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Maryland football took a step back vs. Northwestern, and it’ll be tough to right the ship in Wisconsin

Our weekly outlook on the Maryland football program.

Maryland football vs. Northwestern Josh Williams

Maryland football is 3-3, but it hardly feels like it. In getting overmatched by Ohio State and Northwestern in back-to-back weeks, the Terps looked like a team that’ll struggle to hang onto wins the rest of the way.

Saturday’s game looked promising into the second quarter, when Northwestern found the holes in Maryland’s defense. A 14-10 Terrapin lead quickly became a 24-14 game the other way, and Maryland couldn’t quite catch up. The Terps won the turnover battle 2-0 and still lost by 16 points, which indicates how lopsided Saturday’s action truly was.

Now, with another convincing loss in the books, a second-half schedule that was already one of the nation’s toughest looks even more daunting. Four of Maryland’s last six games are against current top-25 teams, so reaching six wins again seems more aspirational than anything else.

The past two weeks have showed how far Maryland needs to go.

Allowing 1,115 yards in two games is not a winning recipe, and the Terps have only been able to counter with 406 of their own. The bright spot against Northwestern was wideout D.J. Moore, whose career performance included 12 catches, 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But when the other 21 starters are off their game, those numbers can only mean so much.

It’s been well-documented that Maryland started three quarterbacks in the first half of the season, and was close to starting a fourth against the Wildcats. That’s not ideal, and neither is Max Bortenschlager (the least mobile of Maryland’s quarterbacks) leading the team in rushing. Ty Johnson has starred in all three of Maryland’s wins and gone quiet in all three defeats. He had 20 yards on 10 carries Saturday, while Lorenzo Harrison had 31 on nine attempts. The Terps gained 340 total yards, but still looked zero-dimensional at times.

We’ve already covered the defensive struggles against Northwestern, but it’s worth repeating that Cavon Walker’s sack on the first play of the game was Maryland’s first in four games, and the Terps didn’t record another one. The run defense allowed over 200 yards for the third time this season; unsurprisingly, Maryland is 0-3 when that happens.

Performances like Saturday’s can easily make fans forget that the Terps have improved (they’re 3-3 while facing a schedule that last year’s squad probably limps to 2-4 or 1-5 against). It’s easy to forget that in addition to the quarterback carousel, Maryland is currently without three of its opening-day defensive starters. Northwestern was favored, and even if it didn’t seem that way in College Park, it showed between the lines.

If it wasn’t hard to be optimistic about this weekend before, it is now.

No. 5 Wisconsin is up next. The Badgers are one of eight undefeated teams remaining in the country. They’re not as explosive as the teams atop the East side of the conference, but reaching 6-0 is hardly ever an accident. Wisconsin has a top-25 offense and top-10 defense, per S&P+.

This game will take place in Madison, with 80,000 fans wearing the Wisconsin’s shade of red. The Badgers’ smashmouth identity will be nearly impossible to break. They run the ball, stop the run and don’t give opponents anything easy. At the moment, it’s hard to think of a worse conference matchup for Maryland.

The 24-point spread isn’t too far beyond what the Terps got against Texas. But it’d be a stunner if Saturday’s game looked anything like what we saw seven weeks earlier.