After a tough — but promising — defeat against No. 4 Michigan, Maryland football has another Big Ten East challenge this Saturday when Michigan State comes to College Park for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
Last Saturday, the Terps fell to Michigan, 34-27, in a hard-fought battle that showed the talent gap between Maryland and some of the top teams in the conference is not that wide.
Although Maryland had to play a perfect game to win and multiple costly turnovers halted any hope, there were a lot of positive takeaways from the loss.
Now, Maryland shifts its attention to a Spartan team that was ranked No. 15 in the AP Poll prior to the season, but has struggled the last two weeks. Michigan State is entering this game off back-to-back losses to Washington and Minnesota, both of which were not competitive.
Michigan State is dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball that have hampered its efforts, but it is still a formidable opponent that will be a difficult matchup for the Terps.
“When you look at their record, it’s easy to say hey, you know, they’re struggling, but when you watch the tape like we do as coaches, they’ve played two really formidable opponents,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said. ”We expect them to come in here and try to get back on track... we’ve got to do everything we can and the things that we can control to not let that happen.”
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Maryland is favored by 8.5 points and the over/under is 59.5.
Michigan State (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
2021 record: 11-2 (7-2 Big Ten)
Michigan State entered this season coming off a successful two-loss campaign in 2021 that was punctuated with a Peach Bowl victory over Pittsburgh. Because of last season’s success, the Spartans were highly ranked prior to the 2022 season, despite the departure of star running back Kenneth Walker III to the NFL.
However, Michigan State’s season has not played out the way it had hoped through four games, already losing as many games as it did all of last season. Led by head coach Mel Tucker — who signed a 10-year, $95 million contract last November, making him the sixth-highest paid college football coach of all time — the Spartans are a perennial contender in the Big Ten.
Despite a rocky start to this season, the Spartans have the talent to compete amongst the best and pose a huge threat to Maryland, especially considering Michigan State has dominated Maryland in recent matchups, winning six of its last seven games against the Terps.
“I know Mel Tucker personally, I’ve known him a long time,” Locksley said. “They’re a well-coached team.”
Players to know
Payton Thorne, redshirt junior quarterback, No. 10 — Payton Thorne is a dynamic quarterback, one Michigan State relies on heavily to lead a pass-heavy attack. Through four games this season, Thorne has thrown for 900 yards and seven touchdowns. He has, however, thrown six interceptions. Thorne threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns against Maryland last season. If Maryland can put pressure on Thorne and force him into difficult situations, it will have success on Saturday.
Jayden Reed, redshirt senior wide receiver, No. 1 — Jayden Reed is a stellar receiver that has been a staple of the Spartans’ offense for years now after transferring from Western Michigan in 2019. Reed has been a bit banged up this season, missing the contest against Washington, but returned last week against Minnesota. He has 12 receptions for 128 yards this season, but is capable of exploding at any moment. Reed will be another difficult cover for the Terps’ secondary.
Kendell Brooks, senior cornerback, No. 33 — Kendell Brooks is an experienced and talented player on Michigan State’s defense, despite the struggles the unit has faced. Brooks leads the team in total tackles and has a pass breakup on the season. Although he does not have any interceptions — an area the secondary needs to improve in — Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa will have to pay close attention to Brooks.
Jacoby Windman, senior linebacker, No. 4 — For all the holes the Spartans’ defense has, its strength is getting to the quarterbacks. Michigan State is tied for the most sacks in the Big Ten, and a big part of that is its collection of linebackers, led by Jacoby Windman. Windman already has five-and-a-half sacks on the year through just four games. Maryland’s offensive line is going to have its hands full dealing with him.
The secondary and forcing interceptions. Michigan State has allowed teams to move the ball and put up points against it all season, especially Washington and Minnesota the last two weeks, who put up 39 and 34, respectively. That is mostly due to the generally inept passing defense the Spartans present. They also struggle mightily with forcing opposing quarterbacks into turnovers, as they have failed to record an interception through four games.
Sacks. As mentioned earlier, the strength of Michigan State is its ability to dominate in the trenches and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Spartans have done that all season, which has allowed them to be among the best in the Big Ten in generating sacks. Maryland’s offensive line is coming off its best, most discipline-free performance of the season against Michigan, and it will need to replicate that against the Spartans’ pass rush.
“They’ve got a great pass rush on the defensive side of the ball,” Locksley said.
Three things to watch
1. How will Maryland’s health hold up? Maryland is headed into this week with certain players nursing injuries, which is something to keep an eye on for Saturday’s game. Tagovailoa did not finish the last drive of the game last week because, according to Locksley, he was “banged up” with a knee and rib injury. Locksley said on Tuesday that Tagovailoa was a game-time decision, but Tagovailoa claimed he was “100%.” Wide receiver Rakim Jarrett left the Michigan game with a head injury and Locksley said he was also a game-time decision, but he did practice on Wednesday after not practicing on Tuesday, according to Locksley. Finally, linebacker Ruben Hyppolite III did not travel to Michigan last week with an injury and his status is also in question for this Saturday.
2. Will Maryland be able to stop the run? While Michigan’s Blake Corum is a much greater threat in the backfield that anyone Michigan State has at running back, Maryland was entirely unable to stop the run last week, giving up 243 yards on the ground. The front seven is the weakest part of Maryland’s defense, and to be effective the Terps are going to have to improve their rush defense.
3. How will the weather be a factor? As the remnants of Hurricane Ian travel up north, the state of Maryland is forecasted to experience heavy rain this weekend, including showers at kickoff time on Saturday. While that could change by Saturday afternoon, Maryland is anticipating weather to play a factor in the contest. Locksley said the team has been playing with wet balls during different points of practice to simulate what might be in store for Saturday.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.