The University of Maryland, College Park
Location: College Park, MD
Home Stadium: Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium (formerly known as Chevy Chase Bank Field (!) at Byrd Stadium)
Head Coach: Mike Locksley (Interim, 0-0)
Penn State leads all-time series, 35-2-1
Last meeting (2014): Maryland 20, Penn State 19
Last Season (7-6, 4-4)
Maryland's first season in the Big Ten went relatively well. Randy Edsall's squad scored wins over Iowa, Michigan and Penn State and earned the right to get curb stomped by Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl, 45-21.
Edsall got a four-year contract extension with a low buyout, mainly to aid his efforts in recruiting. Maryland did pull blue-chip 2016 QB Dwayne Haskins, but as we'll find out (spoiler alert), it wasn't enough to save the former UConn coach. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart left to join up with Mike Riley at Nebraska, which meant the promotion of linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski to DC. Without doing any research, I'm assuming he's a Steve Addazio disciple.
Speaking of defense, the Terps lost three of their four stalwarts on the D-line this summer, including 10-sack Andre Monroe. They also suffered major attrition in the linebacking corps - none of the top four tacklers at LBs returned for this season, leaving Dudzinski the opportunity to switch to a 4-3 front from Stewart's 3-4.
Bye. Technically Edsall was canned the Monday after the Ohio State game, but I guess if it's considered a bye week then the Terps did lose in some fashion.
If the build up to Penn State-Indiana was labeled PUNT WEEK, then this week might as well be PICK WEEK. Maryland has sent three quarterbacks, Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe and Daxx Garman, out onto the field this year and each has managed to chip in with interceptions. Well, just one in Garman's case, but he's only thrown 18 passes. Rowe looked fairly competent against South Florida, but since that game he's gone 18-54 with zero touchdowns and seven picks. Hills hasn't been the worst offender, but he's been far from good (37-78/5.6 ypa/5 TDs 4 INTs). That's probably why he'll be starting this weekend.
On the ground, Brandon Ross has taken over the starting gig from former four-star recruit and Manchester United defender Wes Brown. Ross had a monster, 15-carry, 130-yard effort against West Virginia but only got 20 carries in the next two games, in which Maryland was summarily boat-raced by Michigan and Ohio State. There's talent in the backfield which Edsall seemingly chose to ignore. Wonder if that had to do anything with his firing?
PICK WEEK might not be a one-way street, though. Don't get me wrong, Maryland hasn't been sensational in pass defense or anything (59th in S&P+ pass defense rankings), but they do have Will Likely in the secondary. The SEO-challenged junior will likely be the most dangerous player on either side of the ball on Saturday. Likely recorded six interceptions a season ago and has eight pass break-ups in 2015, but he's still waiting for his first pick in 2015. Former Black Shoe Podcast guest Sean Davis currently leads the Terps in interceptions (2) and forced fumbles (4). Together, Likely and Davis have the potential to make Christian Hackenberg's season turn from bummer to nightmare.
Paris Palmer will have his hands full with Yannick Ngakoue, a 255-pound speed rusher who's recorded 6.5 sacks in six contests. Sophomore Jermaine Carter Jr has slotted into the star linebacking role with ease - he leads the Terps with 51.5 tackles on the season.
Maryland's kicking hero from their second-ever win against Penn State, Brad Craddock, won the Lou Groza award last year and he's on pace to have another outstanding season. Likely returned a punt for a score against both Richmond and Bowling Green. Naturally, teams have taken notice and Likely has only fielded a total of five punts in the last three games. Shanking punts out of bounds might not be the worst strategy for Penn State's special teams this week.
Testudo Times! They are advising Mike Locksley to choose to throw the ball a lot less, and I, a human with eyeballs and a minimal understanding of football, am inclined to agree with them.