On talent alone, this game should not be close, but the first three weeks revealed a lot of warts for both teams. What this contest may come down to is which team managed to successfully buff out more of their flaws over the bye week. Penn State’s defense needs to get home with their pressure while not losing their ability to snuff out the running attack. Penn State’s offense needs Sean Clifford to find consistency, getting better protection from the line would do a lot to help that and the running backs get greater results on the ground too. Ultimately, I like the Nittany Lions to be the stronger squad over the course of an entire game and Maryland to throw the kitchen sink at them in an attempt to offset that.
Penn State 31, Maryland 17
As was the case with Pitt, this is Maryland’s Super Bowl. Just like Pitt, Maryland’s fans, players, and coaches do not like Penn State. At all. Nothing would make them happier than to knock off the Nittany Lions on Friday night. Combine this with the game set to be played in front of what is expected to be a record crowd at Byrd Stadium, and the Terps should have plenty of juice.
It would not be a surprise to see Maryland jump out to a 10 or 14 point lead early on as the Terps ride the wave of emotion. It will be up to the Nittany Lions to weather the storm and settle in, especially on offense. Through the first three games of the season Penn State’s offense has left a good bit to be desired. The offensive line is still bad, Sean Clifford looked like a first year starter against Pitt, and Ricky Rahne has had some head scratching moments.
Friday night will be a good test for the Nittany Lion defense. Led by the electric Anthony McFarland, Maryland’s offense is not lacking play making ability, speed, or talent. This will by far be the biggest test of the season thus far for Brent Pry’s group.
Penn State’s defense is plenty good enough to keep the game close if the offense starts slow. Ultimately, Penn State is the more talented team and talent will win out. However, do not be surprised if Friday night is a stressful night for Nittany Lion fans.
Penn State 24, Maryland 20
When I look at Penn State’s offense to date, I see a handful of small, correctable errors that are keeping the team from being very, very good. The running backs need to do a little better in pass protection. The receivers need to do a little better on route running and hauling in the deep ball. Clifford needs to do a little better in his reads for RPO plays. But I don’t see anything that says the offense will never improve - in fact, I think by season’s end the offense is going to be firing on all cylinders. The question for me is how soon will these small things get fixed?
I think the team used the bye week to the utmost, and are prepared for a high energy game on a Friday night. Maryland may come out with some emotional charge, but that cuts both ways. I think the Terps are a little too fired up and miss on some big plays early. After the first 10 minutes or so, if the Terrapins HAVEN’T gotten a big lead, they’re toast. The Lions weather the early storm with no real issues, get the offense rolling late in the first quarter, and never look back.
Penn State 31, Maryland 17
This game being on a Friday night gives me the heebie-jeebies. Maryland’s student section will be fired up after having the entire afternoon off to “prep” for the Nittany Lions. The Terps offense also should present a challenge for the Nittany Lion defense, especially running back Anthony McFarland. I won’t be shocked if Maryland leads after the first quarter, and perhaps their defense stifles Penn State through one half. However, I think the skill players on offense will do enough to get the win in the second half (making it a much more simple recap for me to write from the press box.).
Penn State 24, Maryland 17
It’s highly likely that this will be the closest PSU-Maryland contest since 2015, when PSU outlasted then-interim head coach Mike Locksley’s Terps by a single point. Maryland has the weapons at the skill positions to give PSU’s defense trouble, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they jumped out to an early lead riding off the wave of emotion from this being the biggest game in modern program history.
However, Maryland’s offensive line is in the same kind of bad shape as the 2014-2015 PSU O-lines were, and they now have lost arguably their best O-lineman from what was already a shaky group. Hopefully, it doesn’t take them until the second half to do so, but look for YGM and the rest of the front four to feast on that Maryland O-line , which in turn should stifle the Maryland offense.
PSU’s offense meanwhile, will likely have its typical slow start, but will eventually at least see one of the running backs reaching the the end zone while Sean Clifford after settling in, should connect on a couple big throws.
Penn State 27, Maryland 20
Not convinced Maryland is actually good. Think the Pitt defense may actually be pretty good. PSU offense will be fine.
Penn State 34, Maryland 17
(originally appearing in the Game Preview)
This is such a tough game to predict for several reasons. Foremost among them is Maryland’s inconsistency. Just like a year ago, Maryland came out hot with an upset of a ranked team before falling flat to Temple in week three. While Maryland has been looking to break through since joining the Big Ten, they have struggled to find consistency. They can blow past a ranked team (Syracuse in week two, Texas the last two seasons) or go toe-to-toe with a contender (Ohio State a season ago). They can also fall apart against a team like Temple, or be outright flattened like against Penn State the last two seasons, where they have lost by a combined 104-6 against the Nittany Lions in ‘17 and ‘18.
It seems silly to be so concerned about a team that Penn State has pounded into a fine dust for three years running. The last two games of the series came in the regular season finale, when Maryland seemed to have packed it in for the season - especially a year ago, when they were off the heels of a near-upset against the Buckeyes the previous week. This year, the Nittany Lions will be playing an inspired Terps squad who will be looking for its breakout game under the lights.
James Franklin this game has the feel of the 2014 Rutgers game or 2015 Maryland game. That hits the nail right on the head for me. It seems like one of those games were the opponent comes out fired up, does some damage and makes Penn State fans awfully nervous before the good guys eventually take care of business. I’m expecting this game to go down to the wire with plenty of momentum swings before Penn State makes a couple fourth quarter plays to leave with the victory.
Penn State 27, Maryland 21