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Maryland’s tough schedule continues with two talented programs and a powerhouse

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A deep dive into Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This week at Testudo Times, we’re taking an in-depth look at Maryland’s schedule as the college football season approaches. It’s another tough slate, checking in as the 17th-toughest in the country, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

The Terps start their season at home against Howard and Syracuse, before visiting Temple. Then Maryland will begin Big Ten play against Penn State, Rutgers and Purdue. Maryland’s slate of Big Ten opponents continues as the Terps host Indiana, visit Minnesota and come back home to welcome Michigan. Here is what you can expect from these Maryland opponents, including a few of our predictions.

Oct 19: Indiana

Indiana has gotten the better of Maryland recently. The Hoosiers have won three of the last four matchups and average 40.5 points per contest, while the Terps average 34.5. If history is any indicator, this year’s contest between the two Big Ten East teams should be no different.

Similar to Maryland, Indiana is conducting its own quarterback competition between former starter Peyton Ramsey and redshirt freshmen Michael Penix and Jack Tuttle. While Ramsey started all 12 games for the Hoosiers last season and threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland, Penix started to make a case for the starting job before tearing his ACL in Indiana’s third game against Penn State.

Along with a few options at the quarterback position, the Hoosiers have an abundance of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore running back Stevie Scott, who rushed for 1,137 yards and 10 touchdowns, returns alongside senior receivers Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale, who each caught 42 passes last season for 590 and 508 yards, respectively.

On defense, the Hoosiers return three starters in the secondary. Junior cornerback Marcelino Ball was the third-leading tackler on the team with 59 total tackles; senior cornerback Andre Brown Jr. has played in a total of 32 games in his career; and junior cornerback Raheem Layne was the fourth-leading tackler on the Hoosiers in 2018 with 39 tackles. The youngest member of the secondary is Bryant Fitzgerald, a redshirt sophomore free safety who led the team with three interceptions, two forced fumbles and six overall takeaways.

Indiana hasn’t had a winning record since 2007, but the Hoosiers always seem to give the Terps a well-fought contest.

FPI win probability: 41.1%

Lila: Maryland and Indiana have gone back and forth since the Terps joined the conference. The Hoosiers took victories in 2015, 2016 and 2018, while the Terps have found wins in 2014 and 2017. Given that history, my logic says it’s Maryland’s turn to take this matchup.

Cody: With Maryland’s talented veterans in the secondary, I’m excited to see how they matchup against Westbrook and Hale. I think the Terps have more talent on their roster, and they get the job done in a high scoring game against the Hoosiers.

Sean: Maryland and Indiana have been extremely similar in recent years, as the Terps have a 15-22 record over the last three seasons while the Hoosiers have a 16-21 mark. In that time, the sides have alternated victories, with the latter defending its home field in Bloomington in 2018. With this game being played in College Park this time around, the home team will emerge victorious.

Thomas: This game seems to go back and forth, with the home team winning the last three matchups. I think that streak continues in College Park this season, with Maryland taking advantage of Indiana’s defense for a victory.

Poll

Who takes this matchup?

This poll is closed

  • 91%
    Maryland
    (319 votes)
  • 8%
    Indiana
    (31 votes)
350 votes total Vote Now

Oct 26: at Minnesota

Minnesota is entering its third year under head coach P.J. Fleck. After a 5-7 start in his first season, he was able to get the Gophers bowl-eligible in 2018, where they eventually took down Georgia Tech in a 34-10 Quick Lane Bowl victory.

The Gophers look to carry that momentum over into the 2019 season as they return a large portion of their team. Last season, Minnesota carried 112 players on the roster and more than half of them were freshmen (the highest rookie total in the country). After an additional step in the right direction last year, expectations are only rising for Fleck and the Gophers.

When it comes to Minnesota’s quarterbacks, Zack Annexstad was expected to retain the position after starting the first seven games of the season as a true freshman walk-on before missing the rest of the season due to injury. During that time, he completed 97 passes for 1,277 yards and nine touchdowns. However, Annexstad has been sidelined indefinitely after suffering a foot injury during fall camp. The rising sophomore underwent surgery and was previously seen around practice sporting a boot and riding a scooter.

For the time being, the baton now falls to redshirt sophomore Tanner Morgan, who took over after Annexstad went down and helped Minnesota win three of its final five games of the season. He appeared in nine games in 2018, completing 89 throws for 1,401 yards and nine touchdowns. Although most view Annexstad as the better quarterback, the numbers convey that the Gophers won’t miss much production from that position.

On the ground, Minnesota returns redshirt seniors Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, who have combined for a career-total 4,841 yards. Both players went down with injuries last season but are returning for their final year of eligibility.

