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Maryland football vs. UCF preview: Terps return to action looking to start 3-0

After an early bye week, we’re back to football.

NCAA Football: Towson at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

When Maryland and UCF take the field Saturday afternoon in College Park, it’ll be under rather unusual circumstances.

Neither team played last week, but for different reasons. The Terps had their scheduled bye week, but the Knights’ Week 2 game against Memphis was postponed until later this month and their game last week against Georgia Tech was cancelled completely, both because of Hurricane Irma.

Last time out, Maryland laid the wood on Towson, scoring from all over the field en route to a 63-17 win. In his first collegiate start, Kasim Hill looked like anything but a true freshman, leading a perfect opening drive and finishing the day in the third quarter 13-16 for 163 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball five times for 41 yards. Ty Johnson and D.J. Moore were their usual, big-play-making selves, combining for five scores.

Similarly, UCF hammered FIU 61-17 in its only action of the season on Aug. 31. Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton, who made his first collegiate start against Maryland last season, completed 16 passes on 21 attempts for a gaudy 360 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. This is also a bit of a revenge game for UCF’s freshman running back Cordarrian Richardson, who famously committed to Maryland from outer space on National Signing Day earlier this year, but signed with the Knights the next morning.

UCF Knights (1-0)

2016 Record: 6-7, 4-4 AAC

Head coach Scott Frost. The former Oregon offensive coordinator is in his second year as UCF’s head coach, just like DJ Durkin is at Maryland. He similarly took a program that had an awful season—UCF was 0-12 in 2015—and turned it around quite admirably in Year 1. The Knights are 6-7 in his short tenure. Before he was a coach, Frost was a national-championship winning quarterback on Nebraska’s 1997 team.

Players to know

McKenzie Milton, sophomore, quarterback, 5’11/185, No. 10. UCF’s dual-threat quarterback is the biggest playmaker on the team. He’s at his best when he can escape the pocket, but not because he’ll take off running like Michael Vick could. He does a great job of keeping his eyes downfield and finding breakdowns in coverage as a result of his scrambling. This is where a lot of UCF’s big plays come from, and something Maryland has to keep an eye on for the whole game.

Tre’Quan Smith, RS junior, wide receiver, 6’1/210, No. 4. It’s a small sample size, but Smith has been the Knights’ most productive receiver this season. In UCF’s first and only game, he had three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns. In his first two seasons, he totaled 109 receptions for nine touchdowns and 1,577 yards. He’ll draw the attention of Maryland’s J.C. Jackson, who’s already got one interception on the season.

Shaquem Griffin, senior, linebacker, 6’2/229, No. 18. The reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year is the leader and difference maker in the middle of UCF’s defense. Winning the award is admirable enough, but he did it with only one hand. Last year against Maryland, he registered seven tackles (1.5 for a loss) and a sack. If the Knights are to stymie the Terps’ rushing attack, Griffin would have to be a big part of that effort.


Offense. Frost’s offensive background is no secret. He quarterbacked Nebraska to an undefeated 1997 season in which the Cornhuskers split the national with Michigan. He was the offensive coordinator under Chip Kelley and Mark Helfrich at Oregon and helped coach the Ducks to four straight BCS bowls; in 2014, he was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant. He’s taken that high-powered offensive coaching acumen to Central Florida, evidenced by the Knights’ 61-point outburst in Week 1.


That two-week layoff. Counterpoint: maybe the layoff was an opportunity to rest up and the Knights come out fresher than ever. On the other hand, because of the blowout against FIU, the starters didn’t even play the whole game, and haven’t otherwise played since December 2016. UCF’s practice schedule was disrupted due to the hurricane, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some rust early on in the game, which might be just enough time for Maryland’s explosive offense to take a commanding lead.

Three things to watch

  1. How Kasim Hill looks with a bye week under his belt. Hill went 13-of-16 in his first start against Towson, but this will be his first start against an FBS team. He’ll have had the bye week to prepare, and he’s been praised repeatedly for his poise and leadership skills, even as a true freshman. That said, UCF’s defense will be a new test for Hill.
  2. How Maryland’s defense performs against UCF’s high-powered offense. The Terps held Texas’ offense to just 21 points and Towson to only 17 points. The Knights, though, put up 61 points in Week 1, and their offense thrives on Milton extending plays. With Jesse Aniebonam still sidelined, that could be a concern for Maryland’s pass rush.
  3. Can Maryland keep up its unbelievable scoring pace? It’s been well documented that the Terps’ back-to-back 50-plus-point outputs to start the season was the first time in program history that’s happened. The Terps have also been incredibly efficient this season, scoring more points than they’ve run plays. It’s unlikely that they continue that pace, but it’ll be fun to see how long they can keep it up.


S&P+: Maryland 30, UCF 25

Me: Maryland 41, UCF 27