After the chaos of last week and a 24-3 loss at Michigan State, Maryland football is, to whatever extent it can be, back to business as usual this week. With no coaching changes or practice altercations this week, the Terps are set to visit Indiana on Saturday.
It’s Maryland’s second chance at clinching bowl eligibility, and although the team has three games left, this might be the last realistic chance at earning that sixth win. The Terps’ two games following this are against Ohio State and at Penn State, against whom they’ll be severe underdogs. Saturday’s game is also a homecoming for Maryland interim head coach Matt Canada, who was a student assistant coach at Indiana and returned to the staff from 2004-10.
The last two contests between these two teams were shootouts. Indiana rushed for 414 yards in a 42-36 win in Bloomington in 2016, while Maryland pushed past the Hoosiers in the second half to win 42-39 in College Park last season. Indiana leads the all-time series 4-2, but that includes two wins from 1934-35; the teams have split their meetings since Maryland joined the Big Ten.
Saturday’s game kicks off at noon ET on the Big Ten Network.
Indiana Hoosiers (4-5, 1-5 Big Ten)
2017 record: 5-7, 2-7
Head coach Tom Allen is in his second full season with the Hoosiers; he took over for Kevin Wilson in the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl. He had previously served as Indiana’s defensive coordinator that season, and came over after holding the same title at South Florida. Allen has worked his way up through the high school and college ranks over the last couple decades, and this is his first college head coaching job.
Players to know
Peyton Ramsey, RS sophomore, QB, 6’2/210, No. 12. After playing in nine games and making four starts last year, Ramsey has started all nine contests this season. He’s completed 227 of 333 passes, which places him second in the Big Ten in completions and percentage. Ramsey has thrown 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and he’s added 241 yards and three scores on the ground. He’s got plenty of weapons—seven different Hoosiers have more than 20 catches and 10 are in double-digits.
Stevie Scott, freshman, RB, 6’2/236, No. 21. The rookie has amassed 791 rushing yards this season after stepping in for incumbent starter Cole Gest, who tore his ACL in the season opener. Scott’s second nationally among true freshmen in rushing yards, and he’s tied with BenJarvus Green-Ellis for the program true freshman record with seven rush touchdowns. He’s averaging 5.0 yards per carry and will present a challenge to Maryland’s defense, which has been gashed on the ground in recent weeks.
Marcelino Ball, RS sophomore, DB, 6’2/222, No. 42. Ball plays the “husky” position that’s basically a strong safety/linebacker hybrid. He leads Indiana with 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and three pass breakups, and he’s third on the defense with 44 total tackles. Ball was a freshman All-American in 2016 but suffered a season-ending injury three weeks into last season; now he’s back to wreaking havoc.
Forcing turnovers. Indiana has 20 takeaways this season, eighth in the country and tops in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have forced a turnover in every contest, and are split with 10 interceptions and 10 recovered fumbles. Maryland hasn’t lost possession often this season, and ball security will have to be a point of emphasis again this weekend.
Offensive explosiveness. The Hoosiers are 124th nationally in offensive IsoPPP, and their passing game ranks 126th in that category (the rushing attack is 83rd). Indiana does have playmakers across the roster, but they haven’t produced many home-run plays. The Terps’ defense is 16th in explosiveness, while they’ll send the nation’s fifth-most explosive offense against Indiana’s defense (No. 84). That’s a clear Maryland advantage in this aspect, which correlates as strongly with winning as any.
Three things to watch
1. Does Maryland move the football? If it can, then this game could be easy. If it can’t, then it’ll be a long, long day. There hasn’t really been an in-between for the Terps since Week 1. Indiana’s defense more closely resembles that of teams like Minnesota than it does Iowa or Michigan State, so there’s reason for optimism beyond just the alternating trend of these games.
2. What does the Terps’ secondary rotation look like? Defensive back was one of Maryland’s deepest positions entering the season, and while it’s still an area of strength, two veteran backups won’t be around for this one. Qwuantrezz Knight announced he was transferring this week, while corner Marcus Lewis has left the program for “personal reasons.” Neither had been much of a factor recently, but true freshmen Fa’Najae Gotay and Ahmad McCullough are the listed backups to Rayshad Lewis at nickel corner now. It’s worth wondering how much we’ll see of them, as both are still under the four-game redshirt threshold.
3. If it’s a close game, how does Maryland respond? The Terps haven’t had a game decided by less than 21 points since the Week 1 win over Texas. Indiana, meanwhile, has lost to Penn State by five and Minnesota by seven in the last two weeks. Both of the last two matchups between these teams were close and high-scoring. If that trend continues, who steps up in the clutch?
Vegas: Indiana -1.5 (O/U 55)
S&P+: Maryland 26.3, Indiana 25.7
Me: Maryland 31, Indiana 27