Quick 2019 Recap:
Entering the 2019 season expectations were high in College Park. Even though there was not really any tangible reason for this, many Maryland fans though that Mike Locksley returning to be the Terrapins’ head coach would vault the Turtles into being Big Ten contenders. Well, that could not have been further from the truth.
In their first two games of the season Maryland scored 142 points and found their way into the top 25. Well, you see, the reason they scored 142 points is because they played FCS Howard and a Syracuse team that went 5-7. It all came crashing down for the Terps when they lost to Temple in week 3, which started a 1-9 stretch to finish the season. This, of course, included getting curb stomped 59-0 by Penn State in what was touted as possibly the biggest home game in the history of Maryland football. A home game so big that there were just as many Penn State fans as Maryland fans in Byrd Stadium that night.
Outside of their first two games of the season, and a 48-7 victory over Rutgers, Maryland averaged just 12.5 points per game last season. It turns out the reason Locklsey looked so good as Alabama’s offensive coordinator is because he was coaching one of the most talented offenses college football has seen in the last 10 years or so. Crazy how that works!
Offensive Player To Watch: QB Josh Jackson
While Josh Jackson may not be the best player on Maryland’s offense, wide receiver Dontay Demus and offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan make those claims, he is the most important. Without good QB play no team can be successful on offense, and no team knows that better than Maryland.
After years of a revolving door at QB, Jackson was supposed to stabilize things last season. Well, in 10 games the Virginia Tech transfer completed just 47.3% of his passes and he threw just 12 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He had poor pocket presence and struggled mightily in reading and diagnosing coverages. If Jackson is not better in 2020, Maryland’s offense will not be either.
Now, a wild card here could be Taulia Tugavoila. The Alabama transfer, and Tua’s brother, will be looking to get a waiver to play immediately. If that happens, he will likely push Jackson for reps at QB.
Defensive Player To Watch: S Nick Cross
As much as I enjoy ragging on Maryland, there is no denying that Nick Cross is a great player. The long time Florida State commit wound up choosing Maryland over the Seminoles and Penn State in February 2019. This is one recruitment it sure would have been nice for the Nittany Lions to come out successful in.
In his true freshman season last fall, Cross quickly become one of Maryland’s best defensive players. He recorded 45 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 5 pass break ups, and a pair of interceptions. Cross is quickly becoming one of the best safeties in the Big Ten.
Major Changes for 2020:
The Terps made some minor coaching staff changes in the offseason. Brawley Evans has been promoted from an analyst role to outside linebackers coach, while former outside linebackers coach Brian Williams will now coach the defensive line. Former letterman Henry Baker will return to College Park as the team’s new cornerbacks coach.
The biggest change for Maryland comes in the running back room. Despite their offensive struggles in 2019, they had a dynamic duo at running back with Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake. Both players are now off to the NFL, creating an even bigger question mark for the Terps when it comes to offensive play makers.
Penn State Wins If:
There are a few games on the schedule this year where Penn State is head and shoulders above their opponent in terms of talent. This is one of those games. Throw in James Franklin’s disdain for the University of Maryland and the fact he has had his team ready to play and then some against Maryland the past four seasons, and this one should be a blowout. Maryland has not score a touchdown against Penn State since 2016. Since 2016, the Nittany Lions have outscored them 201-20. Look for that to continue in November.
Maryland Wins If:
Listen, I’m not trying to be mean, but Maryland is one team that would have benefited from the 2020 season getting canceled. They currently have a top 15 recruiting class, but that is likely to change when those players see the product on the field this fall. The Terps are in for another long, long season. Maryland will need a lot of breaks to beat the Nittany Lions. On top of having to play a damn near perfect game, they will need plenty of help from Penn State shooting themselves in the foot.