Maryland football finally gets a reprieve from one of the worst stretches any FBS team’s had to go through this season.
A long road through Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska has left the Terps in a tough place physically and mentally, so a date with Rutgers is really what they need. The Scarlet Knights come to College Park for senior day this Saturday in a matchup that will be televised on ESPNews at noon.
Rutgers is a team that is comfortably worse at playing football than Maryland. The Scarlet Knight haven’t won since conference play started, and played at a definitely worse level in their own stretch of death against Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State, losing by a combined score of 224-0.
This won’t necessarily be the prettiest display of football you’ve seen all season, but Maryland should have enough of an advantage to win and get to 6-6. While Terps quarterback Perry Hills is technically questionable for this game, comments by the team suggest he’ll be out there on Saturday. If he is, that’ll be good news for an offense that’s failed to move the ball lately.
The last two meetings between these teams have followed the same script, as the home team got out to a big lead in the first half before the away team came storming back to win it. Rutgers came in and stole a win in College Park two years ago, while Maryland capped off its season with an improbable win last year. The two teams are comfortably in the back seat in the Big Ten East, but Saturday’s game will still be important. Maryland needs to get a sixth win to secure bowl eligibility.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-9, 0-8 Big Ten)
2015 record: 4-8
Head coach: Chris Ash
All-time record vs. Maryland: 5-6
Five-year recruiting ranking: 53 (Maryland is 61)
F/+ ranking: 123 (Maryland is 96)
Players to watch
Robert Martin, RB, junior, 5'11/210, No. 7. Martin has one less carry than Justin Goodwin does, but he’s been more explosive. He averages 5.2 yards per carry to Goodwin’s four, though he’s fumbled twice.
Giovanni Rescigno. QB, sophomore, 6'3/224, No. 17. Rescigno took over Rutgers’ inefficient passing attack from Christian Laviano four weeks ago, but nothing’s changed statistically. Both quarterbacks sport completion percentages slightly below 50, but Rescigno’s thrown five interceptions to Laviano’s two.
Trevor Morris, LB, sophomore, 6'1/226. No. 15. Morris has exploded onto the scene for Rutgers after only registering three tackles in five games last year. He leads the team in tackles with 71.5, a mark that ranks seventh in the Big Ten. He figures to be a big part of this teams’ defensive future.
Blessuan Austin, CB, sophomore, 6'1/198, No. 10. His one interception could lead folks to overlook his name, but Austin leads the Scarlet Knights with a fairly outrageous 14 passes defensed. Another sophomore, he’ll be a name to watch out for next year.
Jawuan Harris, WR, freshman, 5'9,/192, No. 3. With Janarion Grant out for the season, Harris has been this team’s most dependable wideout. The freshman’s been targeted more than anyone else on the team, and leads in catches with 33.
Julian Pinnix-Odrick, DE, senior, 6'5/274, No. 53. He’s a senior who kicked outside after playing tackle to start his career, and he leads the Scarlet Knights in sacks with 4.5. Damian Prince and either Michael Dunn or Derwin Gray could have their hands full with him.
Run blocking. This is a relative strength, considering Rutgers does not do very many things well. The Scarlet Knights are 42nd in adjusted line yards, which measures the impact the offensive line has on rushing success. Considering Rutgers is near the bottom of FBS in every statistic, this is about as good as it gets.
Turnovers, sort of. Rutgers is in the middle of the pack when it comes to turnover margin, but when the Scarlet Knights do get their hands on the ball, they’re good at keeping it. They rank second in the country in the ratio of passes defensed to interceptions, meaning an inordinate number of the passes they get their hands on they are also interceptions. This is probably luck, but its possible they pick off whoever is quarterbacking Maryland.
Offense. The Scarlet Knights are 127th in S&P+, which is second-to-worst among FBS teams. They rank 79th in rushing S&P+ and 120th in passing, which is simply terrible. They average 4.1 yards per play, and haven’t scored in three weeks. They also rank dead last in FBS in points inside opponents’ 40-yard lines, so they struggle mightily to punch the ball in even when they do get rolling.
Field position. The Scarlet Knights’ offense gives its defense the 118th-worst starting field position in the country, and that’s the better unit on this team. Rutgers’ defense gives its offense the literal worst starting field position in the country. It’s not easy to score points when you can’t move the ball, but it’s even harder when you keep starting with the ball inside your own 10-yard line.
S&P+’s prediction: Maryland 33.1, Rutgers 19.0. The Terps have a 79 percent chance of winning.
Ryan’s prediction: 35-21, Maryland.