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After beating Purdue, Maryland football pivots toward a huge game at Penn State

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Our weekly outlook on the Maryland football program.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland football team is 4-0 entering Saturday’s road game at Penn State, which could end up being the biggest game the Terps play all season.

The Nittany Lions enter the game at 3-2, with losses at Michigan and Pitt. Both of those teams are respectable, and Maryland isn’t going to have an easy time in Happy Valley. That said, the Terps are favored by 1.5 after opening as three-point underdogs. This is going to be fun.

Maryland vs. Purdue - what we saw

  1. Utter domination. The only time this game was ever in question was when the Terps turned the ball over on their first possession. Purdue got the ball in Maryland’s red zone, went 3-and-out, then missed a field goal. Perry Hills marched Maryland down the field and threw an 11-yard touchdown to Teldrick Morgan, the Terps went for and made the 2-point conversion, and this one was history.
  2. Ty Johnson, superhero. Johnson had an unhuman 204 rushing yards on only seven carries, breaking away from Purdue defenders constantly. The Boilermakers’ run defense couldn’t hold him, and it couldn’t do much against the rest of the Terps’ backs either. Maryland finished with 400 rushing yards, and everyone got in on the action.
  3. Maryland’s pass rush came alive. The Terps registered six sacks on the day, with Roman Braglio (twice), Jermaine Carter, Shane Cockerille, Azubuike Ukandu and Jesse Aniebonam all getting to Purdue quarterback David Blough. The Terps had failed to get much pressure in previous weeks, but they got right by a Purdue line that had only allowed one sack all season.

Maryland vs. Penn State - what we’re expecting

  1. A solid day for Maryland’s rushing attack. Penn State might have the best run defense Maryland has faced so far, averaging 51st in defensive rushing S&P+. But the Nittany Lions might not have any of their starting linebackers this Saturday, something Walt Bell is sure to take advantage of.
  2. Someone’s finally going to get burned. Maryland’s been very good at limiting opponents’ big plays so far in 2016, but Penn State’s been even better at creating them. The Nittany Lions are 5th in passing isoPPP, a stat that measures explosiveness. Quarterback Trace McSorely has been a capable replacement for the departed Christian Hackenberg, and if guys are open downfield, he can hit them. The key for Maryland will be to limit the number of big plays Penn State can get.
  3. A rushing rebound for Penn State. The Nittany Lions didn’t have an especially good day running the ball against Minnesota last week, but Saquon Barkley is still one of the top running backs in the Big Ten, if not the country.