Maryland football will face another tough test at home as the Indiana Hoosiers (4-2, 1-2) come to College Park on Saturday.
Indiana is a team that has beaten who it was supposed to and lost the games it was supposed to lose. The Hoosiers are fresh off of a 35-0 win over Rutgers, but have also lost their only road trip of the season so far, 40-31 against Michigan State.
Here’s a closer look at what to expect from Indiana against Maryland.
A pass-first offense
Indiana runs a multiple offense, but one that attempts to remain balanced under new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer.
“[Balance] just means that we need to have the ability to run the ball when people are forcing us to do that, and pass that ball when they’re loading the box.”
But passing has taken the precedence as Indiana averages 302.8 yards per game in the air and just 135.3 yards per game on the ground.
Let's check in on Whop.— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) October 12, 2019
Yep, the @IndianaFootball WR's still making big plays. pic.twitter.com/ITFuAUlKWE
Left-handed quarterback Michael Penix Jr. does a good job of getting the ball to various playmakers out in space. In the first quarter against Rutgers, he lined up in the shotgun and hit leading receiver Whop Philyor on a short out route that was then turned up field of a big gain.
A near-identical play was used less than five minutes later as part of a quick start for the Hoosiers, as Penix hit wide receiver Nick Westbrook on the same out pattern, which was turned into a tough touchdown.
Two @IndianaFootball truths:— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) October 12, 2019
1. @themikepenix is perfect in this offense.
2. Nick Westbrook would not be denied the end zone here. pic.twitter.com/ZGZfbn0JfX
Indiana’s receivers do a great job of finding soft spots in zone coverage, making catches and then creating plays when chances presents themselves. Penix is a young dual-threat talent that earned the starting job over former starter Peyton Ramsey, but he still has room to grow and learn.
In the meantime, however, Penix is able to rely on his receivers making plays to help bail him out of tough situations or bad plays.
Holy Hale!— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 28, 2019
Donavan Hale hauls it in with one hand, and @IndianaFootball leads Michigan State.#BTNStandout x @AutoOwnersIns pic.twitter.com/lrjaenrPZA
Here, against Michigan State, Indiana was able to remain in the game until the end thanks to help from size advantages from its skill position players. Wide receiver Donavan Hale measures in at 6’4, 218 pounds, and is able to body his man and win the ball in the air.
Along with big, physical wide receivers, Indiana utilizes 6’4, 255 pound tight end Peyton Hendershot in the passing game to create mismatches. He has tallied 21 catches for 256 yards and four touchdowns through six games in 2019.
One tough defense to crack
Indiana runs a 4-3 defense under head coach Tom Allen and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack.
The Hoosiers have done a tremendous job of being balanced on the defensive end, allowing 161.8 yards per game passing and 120.8 yards per game rushing. Indiana has given up 27 points in games it has won, including two shutouts in four wins.
One of the two teams to figure out how to beat Indiana was none other than Ohio State. One way the Buckeyes were able to coast past the Hoosiers was with the play-action pass. Quarterback Justin Fields sold a fake handoff to Master Teague III just enough to get the Indiana safety to bite and leave the corner beat in one-on-one coverage deep.
As the passing game gets going, things then open up for a rushing attack, which is where Maryland can truly beat up on defenses. Here, J.K. Dobbins is able to fight his way off of one tackler at the line of scrimmage and use his speed to break free.
The Terrapins certainly have the athletes in the backfield to make a difference, but it will rely on the offensive line being able to put up a fight.
The bottom line
Indiana is a team Maryland should be competitive with in the Big Ten East division. Both teams are good enough talent-wise to take down inferior opponents, but will suffer some massive defeats to the top-ranked foes.
The Terrapins are hit with the injury bug and are missing players at key positions, but this game is one that will be won of lost at the line of scrimmage. If Jon Hoke’s defense is able to create pressure, the man-to-man schemes they use should give them the chance to make plays against receivers in space.
On offense, it is all about getting out and rolling early. Maryland will need to show both the pass and the run early, and then transition into more deceptive plays to break free and potentially run away with it.
Due to injuries and other issues keeping Maryland under 100 percent, it makes sense for Indiana to be favored by five and a half points. It will take a near-perfect outing for Maryland to piece together a win on Saturday.