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No. 10 Penn State at Maryland: Game Preview

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Penn State takes on Maryland in the final game of the regular season.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State aims for a 10-win season and a likely New Year’s Six bowl game with a win at Maryland to close out the regular season.

(10) Penn State (9-2, 6-2) vs. Maryland (4-7, 2-6)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD

The Betting Line: Penn State -22

TV: BTN- Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), Matt Millen (analyst), Lisa Byington (sideline)

Weather: A pleasant day with some sunshine and temps in the mid-50s with little chance of rain.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 34-17, 4th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 58-32, 7th Year

VS. MARYLAND: 2-1

D.J. Durkin:

MARYLAND RECORD: 10-14, 2nd Year

OVERALL RECORD: 11-14, 2nd Year

VS. PENN STATE: 0-1

NOW THE FUN PART....

MARYLAND OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

Maryland’s offense has put together an impressive season when you consider the revolving door situation at quarterback that has seen four players take significant snaps. However, they have been slowed down the past two weeks as they put up just 10 points against Michigan and only seven at Michigan State on Saturday.

Max Bortenshlager appears to be set to resume his duties as starting quarterback after missing time in recent weeks with an injured shoulder. Bortenshlager has gotten the nod seemingly by default as the Terps have been searching for the man to lead their offense throughout the season. He is completing 51.3 percent of passes with 10 touchdowns to five interceptions on the year, and has just one game where he’s thrown for more than 200 yards. In his past four starts, he’s averaging just 141.75 yards through the air. At 6’3’’, he’s a typical dropback passer. While he can escape the pocket and scramble when needed, he does not play an active part in the run game.

Bortenshlager will have two main targets to work with on Saturday in D.J. Moore and Taivon Jacobs. Moore should be the recipient of some conference honors in the coming week, and can surpass the 1,000 receiving yards mark with another 76 on Saturday. At 5’11’’, he uses his speed and route-running ability to find the soft spots in a defense, similar to the Nebraska receivers who had a huge second half against Penn State on Saturday. Jacobs is very similar to Moore in style of play, and has produced 43 receptions for 520 yards and five touchdowns in his senior season. Outside of its two stars, the Terps have very little depth at receiver. They also use a tight end as often as Penn State uses a fullback.

Leading rusher Ty Johnson got off to a hot start, posting three games with at least 124 yards rushing in the first four weeks. However, he hasn’t been nearly as productive once the competition stiffened. On the season he has 805 yards and five touchdowns, with a 6.2 yards per carry average. Lorenzo Harrison III splits the load with Johnson, and has received at least 12 carries in the past five games. The sophomore is averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

Penn State will be without starting strong safety Troy Apke for the first half, after he was ejected for targeting in the second half against Nebraska on Saturday. Starting outside linebacker Manny Bowen will miss his third consecutive game due to suspension, with senior Brandon Smith sliding over to start in his place yet again.

PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. MARYLAND DEFENSE

Maryland’s defense doesn’t do any one thing particularly well. They allow 182.2 rushing yards per game, good for 82nd nationally, and 226.8 yards passing, ranking 78th. They also have a tendency to allow big plays and have trouble keeping opponents out of the end zone. The Terps have allowed opponents to score at least 31 points in nine of 11 games this season, with the only exceptions being Towson State and Michigan State, who could only muster 17 points in blizzard-like conditions.

However, it doesn’t necessarily take a stout run defense to find success in shutting down the Nittany Lions ground game. Indiana and Rutgers did just that and severely limited Penn State’s ability to run the ball by selling out to shut down Saquon Barkley and force Trace McSorley to take to the air.

The strength of the Terps defense resides in the secondary. Both starting safeties, Josh Woods and Darnell Savage, are not shy about coming up to hit someone in run support. Woods especially can do damage, and is often used in blitzing situations. Don’t be surprised if he remains on Barkley in an attempt to keep him from leaving the backfield. Cornerback J.C. Jackson has done a nice job of filling in the very large shoes of Will Likely, picking off three passes on the season. He could be charged with slowing down Juwan Johnson, who has really come into his own the last few weeks.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Maryland kicker Henry Darmstadter has a big leg but has been inconsistent throughout the season, going six for 10. He did nail a 51-yarder against Minnesota earlier in the season, so he does give the Terps a chance to get points on the board once they encounter the 35-yard line. Wade Lees is an Australian-style punter that is capable of flipping the field. He has a season-long of 64 yards, and blasted a 58-yarder in horrid conditions against Michigan State on Saturday.

Running back Ty Johnson also handles kick return duties, and is incredibly dangerous. He is averaging more than 25 yards per return, and like Barkley, took one to the house against Ohio State. Taivon Jacobs can be explosive in the return game as well, averaging 11 yards per punt return.

Penn State’s opponents have been limiting opportunities for Saquon Barkley and DeAndre Thompkins in the return game, but both can go the distance when given a chance. Wide receiver Brandon Polk saw action as a kick returner against Nebraska, and this may continue unless the Terps can keep it close into the second half on Saturday.

PREDICTION

Penn State-42 Maryland-21

Maryland has some talent at running back and especially wide receiver, and is a legitimate quarterback away from having a prolific offense. Whether Max Bortenschlager or Ryan Brand end up under center on Saturday, the Terps should be able to move the ball in spots. But in the end, they won’t have enough firepower to keep pace with Penn State’s offense, who can score in bunches against a defense of Maryland’s caliber.

While playing Nebraska certainly helped, the Nittany Lions seem to be over the disappointment of losing consecutive games and watching their playoff hopes slip away. The Nittany Lions still have plenty to play for, and should be ready to take care of business to earn their 10th victory and an appearance in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Saquon Barkley closes out the regular season in style, rushing for 160 yards with another 50 receiving, and his second consecutive three-touchdown game. DaeSean Hamilton has his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season that includes two touchdowns, while Juwan Johnson continues his late-season hot streak with 80 receiving yards and a score of his own.

On defense, Brandon Smith contributes 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, while Grant Haley picks off a pass to help put the game away for good.