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Testudo Times staff roundtable: Syracuse football edition

Our staff talks about Maryland's game against Syracuse.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

A thousand gold stars to Pete, Noah, Todd, Andrew, Dave and FlaTerp for their input in this week's roundtable.

Let's get to it:

Q. Don't know if you guys heard, but Maryland had a tough loss on Saturday. Did the West Virginia experience change your expectations for this team?

Pete: A bit, yeah. I expected the game to be close, but I hoped Maryland had enough to come out of it with a win. After Week 1 went very differently for WVU and Syracuse, I thought Maryland might lose to the Mountaineers and beat the Orange (before the season, I thought the reverse). As we got closer to GameDay, Vegas swayed me in the other direction. I still think 3-1 is a fine result from non-conference play (although nothing too exciting), and would still put Maryland in fairly good position for a bowl game. Syracuse, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Penn State and Rutgers all look quite beatable, but we'll have to see if Maryland can actually win against solid competition.

Noah: No. I still think this team will finish around 7-5 or 6-6.

Todd: What do I know? I think I expected seven wins with and eighth in the Motor City or some similar bowl. I'm not going to jump off that quite yet.

Andrew K: Yes. Because now it puts Maryland in the uncomfortable position of having to beat Syracuse or have a winning record in the B1G to at least match last year's record.

Dave: It changed my expectations for West Virginia! But it also changed my expectations for Maryland, as well. I knew this game wasn't going to be another 37-0 shutout like last year, although it felt like it was heading in that direction for WVU in the first quarter. It certainly showed how important Maryland's special teams play has been and WILL LIKELY continue to be throughout the season. I'm also a little worried about our defense, and our offensive line. Tto some extent, I'm a little less worried about offense, but I think C.J. certainly needs to play better and Maryland really needs to be able to run the ball.

FlaTerp: Yes. It was same old, same old. The Terps were poorly prepared, made a ton of mistakes, couldn't execute, fell way behind and that's why they lost. You get no credit for coming back from 28-6 when you shouldn't ever be behind by that much anyway. I've lost faith.

Q. C.J. Brown had by far his best numbers of the young season, but he didn't look comfortable and missed a lot of throws. What did you make of his day?

Pete: I'll join the legion of Maryland fans who are definitely concerned, but I won't quite call for a change yet. As Alex pointed out in his excellent Byrd Feeder post, the Terrapins' offensive line struggled quite a bit against the Mountaineers. That being said, Brown did not make the throws he needed to (while Caleb Rowe did). I expect it'll be the situation we monitor most closely over the rest of the season.

Noah: Fifty-four percent completions isn't good. He kept the Terps in it with his legs though and generally managed the offense pretty well. He had a good day but he left too many chances on the field.

Todd: I wasn't too impressed. If he was a freshman, maybe I'd be a bit less critical. As I noted in a comment, I thought he bore as much culpability in the first sack as the offensive line. That blitz wasn't disguised and a sixth year player has to make that read. Similarly on the overthrow of Culmer. He was under no pressure and running so he had to throw across his body. Set your feet and make that throw is athletics 101. To say that he's moved from unacceptable (his word) to a step or two either side of mediocre is troublesome.

Andrew K: I winced every time there was a pass in the WVU game. If Trickett was throwing I was scared of a long reception; if Brown was throwing I was scared of an interception. I really wanted to give Brown a pass (pun intended) on his first two games, but after WVU it seems that he's regressed this year in terms of passing. I'll stick with him because he can do so much with his legs. I hope Diggs and Long aren't having doubts about their decision to come to Maryland.

Dave: I won't pretend to be a QB mechanics expert, but when Rowe came in at the end of the first half, you immediately noticed how much faster the ball was coming out of his hands when he threw it. And as Scott McBrien said during the BTN broadcast, it looks like C.J. isn't using his body to step into his throws and get that zip on his passes. He really needs to do that moving forward. If he can't, I think Edsall is going to have a tough decision on his hands. C.J. can certainly run, but you have to wonder how much more effective Maryland could be on offense if they could consistently get the ball into the hands of their play-making wide receivers. And as Alex noted in his film review of C.J., a lot of the passes he's missing aren't long or even medium length passes; he was just 16/26 on passes of 10 yards or less.

FlaTerp: CJ was our biggest weapon and our biggest problem all at once. I have no idea what to make of that.

Q. The Maryland offensive line got manhandled on a number of instances and generally didn't leave Brown much space to work with. On a 1-to-5 scale, how big of a problem is the line? Should Maryland make any personnel changes there?

Pete: 5. It's the biggest problem with the team (as we expected), and we'll see if new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa has the chops to deal with it. I'd love to see Derwin Gray at right tackle over Ryan Doyle, but I hesitate to question the coaches on a decision like that. We haven't been able to see Gray all that much at Maryland (considerably less than the coaches have, for one thing), so if Doyle is still out there despite poor performances, that must mean something.

Noah: 7. The Big Ten has some pretty big lines and watching the game on Saturday makes me think that Brown will have even less space to work with throughout the season. I'm with Pete as far as personnel changes go. I'll leave that to the coaches.

Todd: I'll go with 4.375. Clearly this line isn't going to straight up open holes for the backs to run through against big defensive lines and it has pass protection issues. But I have to lay some of this at the feet of the OC. I think there are ways to compensate in both the running game and the passing game and the latter can open some space for the former. As far as personnel changes, I always leave that with the coaches because they have so much more information than we do as fans and they're certainly not coaching to lose games. On the other hand, if Gray and Prince are being redshirted just to redshirt them (because that's what big time programs do), then I'd have a problem.

Andrew K: 4. Of the first three opponents WVU most resembles what we'll see from teams in the B1G. The Terps were able to run wide but had a tough time running between the tackles. I think part of the problem with Maryland's passing attack rest on CJ's shoulders. He needs to get the ball out quicker, even if that means almost abandoning the long pass. I'll reserve my score of 5 for our pass defense (see my response below).

Dave: 10. Is 10 an option? As Pete alluded to, I don't like to question the coaches on who plays and who doesn't because they know and see a lot more of these players than I do. But Maryland's line play has gotten worse as the competition has gotten better. You have to think some sort of change is coming because as it stands now, they're struggling to get the job done, especially in the run game.

FlaTerp:  I'm just as worried about the secondary. I'll give both units a 6 on the worry scale.

Q. Last week, most of you urged Maryland to run the ball more. Maryland's running backs struggled to the point of abandonment against West Virginia. Should the Terps return to that well this week, or take another crack with C.J. Brown's arm?

Pete: If Maryland ran a run-based system with some option tendencies and then carved up defenses with the play-action pass, putting their playmakers in one-on-one opportunities in space, I would be so so so so so happy.

Noah: Maryland should probably go read-option a little bit but stick with the balanced approach on offense as they have done so far this season.

Todd: I think this comes down to, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" In approaching the game, I think I said that if Maryland could run the ball they should run it because I thought they were bound to lose a shootout with WVU. Someone commented in response to me that WVU was forcing CJ to keep the ball on the zone read. Fine with me. That's his strength. Dude averaged 9 yards per carry. I think most of the post game discussion this week has pointed to the quandary Maryland faces. The strength of the offense should be the wide receivers but that is not the strength of the quarterback or the offensive line. The coaches have to find their way out of this.

Andrew K: Time to complain...... I was surprised to see Wes Brown not listed on the two-deep after Edsall pronounced him good to go. He's our most dangerous tailback. I'd like to see Goins get more touches, particularly on screens. Our tight ends seems non-existent. But to answer the question, we can't abandon the run because opponents will blitz like crazy and that spells "turnovers". Mix up the playcalling a bit more and run the read-option more than once a quarter (or so it seemed).

Dave: Run. The. Dang. Ball. I'm not sure why they're not running more option. Running the ball is C.J.'s strength and there is so much they can do that doesn't require your offensive line needing to open up big holes up the middle. I'd like to see them be more creative running the ball. More direct snaps to Diggs, running the Wild Turtle formation, and doing something other that running up the middle when they're in a goal line formation.

FlaTerp: No clue. After that WV game, it's sort of a pick-your-poison thing. I hope they can be a balanced offense, but if I were defending against Maryland, I'd load the box but let CJ sit back in the pocket and throw into single coverage all day long. He needs to prove he can beat a team with his arm before they should surrender anything to Maryland on the ground.

Q. Was Maryland's defense exposed against Clint Trickett and the WVU offense, or did a combination of linebacker injuries and a good offensive opponent simply beat them?

Pete: I'm going to go with the latter, for now. With all four starting linebackers out, Maryland really struggled against short and intermediate routes. That's concerning, but expected, as Maryland's linebacking corps is now considerably top-heavy after the losses of Shawn Petty and Abner Logan.

Noah: The latter. Offenses like this one are very hard to prepare for in one week. Even teams with really good run defenses give up over 200 yards to Georgia Tech. Same rule applies. Despite giving up over 500 yards passing and almost 700 yards of offense, Maryland still had a chance to win this game.

Todd: I'll keep it unanimous on the latter. They passed for 365 yards against Alabama in a game where Alabama had a time of possession edge of almost 16 minutes because the Tide rolled for almost 300 yards rushing. WVU only averaged about 1.5 yards per completion more against MD than they did against Bama and I don't think anyone is comparing Maryland's defense to Alabama's even with all four UMD linebackers healthy.

Andrew K: We have serious problems in our secondary. Jeremiah Johnson should be starting in place of Alvin Hill. I know that fans are high on Will Likely and he does make scintillating plays. But I also see him getting beat frequently. Sean Davis is good against the run and on safety blitzes. The end result is that good QBs will pick us apart.

Dave: I was worried, but Pete pulled me back from the edge when he told me how many people we had out during the game. I'm still concerned that our backups are having issues wrapping offensive players up and bringing them down after their initial hit. I think everyone just needs to be a little more fundamentally sound in their tackling. You can't allow those extra yards after a missed tackle.

FlaTerp: WVU was the first real opponent on the schedule and they rolled up 700 yards. You're kidding yourself if you don't think that's a worry. There are no more USFs or JMUs out there for the defense, so they'll have to tighten up. Syracuse ran it at will last year on the Terps, so we'll see if they can clamp down at the line this time.

Q. On the one hand, Syracuse very nearly lost to Villanova (the football team) in Week 1. On the other, Maryland is playing a road game, and we all know how those have tended to go over the last few years. Under the dome on Saturday, who wins?

Pete: Syracuse, 20-17. And no one is happy about it.

Noah: Syracuse crushed Central Michigan 40-3 last week and the Orange average over 200 yards rushing per game. Maryland needs a win going into Big Ten play. They will squeak one out just like they did in Tampa against South Florida.

Todd: Predictions! Bah! Humbug!

Andrew K: I'd really like to think that the Terps will pull this one out. But other than the Virginia Tech game last year, Maryland hasn't played that well on the road. Until they prove otherwise I have a hard time picking them away from Byrd. Syracuse 27 - 20. And no one is happy about it.

Dave: Oranges are delicious. Turtles eat oranges. 30-27, Terps.

FlaTerp: I'm already on the record for this one. Syracuse by 10.