After finishing the regular season with a 7-5 record, Maryland football wraps up its 2022 campaign in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl against former ACC foe and No. 25 NC State.
The game, which will be broadcast on ESPN, is set to be played at Bank of America Stadium — the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers — in Charlotte, North Carolina, which provides a geographical advantage for NC State fans that expect to outnumber Maryland’s in the stands. Kickoff is scheduled for noon Friday.
With a win, the Terps would have their first eight-win season since 2010 and secure back-to-back bowl victories for the first time since 2002-03; Maryland blew Virginia Tech out in last year’s Pinstripe Bowl, 54-10.
The two programs are familiar with each other, having started their series over 100 years ago. Including the first matchup in 1909, they met every year as ACC rivals from 1956-2013 and have split the all-time series 33-33-4.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, NC State is a one-point favorite. The over/under is 46.5 total points.
North Carolina State Wolfpack (8-4, 4-4 ACC)
Under head coach Dave Doeren — who is wrapping up his 10th season with the Wolfpack — NC State has become a frequent bowl participant and often just one tier below ACC title contenders, like division-mate Clemson. Doeren has led the Wolfpack to eight bowl games and six eight-plus-win seasons.
This year’s iteration of the Wolfpack came into the year with legitimate conference championship buzz and an outside shot at contending for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Devin Leary, who has since transferred to Kentucky, derailed those dreams. Still, NC State put together an 8-4 regular season and finished ranked 25th in the AP poll and No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Players to watch
Thayer Thomas, graduate wide receiver, No. 5 — In his final year of collegiate football, Thayer Thomas established himself as not only the Wolfpack’s top pass-catcher, but also one of the best in school history. He had 53 receptions for 588 yards and four touchdowns, thrusting him to second all-time in receiving touchdowns and receptions at the university. Despite a tumultuous quarterback situation, Thomas was still productive and will look to wrap up his decorated five-year college career with a bowl victory.
Aydan White, sophomore cornerback, No. 3 — A dynamic sophomore season, his third at NC State, led to Aydan White becoming the first NC State cornerback in a decade to earn First Team All-ACC honors. He intercepted four passes, the second-most in the conference. He also had eight pass breakups and four tackles for loss. White will be a good test for some of Maryland’s younger receivers that promise to see the field Friday.
Drake Thomas, graduate linebacker, No. 32 — The brother of Thayer, Drake Thomas has a strong argument as NC State’s best defensive player. After ranking fourth in the ACC in tackles for loss (15.5) and leading the Wolfpack in total tackles for the second consecutive season, he was named to the All-ACC first team by the Associated Press and the second team by the conference. He didn’t register a sack in the first seven weeks of the season but racked up 6.5 in the final five contests, besting his previous career-high.
Offensive line. NC State had three offensive lineman named to All-ACC teams: graduate guard Chandler Zavala and graduate center Grant Gibson were first-team selections while graduate lineman Timothy McKay was an honorable mention. The Wolfpack flaunt a strong group up front that should present significant issues for a Maryland defense that has struggled to generate pressure.
Red zone offense. Despite scoring on 86% of its red zone opportunities, NC State has struggled to get into the end zone, doing so less than 50% of the time. For reference: Maryland does so at a 71% clip, one of the better marks in the nation. Settling for field goals could be a dangerous game for the Wolfpack, especially if quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terps are able to punch it in from close.
Three things to watch
1. Who will start at quarterback for the Wolfpack? Once Devin Leary tore his pectoral muscle against Florida State on Oct. 8, the Wolfpack played a game of musical chairs at the quarterback position. Graduate Jack Chambers started the next two games, but freshman MJ Morris started the following two after coming off the bench and leading NC State to a victory. Then, Morris was injured and Chambers and redshirt freshman Ben Finley split the starting job in the final two games of the season. Doeren has been unwilling to name a starter ahead of Friday’s game, but according to him Morris is back to full health. If that’s the case, he seems to be the best bet to start.
2. An elite kicking showdown. While Chad Ryland was a revelation as a kicker for Maryland after transferring from Eastern Michigan, one of the few at the position able to give him a run for his money resides in Raleigh. NC State’s Christopher Dunn was this year’s recipient of the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s best place kicker, and was also a consensus first-team All-American. Ryland was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection after making 16 of his 20 attempts, including three from over 50 yards. Dunn made all but one of his kicks this season — converting two from more than 50 yards.
3. How will opt-outs affect the game? Bowl games across the college football landscape have dealt with star players deciding not to play because of either their NFL declarations or intentions to transfer, and that is no different in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Three of Maryland’s top receivers — Rakim Jarrett, Dontay Demus Jr. and Jacob Copeland — and cornerback Deonte Banks won’t play after declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft. Additionally, tight end CJ Dippre announced that he will transfer to Alabama, meaning he also won’t participate.
Friday should still be a competitive matchup with plenty on the line for both teams, but some familiar faces will be absent.