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The best running backs on Maryland football’s 2017 schedule

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The Terps will have to face Saquon Barkley, Justin Jackson and a handful of the Big Ten’s top backs.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football’s 2017 schedule is so tough, the Terps’ over/under in Vegas is just three wins, which is half of their total last season. Playing in the Big Ten East makes things difficult, and Maryland also has some tough matchups from the West division and from its out-of-conference slate.

Last week, we looked at the most dangerous quarterbacks on the schedule. It’s Running Backs Week here, so let’s look at those guys.

Stopping the run was a severe weakness for Maryland last fall: the Terps ranked 127th in defensive rushing S&P+, second-worst in the country. They won’t have to deal with D’Onta Foreman, who was second in the nation with over 2,000 rushing yards for Texas in 2016, but there are still plenty of formidable foes on the docket.

Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Nov. 25)

It’s hard to imagine Maryland is excited to see Barkley again. He bulldozed the Terps last year, finishing with 202 yards on 31 carries. Barkley finished his sophomore season with 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, and he played a pivotal role in the Nittany Lions turning a 2-2 start into a Rose Bowl berth. He’s a threat in the passing game as well, more than doubling his receiving yards to over 400 last season. He’ll be one of the Heisman favorites entering 2017, and Maryland will be tasked with stopping him right at the end of the regular season.

Justin Jackson, Northwestern (Oct. 14)

Nope, it’s a different dude. There’s a Justin Jackson who plays basketball at Maryland, there’s a Justin Jackson who won a title at UNC and is entering the NBA, and then there’s this guy.

The purple Justin Jackson actually led the Big Ten with 1,524 rushing yards last season, and he gained plenty of national recognition for his incredible finish. Jackson ripped off 173 yards and three touchdowns against Illinois, then notched 224 yards with three more scores in the Pinstripe Bowl against Pittsburgh.

Rodney Smith, Minnesota (Sept. 30)

Smith rushed for 1,158 yards and 16 touchdowns last fall, including 144 yards and two scores in the Gophers’ win over Maryland. With Conor Rhoda entering his first year as the full-time starting quarterback, Minnesota and new head coach P.J. Fleck should rely heavily on Smith all season.

Mike Weber, Ohio State (Oct. 7)

The Buckeyes dominated Maryland in College Park last season, and although Weber wasn’t a big part of it, he made the most of his opportunities. He tallied 93 yards on 12 carries that afternoon, and he finished his freshman season with 1,096 yards and nine scores. Ohio State is deep at this position, as it seems to be at all of them, but Weber is the featured back.

Other familiar faces

Jawon Hamilton, UCF
Demario McCall, Ohio State
Zander Diamont, Indi—wait no he’s a quarterback
Tyler Natee, Indiana
Robert Martin, Rutgers
Justin Goodwin, Rutgers
Chris Evans, Michigan
Karan Higdon, Michigan
Ty Isaac, Michigan
LJ Scott, Michigan State

More names to watch

Chris Warren III, Texas
Shane Simpson, Towson
John Moten IV, Northwestern
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin