Maryland dropped their first game of the season against West Virginia last week, losing in heart-breaking fashion. They now have to get off of the canvas and get back on track because the team goes into Big Ten play after this week. If Maryland does not get this win and goes 2-2 entering conference play, they are in SERIOUS jeopardy of missing out on a bowl game for the third time in four years under Randy Edsall. Syracuse, at a perfect 2-0, almost dropped a game to FCS power Villanova in the opener and then came back and crushed Central Michigan 40-3 last week. We have two teams here. Maryland, perhaps not as good as we initially expected, and Syracuse, maybe a little better than we thought at first.
A little fun stuff for you here is that Syracuse happens to be Randy Edsall's alma mater and his Corey walked on as a quarterback there.
Let's get to it!
Under Center, Under Fire:
Through three games, C.J. Brown has 553 yards passing with four touchdowns and three interceptions and a 54% completion percentage. WVU's Clint Trickett almost threw for that entire amount of yards last week alone against Maryland. Once again, Brown has not given Maryland fans or opposing teams reason to believe that he can beat you with his arm. Fortunately, Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt isn't a phenomenal passer either, passing only for 269 yards this season. He and Brown are definitely run-first quarterbacks. I expect to see a lot of read-option and designed runs for both of these teams. The key to this quarterback match-up will be who can make the throws and extend drives when the other team lines up nine guys in the box? I am not sold on Hunt. I'm definitely not sold on Brown either. This calls for a tie.
Run This Town:
Syracuse is a run-heavy team. They have four ball-carriers who average over six yards per carry. In addition to Hunt, they can beat you with Adonis Ameen-Moore or Prince-Tyson Gulley. Wes Brown and Brandon Ross have both been productive for Maryland but C.J. Brown leads the team in rushing with 219 yards. Syracuse wore Central Michigan down over the course of their game last week, racking up 289 yards on the ground. Through two games, albeit against Villanova and CMU, the Orange sport the 40th best rushing offense in the nation. They average 212.5 yards a game running the football. Maryland comes in at 49th, averaging 188 yards a game.
In a match-up like this, I look at the offensive lines and try to assess who will dominate the line of scrimmage. Syracuse sports four seniors and a junior on their offensive line. I took a look at these guys from the depth chart. They are huge. The average size on the Syracuse offensive line is at least 6'3'' and at least 300 pounds. With their up-tempo rushing attack, they may be able to gash Maryland for a couple of big plays. Maryland's offensive line could have been mistaken for Swiss cheese last week since there were an astonishing amount of holes in it. West Virginia was able to get into the Maryland backfield repeatedly, making me think that Syracuse will dominate this particular match-up.
Syracuse doesn't have a player with 100 yards receiving. Maryland has three in Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Marcus Leak. Diggs is a player that can make you pay if you can get him the ball in open space but we haven't seen that much from the super-hyped junior this season. Maryland will look to incorporate these three as part of their balanced approach on offense. The only questions will be whether the receivers will have time to get open, if Brown will have time to work through his reads and if he can complete the passes. I will touch on this more later but Syracuse LOVES to blitz so Brown will have to get the ball out of his hand quickly. Ashton Broyld leads the Orange in receiving with 99 yards. The closest man to him has 59. Maryland's best three wideouts are better than SU's best three. I was wrong about Kevin White and Mario Alford last week. I'm not wrong this week.
Bend Like the Reed
Maryland, despite giving up almost 700 yards of offense to WVU, held them to 40 points and caused four turnovers. Syracuse hasn't played a team like West Virginia and because of that Syracuse has the nation's 15th ranked scoring defense. SU has allowed 14.5 points per game in their two games this season. The big question for me is the health of Maryland linebackers Cole Farrand and Matt Robinson. If they don't play or play well, than Maryland will probably be in big trouble. Will Likely and Darius Kilgo are studs but they won't be able to control the flow of the game. Syracuse could very well grind Maryland down and run all over them like they did last year in Byrd Stadium. As I said earlier, Syracuse loves to blitz. I mean LOVES to blitz. They had a handful of sacks last week and they will be pinning their ears back and looking to cause even more havoc against Maryland. The Orange defense has yet to cause a turnover but they are doing well despite that. The team that establishes the tempo of the game will have the edge making the run defenses critical in this match-up.
It is interesting to note that Villanova quarterback John Robertson ran for over 100 yards against the Orange in Week 1. He was able to get to the outside and go north-south. Look for Cameron Lynch to try and contain C.J. Brown to middle of the field. The Orange will also need Dyshawn Davis to step up in accomplishing that task. The same applies for Maryland. They need to limit the big plays which they had trouble doing against West Virginia's play-makers. Does Maryland's beat-up defense have what it takes to play four quarters of knock-down, drag-out football against a very physical and up-tempo Syracuse rushing attack? Sigh. No. That being said, I don't think that Syracuse's defense is really that great. Maryland's offense just won't be as effective against them as the Orange will be against the Maryland defense.
Syracuse allowed a punt return touchdown against Villanova. Will Likely took one to the house against WVU. Brad Craddock is 5/5 for field goals on the year. Ryan Norton is 3/5 for the Orange and is 0/2 from at least 40 yards out. Who do you think has the edge?
I had Maryland by a field goal last week and they ended up losing by a field goal in one of the more heart-wrenching games that I have seen in my five years as a Maryland football fan. Here are some of my predictions for this week's game:
Syracuse will dominate time of possession with around 35 minutes.
Syracuse will have at least three sacks in the game.
Stefon Diggs will have less than 100 yards receiving.
C.J. Brown will have at least 50 yards rushing.
In the end, I think that the Orange will wear down the Terps. Syracuse is physical and their up-tempo rushing attack is exactly what an ailing and beat-up Maryland will struggle most with. Maryland doesn't play well in road games (see South Florida, Week 2) and Syracuse crushed Maryland last year in College Park. I don't see this match-up going well for Maryland at all.