Maryland football is coming off a disastrous October, in which it went 0-3 and negated a once promising season.
The Terps (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) perhaps have a more difficult schedule in November, though, starting when they host No. 9 Penn State on Saturday in College Park. With its season spiraling, Maryland will have to pull off a lofty upset to right the ship.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Penn State is a 8.5-point favorite (-340 moneyline) over Maryland. The over/under is 51 total points.
Saturday’s game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and air on Fox.
No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten)
Penn State has met expectations so far this season, being a tick below No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Ohio State, but well above every other team in the Big Ten. Saturday’s game seems like another stepping stone for the Nittany Lions with Michigan on deck. Under head coach James Franklin, Penn State has a 4-15 record against the Wolverines and Buckeyes.
Following its first loss of the season against Ohio State, Penn State got off to a slow start against Indiana (2-6), leading by just three at halftime. The Nittany Lions ultimately won, 33-24, but consecutive uninspiring performances provide hope for Maryland.
Players to know
Drew Allar, sophomore quarterback, No. 15 – Penn State’s success starts and ends with the play of Allar. The former No. 1 high school quarterback prospect in the country, according to 247Sports, has thrown for 1,655 yards and 16 touchdowns, which ranks third in the conference, in his first season under center. He also has just one interception.
KeAndre Lambert-Smith, junior wide receiver, No. 1 – Lambert-Smith has been one of the better receivers in the Big Ten this season, ranking third in receiving yards (550) and seventh in receiving touchdowns (4). He is also the only player in Penn State history to have multiple 80-yard receptions.
“He’s a very experienced and smooth receiver,” safety Beau Brade said. “It’ll be a ball game for us, but, you know, our DB room, we love good competition.”
Daequan Hardy, redshirt senior cornerback, No. 25 – Hardy is a rotational piece in Penn State’s secondary, but he makes the most of his opportunities. In just six games this year, Hardy ranks fifth in the Big Ten in pass breakups (6) and seventh in interceptions (2). As well, he is a dangerous punt returner, scoring two touchdowns against UMass.
Adisa Isaac, redshirt senior defensive end, No. 20 – Isaac has led Penn State’s dominant pass rush. He is a shoo-in for his second consecutive All-Big Ten selection this year, ranking second in the conference in sacks (5.5) and third in tackles for loss (9.5).
Pass rush. Penn State’s pass rush is one the best in the nation, ranking second in the FBS with 32 sacks. Led, Isaac, former Terp Chop Robinson — who’s nursing a concussion — Maryland’s offensive line, which surrendered six sacks to Northwestern last week, will be tested.
Kicking. Penn State boasts one of the most well-rounded teams in the country, so selecting a weakness is nitpicking. However, the Nittany Lions have struggled in the kicking game this season. They are 10-for-15 on field goals, including a missed 51-yarder against Indiana.
Three things to watch
1. Maryland’s running game. Maryland’s running game has dropped off since the start of Big Ten play, with the Terps averaging 115 rushing yards per game. While Maryland’s running backs averaged 5.7 yards per carry last week, Penn State’s run defense, which leads the Big Ten with 74.3 yards allowed per game, may funnel more responsibility to Taulia Tagovailoa.
2. The turnover battle. Maryland forced 12 turnovers during its 5-0 start, but have recorded just one since. Meanwhile, Penn State leads the country in turnover margin at +12.
“When our defense gets us the ball and steals series, we usually are able to create the type of explosive offense and explosive plays that we will need to win,” Terps head coach Mike Locksley said. “We haven’t gotten those turnovers, and then we’ve turned it over, so it’s limited us.”
3. The Terps need to avoid a repeat of last year. Maryland embarrassingly fell to Penn State in last year’s annual duel, 30-0. Now on a three-game losing streak, a similarly uncompetitive loss would diminish any hope of an improved season for the Terps and serve as a gut punch to the program.
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