Maryland is a 5-3 football team, and one look at the schedule suggests it will soon be a 5-6 football team.
The Terps lost 42-36 at Indiana on Saturday, falling short in their first attempt at securing the all-important sixth win. Maryland ran the ball well, but allowed the Hoosiers to dominate on the ground. Indiana’s 19-3 second-half run put Maryland in too big of a hole.
And now the Terps play Michigan, a team entirely capable of making Maryland look like a middle school team. The Wolverines are No. 2 in the polls and No. 1 in S&P+.
This will be a homecoming of sorts for DJ Durkin, as Michigan wrote his checks last year and Jim Harbaugh has been his boss at two different schools (Stanford is the other one). But the rookie head coach probably won’t play any of that up, because these two programs are in wholly different stratospheres.
Maryland vs. Indiana - what we saw
1. The run defense got scorched. Here’s another reminder that the Terps gave up 414 rushing yards to a ground attack that entered the weekend ranked 101st in S&P+. They were handled by speedy running backs, quick quarterbacks and supersized wildcat quarterbacks alike.
2. The offense struggled with verticality. Maryland tried its damnedest to establish some sort of deep passing attack, but it just wasn’t there. Nearly every ball Perry Hills threw down the field was either a little overthrown or a little underthrown. He’s usually quasi-competent in this realm (although it certainly isn’t a strength), so Saturday’s performance was a little surprising.
3. Maryland’s running game was in fine form. Ty Johnson had 142 yards on 13 carries. Lorenzo Harrison had 73 on 14. Kenneth Goins and Wes Brown had supporting roles, and even Tyrrell Pigrome took off on a designed run for 17 yards. Walt Bell mixed things up well (the fourth-down option pitch to Harrison is worth commending), but when the Terps fell behind, they needed to pass, and that didn’t go quite so swimmingly.
Maryland vs. Michigan - what we’re expecting
1. A lockdown Wolverine defense. As one would expect with Harbaugh, Michigan is built on defense. S&P+ has the unit ranked No. 1 in stopping the pass and in stopping the run. Michigan gives up under 12 points per game and has only allowed more than 14 twice. This won’t be easy.
2. More running on the Terps. Michigan has four backs that could give Maryland fits: De’Veon Smith, Chris Evans, Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac, all of whom have over 300 yards this year. Not included in that group is fullback Khalid Hill, whose eight scores on 15 carries lead the team, so that’s five. And even that group doesn’t factor in...
3. A Jabrill Peppers onslaught. The sophomore’s presence is ubiquitous during Michigan games. Including special teams, he played 10 positions in East Lansing on Saturday. The Terps just watched a 270-pound wildcat quarterback run all over them, and Peppers is a much more established threat than that. Tyler Natee may have bulldozed Josh Woods, but Peppers, an elite linebacker/safety hybrid, is coming after Perry Hills as well. (Gulp.)