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Testudo Times Roundtable: Maryland heads to Morgantown

Testudo Times staff writers and contributors gather to discuss Maryland football's win against South Florida and look ahead to their first road game of the season against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Testudo Times Roundtable

Week of 9/21

Q: Caleb Rowe stopped the quarterback carousel after his play in the 35-17 win against South Florida. What were your impressions of Rowe's performance? (21-33, 297 yards, four touchdowns and three picks)

Todd: For me, it was nice to see Maryland trying to stretch the field and utilize the playmakers. It didn't help the running game as much as I thought it would. As for Rowe's performance itself, I hope I can attribute some of his erratic play (three interceptions being foremost) to early adrenaline and lack of game experience and hope that he gets better as the season progresses.

Andrew K.: A number of factors are in play here. It was his first start in over a year, but the opponent was fairly weak. In terms of the former, I'll give him a mulligan on the first interception, but given that USF isn't exactly Michigan State, I would have expected the errors to diminish after the first. When he did throw picks it was usually because he overthrew the intended receiver. I'm sure the coaches saw that and will work on it. One really pleasant surprise: I liked the way Rowe ran when he needed to do so.

Carson: My biggest impression was that we finally have a chance to complete passes downfield, as we saw on Saturday. The interceptions obviously weren't good, however, it was his first game, and as Todd said, I'm sure he was a bit too pumped up. However, it was nice to see the ball being thrown more than 10 yards at a time, even if I had to momentarily hold my breath to see which team caught the ball.

Brian B.: I suppose in this case you have to take the good with the bad. While three interceptions is certainly concerning, the issues with Caleb Rowe are more realistically improved upon than the ones surrounding Perry Hills. Maryland was never going to have a consistent middle/deep pass game with Hills behind center while Rowe's turnover issues are seemingly fixable...we hope.

Noah: I was at this game and the offense seemed confident in its ability to move down the field and score. That is huge. The turnovers are a big problem to me because Maryland won't be able to get away with them against quality teams that they will play week in and week out. No Maryland quarterback has thrown for more than 297 yards since Rowe did it against Virginia back in 2013.

Drew: While three picks don't give me great confidence in Rowe, the offense moved the ball and he established lateral threats that weren't there when Hills was manning the offense. At the end of the day, Rowe did what Hills couldn't. Maryland was favored going into the game and left with the win, unlike a week prior. Hopefully, the turnover issues do prove to be, as Todd said, just first game jitters that work themselves out as he establishes himself into his role as starter.

Robbie: I was unfortunately impressed, if that makes sense. It is rarely a good sign for your team when the most impressive quarterback performance includes three interceptions. That said, Rowe commanded the offense well and seemed confident behind center for the first time this year.

Jake S: Obviously like everyone said, the three interceptions were concerning. But it was nice to see the offense expand the playbook a little, and the game had a better feel to it than it did with Hills in. You hope to see the turnover numbers go down as he gets more reps and confidence as the season progresses.

Jake: Rowe was....the good kind of a QB like Caleb Rowe. That is, stretches the field, allows Maryland to have a more vertical passing game, the offense moves pretty well, while also turning it over quite a bit. The problem is, we usually don't see the good version of a QB like Rowe for long. The bad version seeps in pretty quickly.

Q: Through three games, what is your confidence level that the Terps will be back in a bowl game at the end of this season?

Todd: No higher than it was before the season and probably a bit lower. I expected between five and seven wins and still think that's where Maryland ends up. I see four losses (WVU, OSU, MSU and Wisconsin), two games (IU and Rutgers) that look like they should be wins right now and three toss-ups (Michigan, PSU and Iowa) so to get to six they have to win the two games that look winnable and two of the three tossups.

Andrew K.: There's a chance the Terps could finish 6-6, but meh. What's disconcerting is even though the offensive line is huge, there doesn't seem to be any serious rushing attack. If Maryland can't run against BGSU and USF, then how will they manage it against B1G teams?

Carson: Not much has changed for me since the Bowling Green game honestly. This was another game Maryland was expected to win and they did. However, I don't think I'm necessarily any more confident in them getting to a bowl game than I was at the end of the Bowling Green game. Good teams beat teams they are expected to beat. Did they play a lot better this weekend against USF? Absolutely. But that's what they should have done all year to date.

