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Maryland football vs. No. 8 Michigan preview

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Saturday’s game will be senior day as the Terps continue to search for that sixth win with two games remaining.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

Maryland football has just two games remaining on its schedule sitting at just five wins on the season, one short of its goal of six wins that makes them bowl eligible.

This Saturday, it will be the No. 8 Michigan Wolverines coming to College Park with another opportunity for Maryland to attempt to pull off a monumental upset against a top-ranked team.

Both Maryland and Michigan have huge games the following week to close out the regular season with Maryland playing Rutgers, likely for a bowl game, and Michigan taking on its arch-rival Ohio State, who it hasn't been in 10 years before head coach Jim Harbaugh took over.

But, both teams can’t overlook this week's matchup against each other as Maryland will certainly give Michigan its best shot. The Terps have come close to taking down top-tier opponents in Penn State and Michigan State the last two weeks, but avoidable mistakes and turnovers have halted their chances. If Maryland continues to have discipline issues against Michigan, they will likely have to wait one week for a better chance of capturing that sixth win.

Saturday’s game in College Park will be the last home game of the season and senior day for Maryland. The game is set to kick at 3:30 p.m. and will air on Big Ten Network.

“The great thing about it is here at home, the last opportunity to play here in the shell for some of our seniors,” head coach Michael Locksley said. “This time of year, as I told our team, it’s kind of sentimental, to start bringing closure to some things.”

Michigan Wolverines (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten)

2020 record: 2-4

Head coach Jim Harbaugh has had an up-and-down tenure in his seven years as the head man of Michigan football. While Wolverine fans may expect more from their storied football program, the reality is he’s done a great job and consistently has Michigan in contention in the Big Ten.

That’s no different this season as Harbaugh has his squad playing great football with just one loss and two games to play. The one loss was a heartbreaking one to Michigan State in which the Wolverines looked like they would win the game before faltering down the stretch.

Despite that, Michigan is still in a prime position to win the Big Ten East if it can take care of Maryland and Ohio State in these final two weeks. The Wolverines have a strong defense and a balanced offensive approach that’s allowed them this type of success throughout the year.

“You got to continue to fight, you got to continue to find ways to put ourselves in the best chance to get that number six [wins], which we haven't had for quite some time,” Locksley said. “We’re all motivated to do it against a good Michigan team that comes in, to me, probably one of the better offenses that we will face in terms of balance.”

Players to watch

Cade McNamara, junior quarterback, 6-foot-1, No. 12 — McNamara is having a terrific season as the man under center for Michigan and is a large part of Michigan’s success this season. The junior controls the game with smart decisions and reasonable throws that allows his team to move the chains. McNamara has only thrown two interceptions through ten games this season. He has over 1800 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with a 62% completion percentage.

Hassan Haskins, senior running back, 6-foot-1, No. 25 — The Wolverines' balanced attack stems from its ability to run the football at a high level, primarily because of their senior back in Haskins. Michigan’s running back room has had to deal with injuries all season, but Haskins has been able to step up when other guys went down. He has 11 touchdowns on the year and 991 yards on 196 attempts. He is averaging five yards a carry, and rarely, if ever, loses yards on a run, making him a reliable option out of the backfield for Michigan.

Aidan Hutchinson, senior defensive end, 6-foot-6, No. 97 — Hutchinson is the senior leader and force behind this Michigan defense. He is a phenomenal rusher that has been a nightmare for offensive lines and quarterbacks. He has 39 total tackles on the year and a whopping 9.5 sacks. As many other teams have, Maryland will strongly consider double-teaming Hutchinson.

“Aiden Hutchinson is as advertised,” Locksley said. “He will be probably one of the biggest defensive playmakers that we’ve faced all year.”

Strength

Offensive line. Michigan has a really strong protection game in both the run and pass game. The Wolverines offensive line has been terrific and is the reason Michigan has had as much offensive success as they’ve had this year. It also allows McNamara more time to pass and find an open weapon in the passing game, while also providing holes for running backs.

“Those guys are very good upfront, their offensive line, I think their center is phenomenal, a phenomenal player and really does a good job of kind of leading the way with them up front,” Locksley said.

Weakness

None. There's a reason Michigan is sitting with nine wins at this point of the season and it’s because there’s little if any weakness on the team. Michigan has a great offensive line, steady running attack and reliable passing game. They also have a more than formidable defense. The Wolverines score the second-most points in the Big Ten and also allow the second least. Maryland will have to put together a perfect game to knock off Michigan.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland continue to beat itself? Against Michigan State last week, Maryland was driving down the field, primed to put points on the board and further cut into the Spartans lead. However, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw an interception in the red zone, halting Maryland’s drive and a chance at a comeback. Those mistakes and other errors such as penalties, drops and missed tackles have piled up all season for the Terps, particularly against top-level competition. If Maryland has any shot on Saturday, they will need to limit the mistakes.

2. Will Maryland’s defense be able to get stops? Despite the two turnovers Maryland’s defense forced last week, it still gave up 40 points to Michigan State. Maryland has given up over 30 points in its last six games against good teams, giving its offense an impossible task to try to keep up. Michigan poses as big of a threat as any this season with its potent offense, so if Maryland is able to get stops, which will be a challenge, they might have a chance at the upset.

3. With another receiver out for the season, will Taulia Tagovailoa continue to rely on tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. Maryland is running out of receivers it can put out on the field with the influx of season-ending injures the position group has faced. First, it was star Dontay Demus Jr., then Jeshaun Jones and last week Marcus Fleming, who had been playing well went down and underwent season-ending surgery. Tagovailoa has been dealt a tough hand with all the injuries to his weapons, but he has found one guy who he can rely on: Chigoziem Okonkwo. Okonkwo was 20 receptions the last two games, the most by a tight end over a two-game span in Maryland history. Look for Tagovailoa to continue to find his guy against Michigan.