May 28, 2020

Maryland Football: Terps still looking for first Big Ten victory as they travel to no longer unbeaten Michigan State

Another week and another game where Maryland has failed to put it together. The Terps actually made things fairly interesting against the Wisconsin Badgers by covering the spread and hanging 24 points against the then #1 scoring defense in the country. All of this came after Perry Hills was benched mid-game for the likes of Caleb Rowe because of the solely passing offense Maryland needed to get into.

Things will get no tougher for Maryland this week as they will have to play an angry Michigan State team that just had their undefeated record snapped by a controversial call against Nebraska. The Spartans are still a factor in the College Football Playoffs as a one-loss team, because of their matchup with the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes after playing the Terps. I would say that the Spartans would making a mistake by looking too far ahead, but they could probably get away with it since Maryland has been playing so poorly.

Mike Locksley has said that Perry Hills is still “our guy” at quarterback but does not hesitate to pull the trigger if he needs a better passing option as he did with Rowe against Wisconsin. Based on experience, Rowe is now the only real option besides Hills after Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. If this one gets ugly, which it is almost bound to, expect Locksley to try and get points quicker without the skills of Hills.

Early on in the game, the Terps will try to get their ground attack going. Michigan State’s run defense is not bad at 24th in the country allowing 122.6 yards per game, but it is relatively worse than the fronts Maryland had to face in Michigan, Iowa, and most recently Wisconsin who all have top 10 rush defenses. For the first time this season, Hills finished with negative yardage on the ground, including sack losses, against the Badgers. If the Terps want to have any chance to win the game it will start with his effectiveness to run the football on both designed quarterback keepers and impromptu scrambles.

(Photo by: Mitchell Layton/ Getty Images)

(Photo by: Mitchell Layton/ Getty Images)

From a true running back perspective, it has been Wes Brown and not senior Brandon Ross who has been taking the bulk of the carriers out of the backfield. This might just be Locksley’s personal preference that differed from Randy Edsall earlier in the year, but neither have shown themselves to be significantly better than the other. Brown was listed as the starter in this week’s two-deep depth chart.

Primary return man and corner, Will Likely was actually the Terps best ground option last Saturday as he rushed for 56 yards on just 3 carries including a 43-yard gash on a jet sweep. Now that Locksley has the reins of the team, he is free to utilize his best athlete as he pleases ever since Likely has been pestering the then offensive coordinator to give him a shot.

The Terps defense might not have anything to fear on paper against the Michigan State offense who seem to not be elite in any one specific category, but that works just fine for them as they are good across the board. It starts with running back by committee for the Spartans since last year’s workhorse Jeremy Langford has departed for the NFL. This year, Michigan State has received production from LJ Scott, Madre London, and Gerald Holmes who have rushed for 507, 399, and 309 yards on the ground this season, respectively.

Initial starter London, has been dealing with a leg injury that he suffered over a month ago against Rutgers. He was available last week against Nebraska but did not receive a single carry. Spartans head coach Mike Dantonio said London was “not quite ready”, but will likely be used against the Terps this week. In London’s absence, Holmes has seemingly taken over the backup roll from Scott after rushing for 117 yards on 22 carries while Holmes was quite with just 3 rushes. Whatever the Spartans throw at the Terps, it is probably going to work against a warn down defense.

None of this even takes into account that the Spartans boast one of the best, most experienced quarterbacks in the conference in Connor Cook, the successor to current Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. With the injury to Madre London, Connor Cook has thrown the ball 167 times over the past four games. Usually you might think that any team that is that unbalanced is not very successful offensively, but Cook has actually thrived by averaging 357 yards and earning a TD-INT ratio of 11-to-2.

It certainly helps when you have an elite receiver to throw to. Aaron Burbridge has totaled 37 catches for a whopping 580 yards over the last four games. Will Likely did a decent job containing Wisconsin’s Alex Erickson and is now rewarded with an even bigger threat. Hopefully the Spartans will not find ways to get BUrbridge to matchup up against the Terps other corner Sean Davis, who has been inconsistent to say the least.

Add injury to insult when the Terps are likely going to be without their Lou Groza award winning kicker Brad Craddock who had surgery to repair his dislocated right wrist after failing to make a tackle on the Badgers kickoff return touchdown.

To be frank, this has all the makings to be a blow out. A College Football Playoff contender at home against a team that has fired their head coach and are already eliminated from bowl contention. On the national stage of ESPN2 at noon, Maryland fans might actually be wiser to attend the #6 ranked women’s basketball season opener.

Prediction: Maryland Terrapins 20, Michigan State Spartans 48

About Neil Dalal

Neil Dalal is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Wizards, and Maryland Terrapins. Neil grew up in Silver Spring, MD and attends the University of Maryland. Neil has loved everything related to the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, and Terrapins since he was eight years old. However, he favors the Orioles, as he started watching baseball before the Expos moved to DC. You can follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.

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