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Know Thy Opponent 2022: Maryland Terrapins

Get ready to see the ball thrown around a lot.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a few years since the Big Ten expanded to 14 teams, but in football it is still weird to think of Maryland as a conference game. Purdue has still only played them three times, and one was in a bowl game following the 2006 season. Since joining the Big Ten the teams have only played twice, once in College Park and once in West Lafayette. The West Lafayette meeting went well for us, as it was a convincing homecoming win in and otherwise dismal 2019 season. The first meeting at Maryland in 2016… did not.

I was at the game in 2016 and met up with Jumboheroes and his wife before the game at a downtown DC brewery. I was very glad that beer was available, because the game was an absolute disaster. The Terrapins ran for 400 yards on 46 carries. They were often completely unbothered by Purdue defenders in a 50-7 Maryland win that wasn’t even that close. The game basically sealed the fate of Darrell Hazell who was fired two weeks later. It was so bad that Ty Johnson ran for 204 yards on only seven carries, and he would probably still be running if that pesky end zone didn’t make him stop.

This year’s visit to College Park should be a lot better. Maryland is coming off of a respectable season where they squeezed into a bowl game and got a convincing win over Virginia Tech. Purdue is coming off of its best season in decades. The Boilers will be challenged on the road.

Maryland Terrapins

2021 Record: 7-6, 3-6 Big Ten

Bowl Result: Beat Virginia Tech 54-10 in Pinstripe Bowl

Blog Representation: Testudo Times

Series with Purdue: Maryland leads 2-1

Last Purdue win: 40-14 at Purdue on 10/12/2019

Last Maryland win: 50-7 at Maryland on 10/1/2016

Head Coach: Mike Locksley (13-23 in fourth year at Maryland, 15-49 overall)

Last Season for the Terrapins

Mike Locksley has not been great for much of his coaching career. He entered last seas with a dismal 6-23 record at Maryland and 8-43 mark overall as a head coach. Last season he made a step forward though. They beat West Virginia 30-24 in the season opener, then blew out Howard before slipping past Illinois 20-17. A 37-16 win over Kent State had them 4-0 and even briefly in the top 25 before the bulk of the schedule hit.

Once the schedule got tougher Maryland wilted. They were blasted by Iowa (51-14) and Ohio State (66-17) before losing at Minnesota 34-16. They recovered for a three-point win over Indiana (where the Hoosiers scored 35 of their 94 points in conference play) before dropping three more to Penn State (31-14), Michigan State (40-21) and Michigan (59-18). A final day 40-16 win at Rutgers sent them to the Pinstripe Bowl, where they vented in an impressive 54-10 win.

Basically, if Maryland played a good Big Ten team they got beaten handily. They took advantage of their non-conference to get three wins and they managed to beat the three bad conference teams on their schedule. It’s not much, but it led to their first postseason game since 2016 and first bowl win since 2010 when they were still in the ACC.

Maryland Offense

All things considered, Maryland had a pretty good offense last season. They were third in the conference in passing behind Ohio State and Purdue. They averaged 29.3 points per game and had enough of a running game to keep teams honest. The numbers were inconsistent though. In all but the Illinois win Maryland hit 30 points or more. In the six losses their best game was 21 in a 19 point loss to Michigan State. For the most part they were either blown out or did the blowing out. They got to a bowl by winning all three games that were within a touchdown, but in all six losses they lost by at least 17 points.

The offense should be potent once again with the return of Taulia Tagovailoa. The younger brother of the famed Dolphins quarterback, Tagovailoa threw for an impressive 3,860 yards and 26 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He also ran for 77 yards and two scores. He is far more mobile than Aidan O’Connell, but so are statues. He is entering his third year as the starter and he has done very well for himself.

Tagovailoa has guys to throw to as well. Rakim Jarrett had 62 catches for 829 yards and five scores. Dontay Demus Jr. has battled injury but is a big play threat at more than 18 yards per catch. They added Jacob Copeland as a transfer from Florida as well.

On the ground they must replace leading rusher Tayon Fleet-Davis, but Colby McDonald played well last year with 325 yards and two scores. All five offensive linemen return, thus helping the offense even more. Overall, this should be an offense on par with our own, only with a slightly better running game.

Maryland Defense

In short, good teams absolutely lit them up. They gave up a combined 125 points to Ohio State and Michigan. Only Indiana was worse in points per game, as they gave up more than 30. The only passing defense worse than Maryland in the Big Ten was Michigan State, and Purdue threw all day on the Spartans. The defense could struggle again as several key pieces are now gone.

Maryland has some good tackles in the middle of the defensive line in Ami Finau and Mosiah Nasili-Kite. Nasili-Kite is even a preseason First Team all-Big Ten selection according to Phil Steele. He had 37 tackles last season, seven for loss.

In the back seven Maryland has a solid middle linebacker in Ruben Hyppolite. He had 62 tackles a season ago. Corneracks Tarheeb Still and Jakorian Bennett are among the better corners in the conference. Bennett had three of their six interceptions last season, with safety Nick Cross (now with the Colts) had the other three.

This is a defense that is definitely suspect and is going to give up some points, especially since it has some holes to fill and lacks a consistent pass rush. I mean, Iowa scored 51 against them last year, and that’s Iowa’s offense.

Maryland Special Teams

The main kicker in Joseph Petrino is gone, and he hit on 13 of 20 field goals. His replacement is a transfer that some Purdue fans might remember. Chad Ryland was a four-year starter at Eastern Michigan who went 56 of 74 in his career. He is using his extra COVID year to head to College Park. As a freshman in 2018 it was his field goal as time expired that allowed Eastern Michigan to beat Purdue 20-19.

In the return game Maryland was among the worst in the Big Ten at returning kicks, but still better than Purdue. The addition of Charlie Jones on the transfer market should be an immediate boost for us.

Game Outlook

This game has some serious shootout potential. Both teams loved to pass the ball a lot and I expect more of the same this year. It will come down to who has the better pass defense. Maryland struggled to create turnovers a year ago, while Purdue’s turnovers seemed to come in bunches. When teams were pressing, like Iowa, Purdue picked off a lot of passes. It also went weeks without getting a turnover. This could be a fun one that sees a lot of points put up.

Way-Too-Early Prediction

I see points. Maryland’s offense is very good. The defense is not. Purdue’s offense is very good. The defense is merely okay and does lose a first round pick in George Karlaftis. I still think Purdue’s secondary is much better than Maryland’s, and that will be the difference. Purdue 38, Maryland 31