the decision making pressure off of C.J. Brown.

On the positive side, the Syracuse defense has not been especially good at getting off the field on third down.  Additionally, the Orange have not forced any turnovers this season.  Maryland has struggled on third down, and turned the ball over way too much to be successful.  The Terps need to be efficient against Syracuse, and control time of possession.  Winning on the road requires poise and execution, and Maryland's offense has yet to demonstrate either so far in 2014.  Conversely, Villanova and Western Michigan are not stellar teams, and Syracuse has yet to prove their ability against a quality opponent.

Maryland Defense vs. Syracuse Offense

Points

Total Yards

3rd down conversions

Time of possession

Passing yards

Completion percentage

Rushing yards

Turnovers per game

Syracuse Offense

33.5

392

44.8%

27:47

179.5

64.6%

212.5

1

Maryland  Defense

21.3

417.7

38%

31:16

275.3

55%

142.3

2.6

The Syracuse offense is heavily geared toward the run, and has the offensive line to excel in that regard.  Syracuse's line is experienced, starting 4 seniors and 1 junior, as well as massive, averaging 6' 4" and 300 pounds.  Play selection has shaded toward the run, featuring 65 pass attempts to 83 rush attempts.  The top 4 rushers average over 6 yards a carry, so why not run often?  The running backs to watch are Adonis Ameen-Moore, and Prince-Tyson Gulley - both experienced and dangerous rushers.

Returning quarterback Terrel Hunt appears to have improved since his visit to Byrd Stadium last season, and is a dangerous dual threat quarterback.  Hunt is second on the team in rushing, and has a completion percentage around 63%.  Hunt still struggles with mental mistakes though, as evidence by his first half ejection against Villanova for punching a Wildcat line backer.  The Orange wide receivers have underwhelmed thus far in 2014.  Ashton Broyld leads the team in receptions, but the team's longest pass play has only gone for 20 yards.  Syracuse's lone explosive play in 2014 has come on the ground (a 65 yard touchdown run by Gulley).

Surprisingly, the Orange aim to run and gun in the Oregon/Texas A&M mold.  Offensive Coordinator George McDonald has stated he wants to run 80+ plays per game, and through 2 games this season, Syracuse has run a high tempo offense.  Against Central Michigan, Syracuse averaged 24.4 seconds between snaps, but that figure is deceiving as the Orange had the ball for over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter and ran the clock down each play.

Against West Virginia, Maryland's defense had an extremely difficult time stopping the Mountaineer running game in the second half.  The Mountaineers only averaged 3.1 yards a carry, but at time were gaining 5-10 yard chunks at a time before Maryland adjusted.  Expect to see 9-10 players in the box, and lots of single coverage against Syracuse to slow down the Orange ground game.

Special Teams

Field goals

Field goal conversion %

Punts per game

Penalties per game

Return Yards (Punt/KO)

Maryland

5-5 (long of 49)

100%

6

5.3 (47 yards

28.9/33.4

Syracuse

3-5 (long of 38)

60%

4

8 (48 yards)

3/17

The Terps appear to have the edge on Syracuse in the special teams department.  Brad Craddock has notched 12 touchbacks in 23 kickoffs, and opponents start their drives at their own 23 yard line.  Craddock should continue to shine thanks to the perfect environment the Carrier Dome provides.  The Orange punt coverage has struggled, surrendering a 67 yard punt return for a touchdown against Villanova.  I expect Will Likely and Stefon Diggs to have a field day on special teams Saturday.

Conclusion

Syracuse is clearly better than their 2 point win over Villanova would suggest.  If Hunt had played the whole game, I highly doubt that game goes to overtime.  Syracuse has yet to face a team with the talent and athleticism of the Terps, so they are still something of an unknown quantity.  Syracuse runs well, and has a veteran offensive line that will test the Terp's front seven.  Maryland hopes to have Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil back for this game, but the health of fellow linebackers Matt Robinson, L.A. Goree, and Cole Farrand still appears to be up in the air.  Additionally, this is a road game in a stadium that can be loud at times.  This game is very winnable, but I have difficulty predicting consistency and execution from this team right now.  Good teams can go on the road and grind out wins against solid opponents.  West Virginia was a litmus test the Terps did not pass last week, and I don't think they come out on top in this game either.  My prediction: Syracuse 31 Terps 26.

Sources: umterps.com; cuse.com