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Maryland football vs. Temple preview

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The Terps return to College Park with a chance to move to 3-0.

NCAA Football: Villanova at Temple Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football is 2-0 with wins over Texas and Bowling Green. On Saturday, the Terps will take the field in College Park for the first time this season.

It’s been a strong start under interim head coach Matt Canada, as the team knocked off then-No. 23 Texas before racking up 444 rushing yards the following weekend. Redshirt freshman Kasim Hill has been steady and composed at quarterback, the backfield looks like one of the best in the country and several defensive players have impressed in the early going.

Maryland will square off against Temple, which won 27 games in the last three seasons but is off to a dismal start in 2018. The Owls opened with a loss to FCS Villanova before falling to Buffalo last weekend. Both losses have been by one possession, but Temple was at home and a clear betting favorite in each contest.

It’s been a relatively quiet week for Maryland in news related to the fallout from Jordan McNair’s death, although the Board of Regents announced Wednesday it would be briefed on the findings from the Walters, Inc. investigation on Sept. 21. Saturday was the initial target date for the investigation’s conclusion, but at least for the moment, the focus will be on the gridiron.

The field itself will look different, as Maryland painted McNair’s No. 79 behind the west end zone and on both sidelines.

Saturday’s game kicks off at noon ET on the Big Ten Network.

Temple Owls (0-2)

2017 record: 7-6, 4-4 American

Head coach Geoff Collins is in his second year at Temple; the Owls went 7-6 in his first season. Collins replaced Matt Rhule, who led the program to 10-win seasons in 2015 and 2016. Collins has a decorated career as a defensive coordinator, earning Broyles Award nominations at three different schools (FIU in 2010, Mississippi State in 2014 and Florida in 2015).

Players to know

Frank Nutile, grad student, QB, 6’4/220, No. 8. Nutile, whom Collins apparently calls “Frankie Juice,” took over the starting job in Week 8 last year and has been Temple’s quarterback for the first two games this season. He’s been underwhelming, completing 53 percent of his passes and throwing for 401 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s not much of a mobile threat, with more yardage lost from sacks than gained on scrambles this season (-14 yards total).

Ryquell Armstead, senior, RB, 5’11/215, No. 7. The preseason Second Team All-AAC selection followed up a 37-yard outing in Week 1 with 101 yards last week, including a 50-yard burst. Armstead is 10th in school history with 1,852 career rushing yards, highlighted by a 914-yard, 14-touchdown 2016 season.

Rock Ya-Sin, senior, CB, 6’2/190, No. 6. Ya-Sin transferred in from Presbyterian College, which dropped its football program last season. He’s filled up the stat sheet so far, recording 12 total tackles, three pass breakups, an interception and a tackle for loss.

Strength

Blocking kicks. Temple’s three blocked kicks (one extra point, one field goal, one punt) lead the nation. Special teams coordinator Ed Foley has held the position since 2014, and the Owls actually lead the country in blocked kicks (21) since then.

Weakness

Third-down defense. Teams that start 0-2 usually have a lot of unsolved problems, but one constant in Temple’s two games has been its inability to force opposing offenses off the field. Villanova went 8-of-16 on third down and Buffalo went 9-of-17; that 51.5 percent conversion rate is 125th out of 130 FBS teams.

Three things to watch

1. How much of a factor does the weather play? Hurricane Florence has caused several programs farther south along the East Coast to cancel or reschedule this weekend’s matchups, but forecasts haven’t warranted the same in College Park. There’s still rain in the forecast, though, which would force Maryland to adapt to the elements for the third time in as many games.

2. How does Maryland’s offense mix passes and runs? After a more balanced opening game against Texas, the Terps were all about the run at Bowling Green. It worked, as Maryland ran it 53 times for 444 yards on the ground compared to just 16 passes for 121 yards. Weather probably plays a role in the answer to this question, but it’ll be interesting to see where the distribution comes in.

3. Can the Terps limit penalties? This was Maryland’s bugaboo last weekend, particularly in the first half, when nine flags cost the Terps 79 yards. These penalties both derailed Maryland drives and prolonged Bowling Green possessions. When the flags stopped flying, the Terps turned it on, scoring touchdowns on five straight drives in the second half.

Predictions

Vegas: Maryland -17 (O/U 52.5)

S&P+: Maryland 38, Temple 19

Me: Maryland 37, Temple 17