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Big plays are sustaining Maryland’s offense, plus a bunch of other thoughts at the Terps’ bye week

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Some thoughts as we breeze through Maryland’s week off from football games.

maryland football-2018-schedule-michigan-ohio state-temple-minnesota Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the midst of Maryland’s bye week. That means affording ourselves some time off from football games to dig into the team’s off-field issues, but it also means we have some time to step back and take a macro view of the season. Some thoughts:

Maryland’s explosiveness is off the charts. Efficiency, less so.

Maryland’s offense ranks sixth in isoPPP, Bill Connelly’s measure of explosiveness. The Terps’ D ranks 42nd in explosive plays rate allowed, per that same stat. Marginal explosiveness, Bill C.’s stat that dives a little deeper into big-play creation by adjusting for down, distance, and yard line, loves the Terrapins. They rank fourth in rushing marginal explosiveness and their defense ranks 28th in rushing marginal explosiveness allowed. Add in a No. 11 ranking in passing marginal explosiveness and you’re really cooking, though a No. 82 in passing marginal explosiveness allowed by the defense brings everything back down to earth a bit.

Marginal efficiency, Bill C.’s stat that adjusts efficiency metrics for down, distance, and yard line, is significantly less complimentary of Maryland. The Terps’ run game ranks 54th in that stat, with a defense that comes in at No. 69 in rushing marginal efficiency allowed. Passing marginal efficiency is at No. 129, while passing marginal efficiency allowed is at No. 51.

The Temple game played with all those offensive stats, but the Michigan game most likely will too. Still, we’ll be keeping track of how these stats change throughout the season.

Maryland’s special teams have been very good.

S&P+ ranks Maryland’s offense at No. 76, defense at No. 54 and special teams at No. 10.

Last year, Maryland’s special teams S&P+ ranked DEAD LAST IN FBS, so this is quite the improvement. We figured DJ Durkin, a former special teams coordinator under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, would find a way to get that unit going. It took a while, and while it’s unclear how much impact the head coach had, special teams are succeeding at Maryland.

You can look into the specifics here at Bill Connelly’s stat profile, and we’ll examine this in greater depth later.

So Temple might actually be fine. We’ll find out more this weekend.

Temple’s domination of Maryland was (and still is) concerning, but that game might have been the start of Temple remembering how to play football. The Owls are up to 66th in S&P+, just five places behind the Terps, after beating Tulsa last week. Keep an eye on how they do against Boston College this Saturday.

Maryland has two (supposedly) easy wins left on the schedule.

Rutgers and Illinois remain on Maryland’s schedule, and neither figures to provide much of a fight when the Terps host each at Maryland Stadium. While it normally wouldn’t be smart or just for a Maryland blog to throw much shade at Rutgers, such behavior is warranted this season. The Scarlet Knights are terrible even by their own remarkably low standards. Ohio State steamrolled ‘em, but Kansas and Buffalo also kicked them into the dirt, and the numbers from those games do Rutgers no favors.

Illinois is slightly better, and even came back to take a brief third-quarter lead against Penn State last week in a weird Friday night game, but still lost that one 63-24. Whoops!

S&P+ ranks Rutgers 118th, worst out of any Power 5 team, while Illinois sits up at 102, good for fourth-worst in the power conferences. One more win, and Maryland has bowl eligibility. Indiana and Iowa, in that order, seem like the next-best candidates for a Maryland win.

The Terps’ next test is just enormous.

Maryland travels to Michigan for Week 6, and ... wooof. The Wolverines are No. 14 in the AP Poll, but they’re No. 6 in S&P+. They’re rolling, and might finally have an offense to support a devastating defense. After a slow start against Notre Dame in Week 1, Michigan has ethered three subpar-to-bad teams: Western Michigan by a 49-3 margin and SMU by a score of 45-20 before a 56-10 smackdown of Nebraska.

The end of the season is looking extra terrifying.

I mean, I guess this isn’t exactly a shock. We knew before the season that Ohio State and Penn State were going to be good. But they’re each looking like just about the best versions of themselves, and that’s a terrifying thought for Maryland fans.

OSU ranks second in S&P+. PSU ranks sixth. Maryland’s better than its No. 114 ranking last year, but at 61, still sits a far distance away from the Big Ten East’s elite. Dwayne Haskins leading an outrageous Ohio State offense is something Maryland fans will have to get used to, while Penn State’s defense is the only thing slipping even slightly from last season.

You should watch them play each other on Saturday night, though. Could be one of the best games you’ll see this season.

What takeaways do you have at the bye week?