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Maryland football vs. Nebraska preview: The Terps take on their 3rd straight ranked team

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The Terps’ final road game comes against another tough opponent.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football has lost its last two games by a combined score of 121-6. Playing two potential College Football Playoff teams will do that to you, but things don’t get too much easier this weekend. After those two blowouts, the Terps get the (relative) pleasure of traveling to Lincoln to play No. 19 Nebraska this Saturday for a noon kickoff on ESPNews.

Saturday’s game is the end of what’s been a deadly three-game stretch for Maryland. The Cornhuskers aren’t nearly the machines Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer have been operating, but they’ll be another tough opponent for Maryland. A game like this on the road is Maryland’s last stop before ending the regular season at home against Rutgers. The Terps need that sixth win to become bowl-eligible, but that’ll be much easier against Rutgers than it will against Nebraska.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten)

2015 record: 6-7

Head coach: Mike Riley took over the reins after the 2014 season and is 14-9 at Nebraska. He was previously the lead man at Oregon State from 2003-14. He had two stints with the Beavers, sandwiched around a brief run as coach of the San Diego Chargers.

All-time record vs. Maryland: 0-0

F/+ ranking: No. 45 (Maryland is No. 92.)

Five-year recruiting ranking: No. 24 (Maryland is No. 78)

Players to watch

(Maybe) Tommy Armstrong Jr., QB, senior, 6'1/220, No. 4. Armstrong’s status for Saturday’s game is up in the air after he suffered a hamstring injury last week. He’s averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt in addition to 5.5 yards per rush. Maryland’s had trouble with running quarterbacks before, and Armstrong could be a big problem if he’s healthy.

Terrell Newby, RB, senior, 5’10/200, No. 34. He’s Nebraska’s No. 1 running back, posting a 4.9 yards-per-carry average this season.

Jordan Westerkamp, WR, senior, 6’0/200, No. 1. Westerkamp was by far Nebraska’s leading receiver a year ago. His overall numbers are down this season, but his yards-per-catch and yards-per-target numbers are slightly up.

Nathan Gerry, safety, senior, 6’2/220, No. 25. Gerry leads the team in tackles with 52.5, and adds four interceptions and seven pass break-ups to the mix. He got an invite to the Senior Bowl recently, and should be a fringe NFL prospect.

Ross Dzuris, DE, senior, 6’3/255, No. 88. Dzuris is adept at getting into opponents’ backfields. He leads the Huskers in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (7.5).

Strengths

Preventing big passing plays. The Huskers defense is No. 1 in passing IsoPPP, which measures explosiveness. Nebraska will make you march down the field to score, which isn’t easy either.

Pass protection. The Huskers’ offense is No. 5 in adjusted sack rate. They’re pretty good at giving Tommy Armstrong time to breathe back there, which lets him make big plays.

Weaknesses

Rushing explosiveness. Nebraska ranks 118th in offensive rushing IsoPPP and 120th in defensive rushing isoPPP. This would hypothetically bode well for Maryland, which needs big plays in the run game to survive. The Terps also need any help they can get defending the run.

Questions at quarterback. Armstrong’s absence would mean the debut of Ryker Fyfe, a spectacularly named senior. He’s appeared in five games this season, only completing seven of his 24 passes. His teammates are saying all the right things, but Nebraska’s offense will look different if Armstrong isn’t under center.

Prediction

S&P+’s prediction: Nebraska wins, 37.0- 20.7. Maryland has a 17 percent chance of victory.

Ryan’s prediction: 34-17, Nebraska wins.