Five Things To Watch: Maryland vs. Michigan

Maryland (3-0, 0-0 B1G) at No. 4 Michigan (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

When: Sat., Sept. 24 | 12:10 p.m. EST
Where: Michigan Stadium
Watch: FOX – Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft
Listen: 105.7 FM (Balt) / 980 AM (DC) – Johnny Holliday, Steve Suter

Maryland begins conference play on Saturday with aspirations to move to 4-0, but they’ll hands their hands full with its first top-five opponent this fall. Even with a change at quarterback, Michigan is loaded offensively while returning some key pieces on defense. What does Maryland need to do in order to pull out a win? We take a look at five things to watch:

Will the Terps stop Michigan’s running game?: Through the first three games Maryland’s defense has held each of its opponents to under four yards a carry. However, Saturday will be a true test for the Terps as Michigan ranks second in the Big Ten with 231.3 rushing yards per game, only behind Minnesota. The rushing attack is led by Blake Corum, who already has seven touchdowns on the year. Donovan Edwards, who dominated in last year’s game against Maryland with 10 catches for 170 yards, is questionable for Saturday but CJ Stokes has over five yards a carry  on the season. Quarterback JJ McCarthy is also a threat running the ball, with 73 yards on just seven carries. Maryland’s rushing defense has shown improvements from last year, but will it be enough to keep Michigan from running all over them?

Can the offensive line hold up?: Maryland‘s veteran offensive line has had some ups and downs to start the season. The line has only given only up four sacks through four games and has been dominant in the running game. However, they have also had miscues that have hurt the Terps. Starting tackles Jaelyn Duncan and DJ Glaze have had problems with penalties that cost the Terps on some drives. Center Johari Branch has had struggles with snaps at times. Left guard Mason Lunsford was called for multiple false starts against SMU. They will be challenged on Saturday as Michigan’s defense has allowed the fourth-fewest points and the third-fewest yards among all Division 1-a schools. Will the offensive line protect Taulia and open up enough holes in the running game to allow the Terps offense to make some big plays against that Wolverine defense?

How will the secondary perform?: Safeties Beau Brade and Dante Trader recorded the first two interceptions for the Terps defense last week against SMU. Brade and Trader have performed well in their first three starts. The rest of the secondary has had its ups and downs. Corey Coley missed the first two games of the season, but came back last week and had good coverage against Rashee Rice late in the game. However, SMU’s best receiver torched the Terps before then catching 11 passes for 192 yards and seemed to catch everything that night. Deonte Banks, who missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, has had issues in coverage and with pass interference calls. Glen Miller will be out for a while with an injury. Gavin Gibson has had some freshman moments but also had a textbook force-out on a fourth down early against SMU. Tarheeb Still, meanwhile, is still recovering from a freak injury on his finger that caused him to miss the Charlotte game and was in and out last week. While Michigan is expected to run more often than throw, quarterback JJ McCarty is a former five-star recruit that can do damage against a defense through the air. Wide receiver Ronnie Bell is Michigan’s number one receiver and needs to be accounted for, as will tight end Erick All. Maryland’s secondary needs to be at the top of their game or else the Wolverines will have a field day with them.

Can the Terps be disciplined?: The Terps were called for 15 penalties against SMU, the most since Mike Locksley became the head coach. That can not happen against Michigan. The main culprits have come from the offensive line and secondary. The line has to be disciplined and not get called for a false start or hold during a critical time in a drive. The secondary, meanwhile, can not afford to give Michigan a free first down like they have done at times this year. The Terps also have to keep their cool throughout the game. Last week, they were called for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Has Maryland closed the gap?: For a while, Maryland has been trying to show that they are no longer a pushover against the best teams in the Big Ten. Saturday will be their first chance to show that this year, as they are a 17-point underdog against Michigan. For a chance of an upset, the Terps have to be at their best and their best players have to take over the game at some point. Protecting Lia will be priority number one on offense. Rakim Jarrett and Roman Hemby might be counted on early and often. It also wouldn’t hurt to have Dontay Demus back to his old self this week. On defense, the line must fill their gaps and not allow Michigan to break a long run. If Ruben Hyppolite can’t go, then it’s up to Jaishawn Barham and Caleb Wheatland to prove why the coaching staff is so high on them. If a lot of things can go Maryland’s way, they will make it an interesting game.

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