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Maryland football vs. Indiana preview

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The Terps looks to snap a three-game skid.

Photo courtesy of Maryland athletics

Maryland football has dropped three straight games to Big Ten opponents by a combined score of 104. The Terps will be desperate to end the three-game skid when the struggling Indiana Hoosiers come to College Park for homecoming weekend on Saturday at noon.

Indiana is 2-5 and 0-4 in Big Ten play. Last year, the Hoosiers finished 6-2 as one of the top teams in the conference. However, Indiana has taken a step back in large part due to injuries to a number of key players, including star quarterback Michael Penix Jr..

Saturday’s game will be on homecoming for Maryland, a weekend alumni gather in College Park. During the game, the Terps will honor the 2001 ACC Championship team and former head coach Ralph Friedgen, who was at the helm from 2001-10.

“Football creates a brotherhood that transcends through generations,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “And we have an opportunity for some of our former players to come back and some of our former students to come back and homecoming is for them.”

Indiana Hoosiers (2-5, 0-4 Big Ten)

2020 record: 6-2, 6-1 Big Ten

Head coach Tom Allen is in his fifth year as the head man in Bloomington and has achieved remarkable success in his short time with Indiana. Allen took over a struggling Indiana program and in 2020, finished the year ranked No. 12 in the AP Poll, the teams highest ranking since 1967. Allen was rewarded the American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year award last season.

This season is a completely different story for Indiana as they’ve yet to win a game in the conference. Indiana has the worst statistical offense in the Big Ten. They are dead last in total touchdowns and yards, and second to last in total points. Indiana is now down to its third-string quarterback because of injuries to its top two guys.

“Indiana is a tough team,” Locksley said. “... To just sit back and look at a teams record, I don’t always think it tells the story and I think their record is just that.”

Players to know

Stephen Carr, graduate running back, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, No. 5 — Carr is the go-to back on an offense that likes to run the ball. Carr has 131 carries for 452 yards and four touchdowns. He has the fourth most carries in the Big Ten If you don't already, everyone will know his name soon as he will be the featured guy for Indiana this weekend, a team that will likely look to run the ball and control the clock.

Micah McFadden, senior linebacker, 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, No. 47 — McFadden the heart and soul of the Indiana defense. He is a huge factor in stopping opposing teams in both running and passing games. McFadden leads the team in tackles with 42 and sacks with 4.5. He also has two pass breakups on the season.

While it has not been officially announced, the influx of injuries Indiana is experiencing at the quarterback position means that freshman Donaven McCulley will make his first career start against Maryland. It is hard to know what to expect because of the lack of film on McCulley, but Maryland will do its best to fluster the newcomer.

“We think we saw a pretty good idea of some of the things he does well with his small sample size of plays, but we’ve got to prepare for, basically, what his skill set is,” Locksley said.

Strength

Running the ball. There are few strengths on both sides of the ball for an Indiana team with one of the worst offenses and defenses in the Big Ten. However, if there is anything the Hoosiers do best, it’s rushing the ball. Indian’s offense relies on its running game to move the sticks and create big plays. That is primarily behind Carr, but they have depth at the position they can rely on.

Weakness

The passing game. With an uncertain quarterback situation, Indiana’s passing game has become its biggest weakness. That would not have been the case if it wasn’t for injuries, but with McCulley likely to get the start, Indiana’s play-callers will have virtually no trust in throwing the ball. Last week against Ohio State, McCulley only threw the ball six times, completing one of those passes.

Three things to watch

1. Will Indiana be able to run down Maryland’s throat? Last week, Minnesota had a field day rushing the football against Maryland’s defense, gaining season-high yards on the ground against the Terps. Locksley acknowledged that would likely be Indiana’s game plan too, as they have been relying on the run anyway. If The Hoosiers are bale to have success rushing and eating clock, it will be another defensive nightmare for Maryland.

“We know that one thing they will do to attack us because we’ve shown a propensity the last week or two to not be able to handle the run, we expect them to run the ball,” Locksley said.”

2. Will wide receiver Marcus Fleming become a top option for Taulia Tagovailoa? A position group that started the season as Maryland’s deepest and most talented, quickly became its thinnest and most depleted. First, Tagovailoa’s top receiving option Dontay Demus Jr. went down with a season-ending injury. Then Jeshaun Jones, Demus’ replacement, went down with a similar injury that sidelined him for the year. It was expected that sophomore Rakim Jarrett would step into the number one role, but he has been quiet so far. Last game, it was Marcus Fleming who looked like Tagovailoa’s go-to guy. He finished with a team-high five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Keep an eye out for him this week against Indiana.

“Really, really proud of the way Marcus has come along,” Locksley said.

3. Will the Terps respond to a must-win game and a three-game losing streak? Maryland has its backs against the wall and are in desperate need of win to snap the three game losing streak. Maryland is favored in this game for the first time in three weeks, and likely for the last time this season. The Terps are hoping they can get to the six-win benchmark that makes them bowl eligible. If they fail to win this weekend, it will be extremely unlikely they will get six wins this year. After this week, Maryland has a daunting schedule ahead of them. They will play No. 20 Penn State, No. 6 Michigan and No. 8 Michigan State before finishing up the season against Rutgers.