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Maryland football vs. Bowling Green preview

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The Terps seek revenge against the Falcons on the road.

NCAA Football: Texas at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In case you somehow missed it, Maryland football beat Texas again over the weekend to start the 2018 season 1-0. It was so much more than just a football win, but there were a lot of things to be excited about.

Now it’s time for a new challenge, as the Terps visit Bowling Green on Saturday. It’s the second leg of a three-game series that started in disastrous fashion for Maryland. The Falcons romped Maryland 48-27 in College Park three years ago, and while teams undergo wholesale changes in three years, there are still players on both teams from that matchup.

Bowling Green started its 2018 season with a 58-24 loss at Oregon, who was No. 24 and has moved up to No. 23. On paper, the Falcons should be the worst team Maryland plays this season. But the Terps won’t take them lightly.

“I know our older players played Bowling Green a couple years ago. I’ve played Bowling Green,” head coach Matt Canada said Tuesday. Our older players are doing a good job of letting them know it’s a pretty good football team we’re playing. Every game is the game. And every game is the biggest game of the year and that’s how we’re approaching it.”

Saturday’s contest kicks off at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+, which costs money but offers a free trial.

Bowling Green Falcons (0-1)

2017 record: 2-10 (2-6 MAC)

Head coach Mike Jinks took over for Dino Babers when the latter took the Syracuse job following a 10-4 season in 2015. Jinks came from Texas Tech, where he was an assistant head coach and running backs coach. He’s just 6-19 in two-plus seasons at Bowling Green, and fans are hoping for signs of a turnaround sooner rather than later.

Players to know

Jarret Doege, sophomore, QB, 6’3/191, No. 2. After unseating incumbent James Morgan at quarterback last season, Doege is now the Falcons’ quarterback of the present and future. He completed nearly 64 percent of his passes last season with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, and went 22-of-38 with 253 yards, three scores and two picks against Oregon. He’s not much of a runner, but Doege still brings plenty to the table.

Andrew Clair, sophomore, RB, 5’10/192, No. 1. Clair also impressed as a true freshman in 2017, racking up 725 rushing yards on 6.8 yards per carry. Against Oregon, he had 113 yards rushing and 15 receiving and caught a touchdown. The Falcons have other backs to watch for, but Clair is the ace.

Clint Stephens, RS senior, DB, 5’11/182, No. 2. One of the few remaining players from the 2015 Falcons, Stephens intercepted Caleb Rowe in the fourth quarter of Bowling Green’s win last September. He went on to start all 14 games that season, but missed 2016 with an injury before making seven starts last year. It seems he’s finally back to full health, recording five tackles and three passes defended last week.

Strength

Offense. Led by Doege and Clair, Bowling Green accumulated over 400 yards of offense against Oregon. The Falcons were on the field for 90 plays to the Ducks’ 71 (Maryland ran 86 plays against Texas). Scoring has long been the strength of this team, and that appears to be no different this season.

Weakness

Defense. Last season, the Falcons defense allowed 39 points a game. S&P+ had it ranked 114th against the pass and 130th against the run (there are 130 FBS teams). This side of the ball had several defections in the offseason, and while Bowling Green opened against a strong offensive team in Oregon, 58 points is 58 points.

Three things to watch

1. Do Maryland’s running backs hit their stride? The Terps totaled 140 rushing yards against Texas, which sounds a lot better than it is. Maryland averaged just over three yards per carry on over 40 attempts, and leading rusher Tayon Fleet-Davis had just 31 yards. Let’s just say Bowling Green’s run defense isn’t in the same hemisphere as Texas’, and that Ty Johnson and Maryland’s other backs are eager to break out.

2. What does Maryland get from its pass rush? Byron Cowart joining a healthy Jesse Aniebonam gave plenty of fans reason for optimism after a dismal season rushing the passer. The results are inconclusive so far, as both defensive ends applied pressure but couldn’t get to the nimble Sam Ehlinger. Against smaller linemen, the story could be different.

3. Can Jeshaun Jones keep it going? The true freshman wideout quickly became a star against Texas, recording a rushing, receiving and passing touchdown in his first three career touches. He had one other touch, an eight-yard catch. So ... now what? I’m not sure, he’s not sure, and we’ll all just have to find out Saturday night.

Predictions

Vegas: Maryland -16.5 (O/U 65.5)

S&P+: Maryland 45, Bowling Green 29

Me: Maryland 45, Bowling Green 31