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Maryland football has one last chance at bowl eligibility against Rutgers

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Our weekly outlook on the Maryland football program.

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

Maryland was always going to struggle during its three-week gauntlet of Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska, even at full strength. But the battered version of the Terps was decimated in every conceivable way, outscored 149-13.

Just about every bad thing that can happen to a football team has happened to Maryland. The starting quarterback is hurt and none of his backups can handle the big stage. One young running back can’t get anything going, and the other blew his playing privileges on some airsoft pellets. The defense is banged-up and overmatched.

The futility is over. Probably.

Rutgers is a very bad football team. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 123rd in S&P+, the lowest of any Power 5 team and six spots from the bottom of the FBS. In games against Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State, they’ve been outscored 224-0.

Bowl eligibility would be a very good thing for DJ Durkin and his team. A postseason berth means extra practices before one last game. If the Terps can gather themselves and beat Rutgers, they’ll have earned that berth. If they can’t, then they’ll have earned the long, cold winter that awaits them.

Maryland vs. Nebraska - what we saw

1. Sixty minutes of Max Bortenschlager. We’re not exactly sure why, or if the freshman will ever start again, but he got a legitimate shot against the Huskers. He was 14-of-29 for 191 yards, although 92 of those came on one pass to D.J. Moore, who ran for most of said yards. Bortenschlager looked predictably overwhelmed. He didn’t make any catastrophic mistakes, but he also didn’t quite have the touch on deep passes and was almost picked off several times.

2. No running game whatsoever. Counting sacks and negative scrambles against the Terps, they recorded a horrid 11 yards on 25 carries. That’s a little deceptive, as Bortenschlager himself is credited with minus-22 yards, but there’s no way to wring the numbers into a positive. The four healthy, non-suspended running backs combined for 36 yards on 13 carries, which is still bad. For the second straight week, Maryland’s longest run was just 11 yards, and inability to generate explosive plays really held the Terps back.

3. Some special teams fakes, just because. The Terps faked a field goal in the opening quarter and were emphatically denied, but rebounded to successfully fake a punt a few drives later. Wade Lees now has college passing statistics: 1-of-1, five yards, 142 efficiency rating. That’s probably the best takeaway

Maryland vs. Rutgers - what we’re expecting

1. Some off-brand version of football. The Terps are 97th in S&P+, while Rutgers sits at No. 123. Maryland has lost four straight; Rutgers is 0-8 in conference play. Something has to give on Saturday, and the process probably won’t be a pretty one.

2. The Terps should get back to running the ball. Sure, they’ve been absolutely stymied on the ground for three straight weeks. But Rutgers’ run defense is below-average overall and 115th in defensive rushing explosiveness. Last year, Maryland beat the Scarlet Knights on a steady diet of big runs. A few of those would be helpful on Saturday.

3. Someone needs to step up on defense. On senior day, a few candidates to break out include Roman Braglio, Alvin Hill, Azubuike Ukandu or some other veterans. A few big plays—sacks, forced turnovers, etc.—could make life way easier for Maryland.