Maryland vs. Northwestern: TV, radio, betting, storylines to watch

Maryland (5-2, 2-2 B1G) at Northwestern (3-4, 1-3 B1G)
When: Saturday, Oct. 28 | 12:01 p.m. EST
Where: SECU Stadium
Watch: Big Ten Network – Connor Onion, Anthony Herron, Elise Menaker
Listen: 105.7 FM (Balt) / 980 AM (DC) – Johnny Holliday, Steve Suter
Betting: Maryland -14, O/U: 48 (as of 12 AM Oct. 27)

Maryland football is coming off its bye week and will look to capitalize on the chance to secure bowl eligibility. Looking to pull off their second consecutive win against Northwestern and first in Evanston, Maryland is expected to have multiple starters back on Saturday including Tarheeb Still, Corey Bullock and Dante Trader Jr. With that, we look at three storylines to watch as Maryland look to move to 6-2 (3-2).

Rushing game takeover

If there’s been one glaring concern with Maryland’s offense this season, it’s been the ground game. And for the second straight week, Maryland’s rushing attack enters the matchup with a chance to generate positive momentum with matchups against Penn State and Michigan looming.

Last year, it was the Roman Hemby show against Northwestern as the then-freshman punched in a career-high 175 yards and three touchdowns, the last score proving to be the difference for Maryland. While the consistency isn’t there, Hemby is averaging nearly five yards per carry though the explosive runs have been sparse. Hemby did have a few runs against Illinois that gave fans a reminder of what happens when he gets free. Coming out of the bye weekend, could this be the week he breaks off a big run?

It helps that Northwestern has the second-worst rushing defense in the Big Ten. Having that element back in the game could take the pressure off the passing game. Hemby, Antwain Littleton, and Colby McDonald need to take advantage when they have opportunities coming their way. Littleton seems to be getting better as the season goes on, McDonald has made the most of his limited role, while Ramon Brown is set to make his season debut this weekend. The Terps haven’t had sustained success running the ball in a game since Charlotte. Part of it has been on the offensive line’s struggles to open holes for the backs. They need to do a better job at opening holes for the running backs to get through and let them finish the job. Getting Corey Bullock back on the field this Saturday should help with that. If the Terps can have a running game like they did against the Wildcats last year, it would put them in a great spot to finally get to bowl eligibility. It’s time for this Terp rushing attack to wake up and make it rough on defenses.

Get to Northwestern QB Brendan Sullivan:

Just like last year, Maryland is expected to face off against Brendan Sullivan with Ben Bryant expected to be sidelined for the third consecutive game. Sullivan, who has filled in for Bryant since, made his first career start against the Terps last year to give the Terps defense a bit of familiarity coming off the bye.

Sullivan also adds a run dynamic to the ‘Cats offense as he enters the weekend second on the team in rushing yards, putting an emphasis on the Terps’ front seven

Maryland’s done well wrapping up at initial contact and that’ll loom largest to limit Northwestern’s big plays as the Terps enter Saturday sitting 11th nationally in rushing yards allowed on the road (82). Northwestern also sits tied with South Carolina with the fifth-most sacks allowed (4.29) after allowing eight sacks against the Huskers a week ago. Add the fact that Northwestern sits among the worst rushing offenses in the country—including a 72.7 average over the last three games—and the Terps’ front seven has a chance to feast.

Disrupting Sullivan, whether it’s collapsing the pocket or closing on the ball off a scramble or read option, is the priority to shutting down the ‘Cats. Running back Cam Porter is the engine that makes the backfield go as he enters the weekend with 319 yards on nearly four yards per carry as the duo combine for nearly half of the ‘Cats rushing touchdowns this season.

Defensive lineman Donnell Brown has been a game wrecker this year, teaming with linebackers Jaishawn Barham and Kellen Wyatt as the Terps’ best pass rushers. Maryland needs them at their best to make Sullivan uncomfortable.

Maryland’s secondary struggled without Tarheeb Still and Dante Trader Jr. for Illinois. With both expected to be back on Saturday, the Terps should be at full strength in the defensive backfield. That helps the backline, whose drawn tough matchups over the last two games in Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Isaiah Williams. This weekend, Northwestern boasts three receivers with at least 20 catches this season in AJ Henning, Bryce Kirtz, and Cam Johnson as Kirtz sits second in the conference in receiving yards per game (70.5) and 13th in all-purpose yards (73.5), just ahead of Jeshaun Jones (71.4) The Wildcats pose big-play threat vertically, but if Maryland can disrupt Sullivan, the defense has a chance to shine once again under Brian Williams.

Change the narrative coming out of the bye week

Maryland hasn’t been at their best coming off a bye during Mike Locksley’s tenure as head coach, losing by double digits in each game despite the extra rest. Locksley noted during Tuesday’s interview that the past doesn’t define the present and Maryland is looking to prove that true by taking care of business on Saturday. Offensively, Maryland needs to hit the ground running—literally—as Northwestern has been one of the worst teams at stopping the run. Lia needs to come out at his best and make it a long day for this Wildcat defense. Build scoring drives and force Northwestern to stop you instead of letting them be in control. The Terp defense can’t allow any big plays to this Northwestern offense that has struggled, ranking ninth in the Big Ten in passing and last in rushing. The Terps have played from behind in many of their games this year and it came back to haunt them against Illinois. Against Northwestern, they need to strike first and not slow down. They have only had one complete game all year, coming against Indiana.

With the humbling Illinois loss staying with the players and staff for two weeks now, Maryland will have a chance to reset the expectation as the team looks to live up to Locksley’s ‘standard.’ And with Penn State and Michigan looming, it’s the type of opportunity that Maryland needs to rebuild its confidence heading into two season-changing games.

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