Preview: Maryland 2015

Submitted by Brian on October 2nd, 2015 at 1:07 PM

Essentialsfear_the_turtle[1]

WHAT Michigan at Maryland
WHERE Byrd Stadium
College Park, MD
WHEN Noon Eastern
October 3rd, 2015
THE LINE Michigan –15.5
TELEVISION BTN
TICKETS From $36
PARKING suggest you bring a kayak
WEATHER mid 50s, 25% chance of rain, 20 MPH wind

Ceilingturtle is watching you… well, you know.

Overview

Maryland is bad. They were outgained about 2-to-1 in a 21-point loss to Bowling Green in which they gave up almost 700 yards of offense. They were just blown out by West Virginia 45-6 in another game they just about got doubled up in. Their wins are over an FCS team most notable for once having John Beilein as its basketball coach and South Florida.

They had a team meeting this week that Randy Edsall had no idea about, and then Edsall misinterpreted Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump is not exactly Zizek, whoever Zizek is. Ask MGoWife. I think he was a Hungarian waffle impresario or something.

Hurricane though?

The current forecast has winds around 20 MPH and a 25% chance of rain. Meteorologist dudes say that there will be gusts:

The main weather factor to affect Michigan's game will be strong, gusty winds. The wind gusts are still expected to be over 30 mph out of the northeast. There even could be a gust near 40 mph.

But the rain should be intermittent and not ridiculous:

-456de3efe87ec954[1]

Deep passing will be erratic and special teams will be impacted by the wind, but this shouldn't be a complete disaster.

Run Offense vs Maryland

bs-sp-terps-football-1023-20141022[1]

Yannick Ngakoue is back. Ain't nobody else.

This is going to be a theme for this year and all subsequent ones: dunno, but probably destruction. The Terrapins have not played anything like Harbaugh's offense. They have not done well against the spread attacks they've faced so far. That's not a huge surprise. They lost six of seven starters from their front seven and have been gashed in every game except Richmond. I'm not taking out Maryland's many sacks because you get the idea anyway:

  • vs Bowling Green: 50 carries, 201 yards
  • vs USF: 50 carries, 240 yards
  • vs WVU: 59 carries, 304 yards

When Ace settled in for a review of that West Virginia game he came back with many screenshots of lanes a battleship could scoot through:

West Virginia got whatever they wanted because they controlled the line of scrimmage. Maryland's defensive tackles, especially, couldn't prevent WVU from opening huge creases up the gut. This went for a big gain because a DT got pancaked so quickly that Kyle Bosch—yes, that Kyle Bosch—could get out to the MIKE and nobody else was home:

Safeties are making a ton of tackles for the Terps. Their linebackers are constantly eating blocks; nobody on the front seven is able to make much impact against single blocking. The good news for Maryland, such that it is, is that the Terps have been playing a 4-3 much of the year. They won't have to change their personnel much in an attempt to match up.

That defense sounds like something Michigan should tear apart. Harbaugh's maniacs have spent big chunks of the past couple games with one wide receiver on the field and that's been fine. Michigan has ripped off few big runs; the constant pounding has seen their rush offense approach 5 YPC despite a ton of missed cuts and a second-half tendency to put the horses back in the barn after sprinting to a four-score lead. Blocking has been consistent but not overwhelming; this looks like a defense against whom consistent will be overwhelming.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh's weird-ass offense is well suited to deal with any weather issues that may arise. Many weather games devolve into hopeless slogs because opposing defenses get cocky and bring everyone to the line of scrimmage. That is already happening to Michigan's offense and they're still banging out five yards a carry. All rain does is make the prospect of tackling De'Veon Smith even more daunting.

KEY MATCHUP: RUNNING BACKS versus MICHIGAN RUNNING LANES HAVING SOME SORT OF WEIRD STEALTH MODE

[Hit THE JUMP for YOU GAVE UP WHAT TO WHO?]

Pass Offense vs Maryland

will-likely[1]

do not punt to will likely

Aside from the game against South Florida this has been a disaster. FCS Richmond acquired 7.3 YPA; Bowling Green bombed Maryland into the stone age (33/56 for 491 yards, 6(!) TDs, and an INT); West Virginia hit 8 YPA with 4 TDs against another interception. Only a Mangum-vs-Michigan type performance against South Florida is keeping the Maryland pass defense from rankings in the 120s. As it is they're 102nd in pass efficiency D and 82nd in YPA allowed. That ain't good.

There is a significant silver lining: sacks. Maryland's second in the country. Star defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has already racked up 5.5, and it looks like Maryland guys are mostly getting home themselves—they have 15 of the 17 the Terps have acquired.

