Maryland football resumes Big Ten play after a bye week, and the Terps likely needed the rest. Next up on the schedule: the Michigan Wolverines, who come into this game with a 4-1 record and a No. 15 ranking that probably undersells how good they’ve been.
The Terps exceeded expectations in their 42-13 Week 5 win over Minnesota. That was an impressive victory over a team that appeared to be near Maryland’s level. Now comes an entirely different challenge.
It appears Maryland will play another football game without knowing the ultimate fate of its head coach.
The commission investigating Maryland football—and DJ Durkin’s “culture,” specifically—still has no end date. With no announcement as of this writing, it doesn’t appear the findings from that investigation will be announced before this game.
We won’t go over the new allegations in The Washington Post’s report from this weekend beat-by-beat, since we already did so here. Summed up: more players and parents said they observed or heard about behavior by Durkin and strength coach Rick Court that can be described as bullying or abusive. They detailed specific incidents and multiple players or parents attached their names to their allegations.
Durkin has been on administrative leave since mid-August, and though the chairman of the Board of Regents said a few weeks ago the second investigation would end “soon,” we still don’t know when that will be.
Michigan has an unbelievable defense and an offense that’s improved over last year’s edition.
OK, so the actual game. TL;DR, Michigan is good again. Last season, the Wolverines had an very good defense that was somewhat neutralized by a horrid offense. This year, that defense is at a world-beating level (up from No. 10 to No. 4 in S&P+), while the offense is methodical but effective (up from No. 86 to No. 27 in S&P+).
The most noticeable change on offense for the Wolverines has been under center. Former five-star recruit Shea Patterson, who transferred to Michigan from Ole Miss, has been an upgrade after Michigan had serious troubles at the position in the past few years. But improvements on the offensive line and more experience at receiver has helped too.
Michigan’s biggest strength is stopping the thing Maryland does best: big run plays. Maryland ranks fourth in IsoPPP, Bill Connelly’s measure of explosive plays, and first in rushing marginal efficiency, which compares a team’s explosive play output to the standard on plays of the same down, distance, and yard line throughout the nation (deeper explanation here, if you’re interested). That’s very good! Michigan ranks eighth in defensive IsoPPP and fourth in defensive rushing marginal efficiency, though. The Wolverines are fearsome.
This game could be a huge barometer of whether this Maryland team is truly different.
It’s not a stretch to say this Maryland team has been the most entertaining one we’ve seen in a while, even including that egg the Terps laid against Temple. Offensive coordinator and interim head coach Matt Canada brought his fun-as-hell jet sweeps to College Park, and fans were rewarded with touchdowns. The defense has matured to produce at a better level than what it did in Durkin’s first two seasons. No one’s arguing yet that this is the perfect version of Maryland football, but things look bright in a specific on-the-field sense.
But this isn’t Texas. The Longhorns are playing like a top-30 team this season, per S&P+, even if the AP Poll has them at No. 19. While the AP Poll has Michigan at No. 15, S&P+ has Maryland’s next opponent at No. 7. The Wolverines have played at that kind of level since halftime of their Week 1 loss to Notre Dame. It’ll be up to Maryland to show that it can compete with the Wolverines. In a game at The Big House, that’ll be a tough task.