"Forget about the crowds, the size of the school"
Maryland is about to play their first Big Ten conference game. They will head to Indiana on Saturday to take on the Hoosiers who have just come off of an impressive road win last week, beating a ranked Mizzou team in the final minute. I would like to thank Gene Hackman and the movie 'Hoosiers' for giving me my headlines for this week's column. Let's make some history!
"Remember what got you here" (Offense)
Maryland's offense has been a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as of late. The rushing numbers were way up against JMU and USF. The passing numbers went up slightly against WVU but C.J. Brown had 280 yards passing against Syracuse and the offense managed only 89 yards rushing. It has become increasingly clear that the Terps are not running the ball well against their better opponents. Both WVU and Syracuse were able to get into the backfield repeatedly. C.J. Brown needs to play well on Saturday for the Terps to have a chance. His completion percentage is ranked 12th in the 14-team Big Ten and he is ranked 9th in quarterback rating. Brown needs to make plays. He cannot allow this team to go 8-28 on third downs like they have during the past two games.
Maryland had success going to Marcus Leak last week and they could have a lot of success swinging the ball on short passes to Stefon Diggs in space. Deon Long only had one catch last week. That needs to change. Maryland scored quickly on their opening drive last week and ended up with three offensive touchdowns in the first half. Maryland has the speed to break big plays. It will be Brown's job to make sure that they have the opportunity to do so.
Indiana is a monster when it comes to running the ball. Indiana comes in ranked 10th in the nation in rushing average, racking up 310 rushing yards per game. They are 22nd in the nation in rushing yards and Tevin Coleman is ranked 4th in the FBS with 569 rushing yards this season. Syracuse came in averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and ended up running for 370 yards. If Indiana gets it going on the ground, that could spell trouble for the Terps. Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld has very pedestrian numbers but he has a 65% completion percentage so he can make enough throws to keep teams honest when they try to stack the box or bring pressure. Indiana knows what they do well. Run the ball and Sudfeld makes a few throws to move the chains every now and then. Expect to see Indiana sticking to that plan on Saturday.
Maryland strives for a balanced offensive attack but Indiana knows exactly what they're trying to do offensively. Indiana has been consistently great running the ball and against a banged-up Terps defense, they are poised to have great success doing what they do best.
"Focus on the fundamentals" (Defense)
Maryland's defense has been interesting and frustrating to watch the last two weeks as they gave up almost 700 yards of offense to WVU (including over 500 yards passing) and almost 600 yards of offense to Syracuse (including 370 rushing yards). Despite those numbers, they won the turnover battle in both games and only gave up 40 and 20 points respectively. This defense bends but it does not break. The defense has been bolstered by Will Likely, who had a pick-six last week that provided a huge momentum swing in the game, and Darius Kilgo. Maryland's defense looks very different with a healthy line-backing corps out on the field. If Farrand, Goree and Matt Robinson are all healthy and effective, they could help to stymie Indiana's rushing attack. The only issue is that Farrand and Robinson are both banged up. How effective will they be in stopping the run on Saturday? Maryland is only giving up 21 points per game, good enough for 40th in the nation.
Indiana's defense hasn't been awe-inspiring but they did hold #18 Missouri to 27 points a week after giving up 45 points to Bowling Green. The Indiana offense will be the defense's biggest ally because if the offense runs the ball effectively, it means more rest for the defense. Bowling Green was able to wear down the Hoosiers defense by running over 100 plays on them. Maryland won't be able to run that many plays. Syracuse sacked C.J. Brown three times last week. If Indiana can get similar pressure and do as good a job of keeping Brown from getting to the outside, they will take away one of Maryland's best weapons.
I see shoot-out potential written all over this one as Indiana dominates the line of scrimmage and runs the ball effectively and Maryland uses its superior speed to break big plays. Maryland has shown a lot of toughness though. Despite giving up huge numbers of yards, they don't let opponents get into the end zone often. Turnovers will be big in this game and Maryland has shown the ability to win the turnover battle repeatedly.
"Let's just keep it right there" (Special Teams)
Once again, Maryland has one of the best special teams units in the country. They have blocked three kicks this year, two of them punts. Brad Craddock is one of the best field goal kickers in America. Indiana's Aaron Del Grosso is 1-4 this year kicking field goals. The only one he has made is a 23 yarder. On paper, the field goal kicking is a complete and total mismatch. Maryland should dominate on special teams and Will Likely and Stefon Diggs are threats to take it to the house every time they return the ball.
"If you put your energy and concentration into playing to your potential"
Potential. That has been the key word for Maryland this season. That and inconsistent. It seems that the injury bug has struck once again and I have the nagging feeling that there is another major injury just waiting to strike Maryland during the next few weeks. Maryland has yet to play a game to its full potential. They played a great first half against Syracuse, going into halftime leading 31-13. After that they only scored 3 more points. They got conservative with their play-calling. That will back-fire in games where they are not winning by 18 or more.
Maryland needs to be aggressive and keep the pedal to the floor so that opposing teams don't have a chance to come back. C.J. Brown had his best passing game of the season last week but was still missing open receivers and big plays down the field. Will we ever see the best of C.J. Brown and the enormously hyped Stefon Diggs this season?
Potential is a funny thing. As long as Maryland keeps winning, they have another chance to show us that "potential" that we all keep waiting for. I keep waiting for this team to come alive. I keep waiting for the offensive line to give Brandon Ross and Wes Brown and Jacquille Veii running lanes. It hasn't happened. Maryland's rushing numbers have plummeted. I keep waiting for the defensive line to enforce their will and dominate the line of scrimmage. Maryland is about to get a taste of a Big Ten offensive and defensive line. They are big boys. Can Maryland stop an opposing offense? Will the defense ever get healthy enough to show us their real potential?
Maryland is 3-1. I picked them to beat Ohio State before the season started. If they find a way to win this week, Maryland will have the opportunity to make a statement to the conference and the country in College Park on October 4th. Right now, that is all a potentiality.
"In my book, we're gonna be winners" (Prediction Time!)
Indiana runs for almost 400 yards.
C.J. Brown throws for two touchdowns
Indiana gets three sacks
Diggs has over 100 yards receiving
Deon Long has more than one catch (Let's make this happen C.J.!)
Tevin Coleman runs for over 200 yards.