One of the most pro-ready players for the Gophers, wide receiver Tyler Johnson, elected to forgo the NFL after his junior season and return to the team. Last year, the All-Big Ten wideout caught 78 passes for 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns. He should be another tough test for Maryland’s secondary.

Minnesota’s defense returns a good portion of its starters, not including two of its leading tacklers. Senior linebacker Carter Coughlin returns to the Gophers, though, and will look to build on his 48 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and a team-leading four forced fumbles. He was named All-Big Ten second team by the coaches and media.

FPI win probability: 15.9%

Lila: Maryland obliterated Minnesota last season, taking a 42-13 victory. But I don’t think the contest will be as lopsided this season, as the Golden Gophers finished last year on a 4-1 run and return a lot of talent in 2019. I see a close game where Minnesota ultimately wins at home.

Cody: The Gophers are really talented this season, even if Annexstad does not play. I really like P.J. Fleck and what he did at Western Michigan, and I think he has something special brewing in Minneapolis. Minnesota takes care of the Terps at home.

Sean: While P.J. Fleck took the Western Michigan program to great heights in his four-year stint in Kalamazoo, he hasn’t been able to bring that same success to Minnesota just yet. With a 12-13 record over the last two seasons, it’s time for the Golden Gophers to make a jump. I think the program is much-improved last season, and the team will defend home field against the Terps in this one.

Thomas: Maryland got the better of Minnesota each of the last two years, but Minnesota seems poised to make a real leap in P.J. Fleck’s third season. The Golden Gophers have some impressive pieces on both sides of the ball, and I think it’ll be just enough to take this one at home.

Poll

Who wins in Gopher territory?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Maryland
    (224 votes)
  • 37%
    Minnesota
    (137 votes)
361 votes total Vote Now

Nov 2: Michigan (homecoming)

With Urban Meyer vacating the Big Ten East, a lot of expectations have turned to Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, who are the preseason favorite in the conference. Harbaugh has coached at Michigan for four years and has perhaps his best shot to get the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff with a new offense, a veteran quarterback and playmakers all over the field.

Shea Patterson is the first name that arises when looking at Michigan’s offense. The Ole Miss transfer is coming off his first season with the Wolverines, completing 210 passes for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns. After forgoing the NFL draft after his junior year, Patterson elected to return to Michigan and joins forces with new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, who has a history with Maryland and a more recent history with Maryland head coach Mike Locksley.

Included in Gattis’ new system will be junior wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones, who led the team with 47 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns last year. The All-Big Ten selection is expected to be one of the most electrifying players to return in 2019, but a lingering groin injury in the spring raised questions about whether he would miss games during the season. After missing a significant amount of time, though, People-Jones is healthy and learning the offense, according to Gattis.

Michigan’s offensive line returns four key guys — Jon Runyan Jr., Michael Onwenu, Cesar Ruiz and Ben Bredeson — and is expected to be one of the best in the country. All four were added to the Outland Trophy Watch List, which is given to the nation’s best interior lineman.

On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines will be adapting to a new arsenal of personnel that doesn’t include Devin Bush, Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich, all of whom were lost to the NFL draft. Michigan has a few playmakers returning, though, including seniors Lavert Hill and Khaleke Hudson. Hill, a defensive back, has appeared in 34 games and totaled 27 tackles, while Hudson, a linebacker, has played in 38 games and accumulated 66 tackles and 10 sacks.

FPI win probability: 8.4%

Lila: Michigan is the start of a super rough slate for Maryland, and I think this is really where the season starts to take a turn. The Wolverines are loaded with talent and boast a veteran coach, not to mention they’ve beaten the Terps in every game since 2015. I see Maryland falling in a homecoming heartbreaker here.

Cody: I’m taking the Terps in an upset. Fresh-looking jerseys and a large crowd will give Maryland a little extra juice to pull past the Wolverines. Maryland was not able to pull off the victory against No. 9 Ohio State last year. This time, the Terps get over the hump and beat Michigan by a touchdown.

Sean: While I’d love to give Maryland the nod in what would be a huge upset, I just don’t see it happening. Over the last four seasons, Michigan is 4-0, winning by a combined score of 164-34 (41-8.5 average score). I think the Terps can keep the score more respectable than in years past, but they ultimately lose in a game the Wolverines win rather handily.

Thomas: The Wolverines look like a complete team on paper, and they seem to have peaked in late October these last few years. Michigan should control this game on both sides of the ball and come out of Maryland Stadium with a win.

Poll

Who comes out victorious?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Maryland
    (118 votes)
  • 66%
    Michigan
    (238 votes)
356 votes total Vote Now

On the record

Lila: 6-3, 3-3 Big Ten

Cody: 6-3, 4-2 (with wins over Penn State and Michigan!)

Sean: 4-5, 3-3

Thomas: 5-4, 3-3