Last year's defensive battle between these two teams started with a display of poor sportsmanship by Maryland at the pre-game coin toss, but ended with the Terps leaving State College with a victory. Maryland beat Penn State 20-19 last season in what was only Maryland's second win against the Nittany Lions in 38 tries.
This season, both teams have struggled. Penn State lost to Temple in their season opener for the first time since World War II and is coming off a four-touchdown loss to Ohio State in Columbus. Maryland suffered their four-touchdown indignity against the Buckeyes two weeks ago and had the bye week to help prepare for this week's game.
This will be Mike Locksley's first game as interim head coach after taking over for Randy Edsall, who was fired the day after the Ohio State loss. He has said that he is sticking with Perry Hills at quarterback. That was his message before the Ohio State game, where Hills had a very productive game, and continues to be his message now. Consistency is important and Locksley and Hills will provide that to this offense.
While Maryland scored 28 points against Ohio State two weeks ago, they may find it much harder to score against Penn State. The Nittany Lions possess a very stingy defense and lead the nation in sacks with 27. Carl Nassib leads the country in sacks and tackles for loss. Maryland cannot let him run amok in the backfield if they hope to establish their running game or keep Hills upright.
Christian Hackenberg and Saquon Barkley are the two most important pieces for Penn State on offense. Hackenberg has only thrown for over 200 yards twice this season and has only completed 60 percent or more of his passes once. Yet, he has decent quarterback ratings that stem from his lack of interceptions. He has only thrown two picks this season and has thrown for eight touchdowns. The biggest knock on Hackenberg is his consistency.
If you take out his 60 percent completion percentage against San Diego State, his next highest is 53.8 percent. That's not good. If you take away his San Diego State and Indiana games, his highest passing yards total came against Army where he threw for 156 yards. That's not good.
Barkley averages over eight yards a carry and is the first Penn State freshman running back to have three 100-yard rushing games in a season since 1998. That's an awfully long time. Barkley has missed two games this season due to injury but ran roughshod over Ohio State last week. Limiting Barkley will go a long way in helping the Terps limit Hackenberg's effectiveness.
Expect to see a lot of rushing attempts by both teams. Perry Hills carried 25 times for a game-high 170 yards last week against Ohio State. Barkley ran 26 times for 194 yards against the Buckeyes. There is no reason to think that either team is going to abandon what appears to be their strength offensively.
I expect another defensive slug-fest with special teams playing a crucial role in deciding the outcome of this game.
Rankings and records:
Penn State: (5-2, 2-1)
Maryland: (2-4, 0-2)
All-time record: Penn State's edge in the all-time series is laughable, leading the Terps 35-2-1.
Vegas: Vegas Insider has Penn State as the favorite to win. They are giving the Nittany Lions (-6.5) and right now a whopping 99 percent of the money is being laid on Penn State to cover.
How to witness
October 24th, 3:30 pm (ET), Baltimore, Maryland
TV: ESPN, 3:30 pm (ET) Dave Lamont will be on the call with Ray Bentley as his color analyst. Dawn Davenport will be the sideline reporter.
Radio: Terrapin Sports Radio Network - Johnny Holliday (Play-by-Play), Tim Strachan (Analyst), Scott McBrien (Sideline); Flagships - WJZ-FM (105.7) / WJZ-AM (1300) / ESPN 980 (D.C.) Sirius 134, XM 201, and SiriusXM 201.
You can also hear the game on WMUC Sports Radio here.
Online streaming: The game will be streamed live on WatchESPN at 3:30 pm (ET). You can also stream the game via the TuneIn App.