Maryland. Our neighbors to the south. They give us crabs and, like, half of Washington, D.C. They also gave us American hero Kyle Beckerman. So, really, they only put one in the win column.
One of the founding schools of the Atlantic Coast Conference (#goacc), the university decided that after 61 years of membership, they and the conference were too poor to continue their partnership and decided to bolt for the Big Ten. In doing so, they missed out on the renewed financial stability brought to the conference by the signing of a Grant of Rights and risked having to pay the conference a $52 million exit fee, a decision still tangled up in litigation as we speak. Hey, no one said Maryland was supposed to replace an institution with the academic pedigree of the University of Chicago.
This school has come to infect the Big Ten. WELL, MARYLAND:
PENN STATE IS THE BIG TEN'S PENICILLIN AND THE NITTANY LIONS WILL ERADICATE YOU IN 2014.
Alright, we won't really erase Testudo off the face of the earth, but we will beat Maryland this season and there are three very distinct reasons why:
- Offensive line play - Senior center Sal Conaboy returns with 22 starts under his belt, but beyond that, experience up front is weak. Both returning tackles have a season's worth of starts, but it was also a season where quarterback C.J. Brown was scrambling out of the pocket due to protection issues. SB Nation stats wizard Bill Connelly also calculated that the Terps ranked 123rd in the nation in 2013 in "Stuff Rate," the amount of times a ball carrier was stopped in the backfield. While Larry Johnson may have moved to the middle of hell on Earth, otherwise known as Ohio, the talent of the front four of Penn State's defense should wreak havoc on the Maryland offense, a welcome situation as UMD returns talent at all the skill positions.
- Secondary - By game eight, I fully expect Herb Hand to work his magic with the Penn State offensive line and with plenty of time to survey the field, Christian Hackenberg should be able to throw at will against the Terps secondary. They were prone to give up big plays last year, partly because veteran, now-graduated corner Dexter McDougle only played four games before a shoulder injury wrecked his season. Jeremiah Johnson returns to team up with William Likely who made a name for himself in McDougle's absence as a freshman last year, but Hackenberg and his variety of targets located all over the field should find openings if the time is provided.
- History - Sure, the teams haven't played since 1993, but history matters, especially in a "rivalry" as lopsided as the one between Maryland and Penn State. In their 37 previous meetings, Penn State has a winning percentage of 95%. In 1961, Maryland quarterback Dick Shiner (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) became the ONE in 35 AND ONE (...and one) when the Nittany Lions suffered their only defeat in the series, a 21-17 loss in College Park. Outside of a tie in 1988, the team from Happy Valley has won every other game in this series. And in the 21 years between matchups between the teams, Penn State has gone into Maryland and beat the home state's school's backside on the recruiting trail from Hagerstown to Salisbury, most notably in between in the Baltimore/DC area, unbelievably great because the DMV is also known as James Franklin's Playground. Yeah, most of these kids playing in November will not have even been alive the last time these two teams took the field, but they'll know the history and they'll know the stakes behind the game.