When not sacking the opponent Maryland tries to cover with a ton of zone. They leave those linebackers on the field most of the day and attempt to bend but not break; with 5'7" Will Likely and various other gentlemen who aren't as good as Likely defending deep balls that is an iffy proposition. Likely's not the worst, but neither is he as good as everyone thought last year when he was racking up interceptions. West Virginian continually tested him deep and profited:

Maryland mostly ran zone and they were not good at it. The linebackers left plenty of space underneath and the back four had far too much ground to cover. WVU targeted Will Likely's zone repeatedly because it's tough for a 5'7" guy to cover a lot of ground and make a play on the ball. This was a common sight:

Things didn't go better when Maryland played man coverage. The result of Likely playing press coverage and allowing a free release to the outside graces the top of this post.

Running little hitches and the like with Darboh or whoever else is out there is not advised, but put some of those jump balls up and see what happens—Likely is not a guy who does well on an island without help over the top. Maryland has a choice between that or keeping safeties back. This paragraph assumes the weather is permitting; it may not be.

KEY MATCHUP: JAKE RUDOCK partially versus SAD GHOST JAKE RUDOCK but also and mostly THE TURNOVERS THAT PLAGUED HIM IN THE FIRST FEW GAMES. Keep a clean sheet here and it's hard for Maryland to have a path to victory.

Run Defense vs Maryland

7640452[1]

Ross has been productive and is not Will Likely. Punt to him.

Maryland's actually done pretty well here, running for six yards a carry against BGSU and WVU. Neither team is good at run defense but Maryland outperformed both their averages significantly. They did not do so hot against USF, but it wasn't a disaster at 3.3 YPC. Before the Maryland game, WVU was crushing the run. If there is a thing Maryland does well, it is this.

Maryland has a three-headed tailback. The troika is led by Brandon Ross, who's averaging six yards an attempt on about 15 carries a game. He had a terrific weaving run for 55 yards towards the end of the WVU blowout. That ended in a fumble through the endzone, which brought to mind fumbling issues that saw Ross sent to the bench last year. Still, he's been productive. Ross is a big play guy who won't grind out a ton of YAC; he's probably going to go for not very much on a bunch of plays and then pop out for a chunk.

Wes Brown and Ty Johnson split the half of the carries Ross doesn't get. Brown is the heaviest, most physical back Maryland has and will probably get short yardage carries; Johnson is a smallish guy who hasn't ripped off a big one yet.

Maryland's line lost an important piece when their starting left guard was knocked out for the season; in his stead redshirt freshman Damien Prince has entered the lineup. Prince was a big time recruit but one who was regarded as pretty raw. He does have the size to stand up to Henry and Wormley.

As far as Michigan goes, they spent the entire game against BYU in a dime and mostly played two deep behind it. Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst obliterated the BYU center, and that was that. A repeat is probably not in store if only because linebackers will be needed to do more than make two assisted tackles, but if you're asking me if Maryland is the team that solves the Michigan run defense I am saying no. They will get some chunks as Michigan's linebackers mess up; it's going to be a grim slate-gray day in more ways than one for Maryland.

KEY MATCHUP: MICHIGAN LINEBACKERS NOT NAMED DESMOND MORGAN versus FUNNELLING THE DANG BALL BACK TO DESMOND MORGAN

Pass Defense vs Maryland

Caleb Rowe

the WHAT ARE THOOOOOSE of throwing motions

Even if the weather is clear Maryland would like to avoid this as much as possible. Terrapin quarterbacks have already thrown twelve interceptions this season. Caleb Rowe, the announced starter tomorrow, already has a spectacular nine on just 64 attempts. Rowe was just 5 of 20 for 67 yards against West Virginia before getting pulled for Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman; junior Perry Hills started the year before getting yanked for Rowe. Only one of Rowe's interceptions in the last game was remotely acceptable, a late fourth-down heave when nobody was open. The rest:

Rowe's first interception was his worst, throwing a long ball directly to a corner who was bailing into a deep zone the entire play. On his second he overthrew to a safety while trying to fit the ball between zones to a receiver who wasn't looking for the ball. His third was a needlessly risky, cross-field duck in the face of pressure.

So… yeah. When you have two quarterbacks you don't have any; when you have three, each of whom seems progressively more likely to hit himself in the face on a five-yard out, you have… negative quarterbacks? Imaginary quarterbacks? Yes. If you square Caleb Rowe you get –1.

Both Hill and Rowe are hovering around six yards an attempt with astronomical interception rates despite the flimsy schedule so far. Maryland's at least avoided sacks. So they've got that going for them.

One advantage they might have is a receiver corps that matches up better with Michigan's cornerbacks than BYU's did. BYU had big loping downfield types; Michigan stuck a couple of big ol' corners on 'em. The Maryland receiving corps tends towards the small and shift, all the better to detach from Channing Stribling, Jeremy Clark, and (yes, so far) Jabrill Peppers. Levern Jacobs is the main target; he gets a lot of screens.