Brian B.: I don't think splitting games with Bowling Green and USF should do a whole lot to change the expectations for anyone. The Terps are 2-1 in games that they should have won and there are now realistically five games remaining that they COULD win, meaning they have to go 4-1 in those games, a pretty tall order. I realize college football is unpredictable at times, and upsets are aplenty, but going back to his days at UConn, Randy Edsall  is 1-25 against top 25 teams (0-9 with Maryland), so history says you can toss MSU, OSU and Wisconsin out the window (assuming they remain ranked later in the season), and while WVU is not quite in the top 25, history again is not on the Terps side as they haven't won there since 2002, for a little reference, that is the year The Wire premiered.

Noah: Six games is a reach for this team. If they lose to West Virginia, they would have to beat Indiana and Rutgers and then pull two upsets against the likes of Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State. I don't like their odds.

Drew: The odds of this team making a bowl game are not high in my book. Dropping the game against Bowling Green means they will have to steal a win later in B1G play, and a win against USF doesn't exactly sway me to believe they can reach the six win mark.

Robbie: I'm cautiously optimistic/naive. The loss to Bowling Green certainly hurt our chances, but we were always shooting for seven wins. Now we just have to upset a team or two and win games we are expected to.

Jake S: I'm doubtful. Winning is great, but beating USF didn't have me jump onto the "Maryland Bowl Bound" bandwagon. I have a hard time seeing this team winning a few (if any) conference games. I just haven't seen enough consistency in any aspect to feel confident in their ability to make a bowl.

Jake: Maryland looks like a 3-9 football team. They could beat Indiana and Rutgers which would put them at four wins, and maybe they use emotional highs, turnovers, and some bounces into victories over Penn State and West Virginia and get to 6-6. But this looks like a 3-9 football team, which is what I thought after the BGSU game.

Q: The Big Ten has the top two teams in the AP poll (Ohio State and Michigan State) for the first time since 2006. Is that something or nothing?

Todd: Nothing. It's nice for the conference to be able to puff out its chest but that's about it. As far as I'm concerned, polls after three weeks mean only marginally more than preseason polls and I have total disdain for preseason polls.

Andrew K.: Teams in the B1G that historically have cracked the top 10 (Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska) have been in the dumps the past few years.

Carson: What Todd said.

Brian B.: While looking at the schedules of both those teams, there is a strong possibility that both will be undefeated when they face one another on November 21st. Assuming that means both would still remain ranked one and two, meetings between the 1 and 2 teams during the regular season (excluding bowls and conference championships) have only happened about four times in the last twenty there's that...I guess that's something more than nothing. However, they play in the same division, meaning a rematch in the Big Ten title game is impossible, meaning the chances that both make the playoffs is slim.

Noah: It means something when the top-ranked team is the defending national champion. When the SEC had Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas ranked 1-2-3, it was a sign of dominance. The Big Ten East has two of college football's best teams and it would be fantastic for the conference if both made it into the College Football Playoff at the end of the season.

Drew: It is something for these two schools, but it doesn't reflect B1G dominance. Top to bottom, it still isn't in the same league as the SEC and a majority of its more prestigious schools are looking just plain bad this year (I'm looking at you Penn State).

Robbie: It definitely is nice to be able to point to and try to get more respect around the nation, but it doesn't mean much. Polls mean relatively nothing until the first playoff polls come out.

Jake S: When it's all said and done, the SEC is going to be the SEC. I'm sure Ohio State will be in there throughout, but the weekly competition of playing in the SEC makes those teams harder to beat. Sure we can look at OSU last year and say that the SEC isn't what we make it out to be...but I would be surprised to see a B1G school win it all again. Whether that's MSU, OSU, or anyone else.

Jake: I don't really care about the general view of the conference nationally and don't really care how many teams the B1G gets into the CFP. It's generally recognized that Ohio State and Michigan State are really good football teams, which is good, and they also happen to be in the B1G. I don't think it says something about the B1G as a whole, and the AP Poll is frankly irrelevant in the CFP era.

Q: WVU QB Skyler Howard is ranked first in the NCAA in passing efficiency, second in yards per attempt, and third in yards per completion. What does Maryland's defense need to do to make sure that he doesn't torch them like Matt Johnson did?

Todd: Pray that the offense has a sustained touchdown drive of at least seven minutes in each quarter. The truth is, I'm not sure what those stats mean. Again, WVU has played only two games and both have been against less than stellar competition. The other side of the coin is that Maryland's defense hasn't really done a lot to inspire great confidence in me.

Andrew K.: BGSU's up-tempo game really flustered the Terps, particularly in the final 15 minutes when it seemed the players were exhausted. While WVU isn't as up-tempo as in years past, they still run a lot of plays. To counter Howard, the Terps need to do a number of things properly. First is tackle the receiver as soon as he catches the pass. Broken tackles hurt us against BGSU. Second, they need to stop the Mountaineers' rushing attack. BGSU really opened things up when they started running the ball well. Finally, Maryland's offense needs to avoid three-and-outs.

