Maryland football is in a much better spot than it was entering conference play last season, and the Terps will open up against a much easier opponent.
2015 saw Maryland begin Big Ten play against Michigan, a game the Wolverines won 28-0, though it was only 6-0 at halftime. In 2016, the Terps open up against Purdue, a team that’s projected to go winless for the remainder of the season.
The Boilermakers haven’t played a road game yet in 2016, beating Eastern Kentucky, losing to Cincinnati and beating Nevada all in West Lafayette. This season won’t be easy for them, and it’ll benefit Maryland greatly if they don’t experience any sudden uptick in performance this week. Beating Purdue is a necessary step in Maryland’s quest for bowl eligibility, and the fact that this is homecoming makes the game just a little more special.
The game will be televised at 3:30 on BTN, with Joe Beninati and Jeremy “J” Leman on the call.
Purdue Boilermakers (2-1)
2015 record: 2-10, 1-7 Big Ten
Head coach: Darrell Hazell (24-41 overall, 8-31 at Purdue)
All-time record vs. Maryland: 0-1 (2006 Champs Sports Bowl)
F/+ ranking: 93
5-year recruiting ranking: 67
Players to watch
David Blough, QB, sophomore, 6’1/202, No. 11. Blough has some ability, but he’s turnover-prone. He threw five interceptions against Cincinnati, then led off Purdue’s win last week with an ugly pick in Nevada’s red zone.
But his skills are undeniable, and he has tall wideouts at his disposal for plays like this:
Domonique Young, WR, senior, 6’3/215, senior. He’s the Boilermakers’ leading receiver so far, with 19 catches on 32 targets. He’ll give JC Jackson and Alvin Hill a handful.
DeAngelo Yancey, WR, junior, 6’2/223, senior. Purdue’s second-leading receiver, Yancey’s had a productive career in West Lafayette. He was the team’s leading receiver last year, and has improved his catch rate and success rate even though he’s now Purdue’s second option.
Jake Replogle, DT, junior, 6’5/275, No. 4. He’s the key cog in the middle of the defense. Replogle is tied for second on the team in tackles, a rare feat for an interior lineman, including two for loss.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, sophomore, 6’2/260, No. 4. A junior out of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., Bentley is another man in the middle for the Boilermakers. He leads the team with 19 tackles, including two tackles for losses.
They don’t allow big plays. The Boilermakers are 23rd in opponents’ explosiveness, including 7th in opponents’ passing explosiveness. The Terps have shown the ability to methodically march down the field on the ground, and that’ll be their best bet to consistently gain yardage on Saturday.
Pass protection. Blough has only been sacked once all season, and Purdue ranks No. 22 in standard-down sack rate and No. 1 in passing-down sack rate on offense. Maryland hasn’t been super effective at getting to quarterbacks this season, so Blough could have a while in the pocket.
They also don’t create big plays. Purdue’s 87th in the country in offensive explosiveness, and hasn’t been able to generate large gains through the air or on the ground (especially on the ground, where they rank 110th in explosiveness).
Turnovers. The Boilermakers rank 119th in expected turnover margin and 123rd in actual turnover margin. Blough’s five interceptions against Cincinnati don’t help this matter, and he’ll have to prove that game was an aberration.
S&P+ prediction: Maryland, 37.0 - 25.8. The Terps have a 74 percent chance of winning.
My prediction: Maryland, 36-17.