The problem with short stuff that disconnects from Michigan's corners is that it's either little hitches that get you downfield five yards at a time and eventually sputter out into a punt or it goes across the middle, exactly where an interception-prone team would like to avoid. Meanwhile, screens:

This looks not good for Maryland. Michigan shouldn't expect four interceptions; Maryland should not expect… yards. And things like yards. Michigan's pass defense is coming off a series of dominating performances against not-great quarterbacks. Perhaps there are gentlemen out there who will solve the nickel and dime packages Michigan has thrown out this year. Maryland is not the team to do it.

Oh and Michigan's pass rush has been very good and I bet Rowe is eating a lot of pressure.

KEY MATCHUP:  CALEB ROWE versus YOU KNOW IF YOU PUT THE BALL IN THAT DEFENDER'S CHEST YOU CAN GO TO THE SIDELINE FOR MOST OF A QUARTER I mean for real THEY'VE GOT GATORADE AND FAR FEWER MURDER-GOATS.

Special Teams

600x399[1]

don't punt to will likely

Don't punt to Will Likely. If you do you should do that thing where the guy has to fair catch the ball because Channing Stribling is a millimeter away from his face mask. That'll do as well.

(Brad Craddock is the returning Groza winner and also the Terp punter; he is very good and also (surprise) Australian.)

Michigan's half of this is don't let Will Likely field a ball that he can return and then whatever you want, man. Wind is going to be a major factor in this department both on field goals, which you can forget if they're longer than about 35 yards, and punts. Punts against the wind should be easier to force fair-catches on, and if O'Neill wants to rifle one over Likely's head with the wind that's okay by me.

KEY MATCHUP: YOU PUT THE BALL ON SUCH A TRAJECTORY THAT WILL LIKELY HAS TO FAIR CATCH

Intangibles

Kitten-Bowl-Boomer-Esiason-Commissioner[1]

this could also be will likely in which case you should not punt to him

Cheap Thrills

Worry if...

  • The weather changes and it is a monsoon coinflip.
  • Brown is popping through the line with a bunch of space.
  • Will Likely fields a returnable punt.

Cackle with knowing glee if...

  • Maryland's in a passing down.
  • Michigan's blowing Maryland's line open and the running backs are going in the holes.
  • Punting to Will? Not Likely if there ain't no punts.

Fear/Paranoia Level: 2 (Baseline 5; –1 for Three Score Loss To A MAC Team, –1 for Recent West Virginia Game, –1 for Oh Your Run Defense Is Made Out Of Tissue Paper And Hope No That'll Be Fine, –1 for Interception Fiesta, –1 for Head Coach Is Not Fully Aware Of Meetings Or Forrest Gump, +1 for Weather Equalizer, +1 for Still Not Out Of The Hoke Woods Yet)

Desperate need to win level: 9 (Baseline 5; +1 for Well, Now There Are Stakes Bigger Than The Citrus Bowl, +1 for Loss Would Give Back The Good Feelings About Progress, +1 for Randy Edsall Celebrated Like He'd Won The Super Bowl At The End Of Last Year's Game, +1 for It's Much Easier For Me To Advocate For Maryland And Rutgers Getting Ejected From The Big Ten If Michigan Actually Beats Them.)

Loss will cause me to... I can see the ocean from here /jumps

Win will cause me to... I can see the playoff from here /jumps!

The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:

Michigan wins.

Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:

  • Two different Michigan backs crack 100 yards rushing.
  • Michigan wins the turnover battle.
  • Randy Edsall is not invited to halftime.
  • Michigan, 29-0

Comments

ND Sux

October 2nd, 2015 at 1:41 PM ^

should be changed.  Instead of giving the team two points, take the two points AWAY from the team pinned in the end zone.  It would then be possible to predict scores like M 29, Terps -2, which, you know, seems reasonable.   

Rupertus

October 2nd, 2015 at 2:19 PM ^

Not impossible. There is still such a thing as a one-point safety. It's still highly, highly improbable. You'd have to somehow chase down the ballcarrier on an extra point attempt and get him to run all the way to his end zone. I'm not sure if there is a defensive one-point safety in the recorded annals of football.

ZooWolverine

October 2nd, 2015 at 3:50 PM ^

No, that's an offensive 1-point safety. Extraordinarly rare already, but the offense doesn't count since they just scored a touchdown, and thus couldn't end up with exactly one point on the scoreboard. It would have to be the defensive/blocking team that somehow got a safety for it to be possible to just have one point.

Perhaps returning a blocked kick nearly almost to the endzone for 2 points, but fumbling, and having the offensive team recover and take it into the endzone and get tackled. Would be fun to see.