Carson: The offense needs to stay on the field as long as possible, and put together drives. Turnovers, namely interceptions, will kill momentum offensively but also hurt the defense by keeping them on the field. Defensively, the secondary has to play smart, not get beat deep, and hope that the rush of the front line can put enough pressure on Howard to make him make some mistakes.

Brian B.: I agree with everyone else here. The offense needs to manage the clock to give the defense a chance to contain Skyler Howard.

Noah: Good tackling is a must. Yards after contact was just one major factor that doomed this team against Bowling Green. I think it is important for Maryland to get out to an early lead. That will be important for their confidence. If the Terps can rush the quarterback without over-committing, they'll have a chance to throw off Howard's timing.

Drew: I agree with what everybody else said. Rowe can't even sniff three picks this week if Maryland is gonna have a chance, and they're going to have to get the ground game going to eat clock and win the battle for time of possession. They'll have to come out of the gates sharp, and can't have a second half letdown like they did against Bowling Green.

Robbie: Those stats are impressive but mainly tell us only that WVU likes to air it out, which we already knew. Bowling Green's spread offense hurt us badly, and we have to hope to contain West Virginia and Howard with a strong pass rush. I would love to say our secondary can lock down their receivers but recent history suggests otherwise. Pass rushes can lead to sacks and stops, which leads to momentum, and hopefully that can lead to points and a win.

Jake S: Take advantage of the opportunities they are given. A big play that stood out to me on Saturday was (I believe) in the third quarter. UMD was able to force a horrible pass from USF's quarterback and they picked it off. BUT, it was called back because of a roughing the passer penalty. Granted they went on to pick USF off again in the drive, but that won't happen against a team like WVU. They are a respectable Power-5 team that won't let a UMD mistake go without punishment.

Jake: Get a lot of pressure on the QB and force him into quick throws which gets him out of a rhythm and hopefully leads to mistakes and INT's. Play well in coverage on third down and get off the field. Lastly, they have to have the ability to sustain drives on offense when needed.

Q: Which player will need to have a big game (offense and defense) in order for Maryland to beat the Mountaineers?

Todd: I assume you are looking for two players - one on offense and one on defense and even then, I'm not sure I have that limited an answer. For example, I think Sean Davis needs to have a big game in the sense that he just doesn't get beaten alive and not in the sense that he needs two more interceptions. I think someone on the defensive line needs to have a big game pressuring Howard since the Terps don't blitz often or very well. The usual suspect there would have to be Ngakoue. On offense, I have to go with Brandon Ross. I think Maryland will need to run the ball effectively and since he's the starter...

Andrew K.: Yannick Ngakoue. He has to have a monster game, spending plenty of time either sacking Howard or getting in his face.

Carson: I also believe that Brandon Ross will need to step it up this weekend. Rowe was able to shoulder the offensive load against USF, but against Maryland's first "real" test (despite losing to BG) the run game will have to be there in order to be effective offensively. If it's not there, Rowe will feel the pressure to do it all, most likely becoming a one-man interception factory. Defensively, any linebacker will do. The secondary and D-line have been the focus of the defense for the first three games but I think the linebackers have left a bit to be desired. Someone is going to have to step up there in order to have a chance against WVU.

Brian B.: It will take several players stepping up and having a big game in order for Maryland to have a chance at taking down the Mountaineers. A lot rests on Caleb Rowe. If he throws 2-3 interceptions again this week it will take Maryland's chances of winning from slim to none. I also believe a lot rests on the Maryland secondary. A few interceptions for the good guys to flip field position or provide a defensive score could go a long way at improving the Terps chances.

Noah: Will Likely on defense and special teams. He has to continue to be a shutdown guy on his side of the field and then on special teams, he needs to give the Terps the best field position possible to make their drives easier. On offense, I'll go with Ty Johnson. He showed some real potential in the game against South Florida but didn't stay in much. He can break some big plays.

Drew: The offensive line as a unit will have to be huge if Maryland is gonna leave Morgantown with a win. If they can continue to protect Rowe and open up lanes for our ball carriers, the chances of offensive success are much higher.

Robbie: Would it be a bad answer to say Brad Craddock? I don't see Maryland being able to drive to the red zone too frequently so we need Craddock to be hitting from long distance. On defense, Yannick Ngakoue has to lead the charge in taking down their quarterback.

Jake S: Going to agree with Robbie on Craddock. As long as the defense can keep WVU reigned in a little, it will be up to Craddock to put points on the board as the inconsistent UMD offense will struggle. I'll also go with Sean Davis on defense. His performances this season have reminded me of Rowe on Saturday. Sure it's great that he has a couple picks, but more often than not it's his man who is scoring and making catches all over the field.

Jake: Defense is a group effort between the front seven getting pressure on the QB and the secondary playing well in coverage on third down to get WVU off the field. On offense it'll be Brandon Ross and Wes Brown being able to plow ahead for first downs and allow the UMD offense to sustain quality drives.

Q: West Virginia has scored over 40 points in both of their games so far this season and is coming off of a bye week. Will the Mountaineers put up more or less than 40 points against the Terps this week?

Todd: Yes, more or less.

Andrew K.: WVU put the beat down on such powerhouses as Georgia Southern and Liberty so I'm not sure how high-powered their offense truly is. If Maryland executes well on defense (tackling, communication, etc...) then I don't think WVU will come close to 40 points.

Carson: I'm thinking (optimistically) that they score in the 30's and Maryland has a chance of a chance at winning. But since I'll probably bet on Maryland +17, I can see WVU scoring 50+ and winning by 30, because of course.

Brian B.: I wish I went to the Todd school of predicting things. Although my bold prediction last week was pretty close (Caleb Rowe would throw 4Tds and 2Int). That being said, I think the Mountaineers may struggle in the first half facing a Power-5 defense for the first time and score less (albeit not much less) than 40 points.

Noah: More.

Drew: Yeah, they're gonna get 40.

Robbie: I'm going to say we hold them under 20, if only to see if fortune truly does favor the bold.

Jake S: I'm thinking they're gonna be closer to 50. They should be better than Bowling Green and we all know how that ended.

Jake: They'll get anywhere from 37-50.

Q: What are your bold predictions for Saturday's game against WVU?

Todd: Somewhere sometime, someone will burn a couch in Morgantown.

Andrew: DJ Moore will scorch WVU for two TD receptions.

Carson: Caleb Rowe's offensive stat line: 6 TD's, 6 Interceptions.

Brian B.: I do not think Mountaineer fans will be pumped up enough for this game to warrant burning a couch. I am sure they will find it more appropriate to torch something smaller than a couch to reflect their cavalier attitude toward the game, perhaps an ottoman. Also, Skyler Howard will not be ranked first in the NCAA in passer efficiency after this week.

Noah: Will Likely will have a pick-six and Caleb Rowe will throw two TDs and two picks.

Drew: Dwayne Haskins leads the team out of the locker room and throws for 7 TDs.

Robbie: Bolder than Maryland holding West Virginia to under 20? C.J. Brown scores the game winning touchdown.

Jake S: Will Likely and Brad Craddock account for Maryland's only points.

Jake: Maryland is within a TD after the first half. They will go on to lose by about 17-20 points though.

Q: Maryland has lost eight of the last nine to the Mountaineers and hasn't beaten West Virginia in Morgantown since 2002. Will the Terps win on Saturday?

Todd: Yes. Unless they don't.

Andrew K.: Maryland has played WVU tough the last few years, even when the talent differential between the two schools was larger than it is this year. It's hard to know much about the 2015 Mountaineers given their competition so far.  As much as the Terps have under-performed this season, they'll be exponentially better than WVU's 2015 competition to date. So I think the game will be really close, with Maryland getting the W.

Carson: No. Personally, I just want to see them keep it close and have a chance at winning. Given their season to date, anything within 10 points would make me not angry (or +17).

Brian B.: No. While there were improvements made last week and there certainly is a slim chance the Terps escape Morgantown with a victory this weekend, there is also a slim chance Emma Watson starts replying to my tweets.

Noah: I don't think so. The Terps haven't gone on the road all year and Morgantown is going to be rocking. I'm not sure that this team is ready for that atmosphere against a team that throws the ball as well as WVU does.

Drew: I've been in the student section for every game we've had thus far... Maryland isn't ready for the Morgantown fans. A win would be cool but I've learned not to trust a team who loses to Bowling Green at home.

Robbie: I am officially jealous of Todd's insight. I am going to be confident and say we win on a last second field goal JUST SO THEY CAN SEE HOW IT FEELS.

Jake S: Nope. Just hope for some possible signs of hope. Or countdown the days until the Haskins era begins.

Jake: No. Rivalry game emotion propels them to a good first half effort but they get torched through the air in the second half and the offense won't be able to stay on the field enough.