Preview: Maryland An Underdog Heading into Road Game vs. Penn State

After falling to Wisconsin coming out of the bye week, week 11 brings Penn State week for the Terps. Maryland moves on to to a road test against the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley this weekend with a 3:30 PM kickoff. The opening line points to Maryland as a 12-point road underdog with the O/U set at 54.5 points. The Terps and Nittany Lion’s 2021 matchup was ultimately decided by Jahan Dotson’s 242 yards and three touchdowns which proved to be a catalyst in a seesaw battle. This week’s game gives the Terps a chance to get back to .500 in conference play with a potential win against the closest thing to a rival Maryland has in the Big Ten.

Penn State Nittany Lions: Offense

Dotson is gone, but Sean Clifford is back at quarterback and he’s thrown for 2,045 yards, 16 touchdowns and 7 interceptions so far this season. Clifford has the Nittany Lions offense third in the Big Ten in points per game at (34.4) and passing yards per game.

The Nittany Lions have had to replace several key contributors from last year’s squad. The first of which being on the offensive line as the Nittany Lions lost LT Rasheed Walker, who was drafted in the 7th round to the Green Bay Packers, to the NFL. The Nittany Lions have replaced the production lost from Walker with former D.C. Gonzaga tackle Olu Fashanu, who has more than filled the void left by Walker as he’s become arguably one of the biggest risers in the 2023 mock NFL Drafts despite being just 19 years old. Fashanu will protect Clifford’s blindside with former Good Counsel guard Landon Tengwall next to him. Something to note going into this week is the status of both Fashanu and Tengwall after not playing against Indiana. Philadelphia native Drew Shelton drew his first career start in Fashanu’s absence this past week against Indiana. Additionally, Caeden Wallace was once again sidelined for the Nittany Lions with Bryce Effner making his second consecutive start. Juice Scruggs will make his tenth start of the season against Maryland as he’ll anchor the line for a pair of explosive backs.

Last year’s second-leading rusher and former four star recruit Noah Cain is no longer with the Nittany Lions program and has transferred to LSU. Penn State in not lacking talent at the running back position though. Freshman superstar recruit Nick Singleton has become a featured back in the PSU offense rushing for 679 yards and eight touchdowns through nine games. Singleton ranks fifth among FBS freshmen with 75.5 rushing yards per game, while his eight touchdowns are good enough to place him within the top ten among FBS freshmen. Virginia native and former Maryland target Kaytron Allen has proven to be an explosive one-two punch along with Singleton as the two have totaled more rushing yards than over 40 FBS teams. Allen is coming off of a three touchdown performance against Indiana on a team-high 18 carries.

Parker Washington has filled the void at receiver after losing the aforementioned Dotson and has been complimented by Mitchell Tinsley who tallied an 87 reception, 14 touchdown stat line from his 2021 season at WKU. Washington enters Saturday just 94 yards shy of 2,000 career yards, while Keandre Lambert-Smith remains 170 yards shy of 1,000 career receiving yards, but the passing attack still features another key piece.

Brenton Strange, a Mackey Award Watch List candidate, is also one of the top tight ends in the Big Ten. Strange leads an experienced tight end room and is up to 287 receiving yards this season while tying Tinsley for a team-high four touchdowns. Tight ends have proven to be an achilles heel for Maryland’s defense and Strange will undoubtedly command the attention of the Terps’ linebackers downfield.

Penn State Nittany Lions: Defense

The overall excitement on the defensive line for the Nittany Lions comes at the acclaim of freshman like Dani Dennis-Sutton who was one of the nation’s best defensive end recruits in the 2021 class. Zane Durant is another early contributor to go along with what should be a strong front four.

The interior pieces of the defensive line are set with PJ Mustipher and Coziah Izzard, who provide an experienced veteran tandem. The same can not be said at this time for the defensive ends who remain a work in progress.

Maryland fans will note sophomore transfer Demeioun Robinson lining up at the DE position as a familiar name as being a part of the acclaimed 2021 Maryland recruiting class. Many eyes will be focused Saturday on Robinson’s pass-rushing abilities against his former team and hometown school. The Nittany Lions have struggled to consistently generate pressure in the front seven but generated a season-high six sacks in Saturday’s 45-14 win over Indiana, pushing the season total to 23–just two more than Maryland.

The Nittany Lion linebacking corps lost leading tacklers Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith to the 2022 draft, and now are relying on Curtis Jacobs to lead the defense along with freshman Abdul Carter who has played a lot of meaningful snaps in his early career.

The secondary has a star in next-level corner Joey Porter Jr., the son of NFL great Joey Porter Sr. Safety Ji’Ayir Brown is the team’s leading returning tackler with 74 stops and has been a fixture of the Nittany Lions secondary. Kalen King is the corner playing opposite of Porter and has shown signs of becoming Penn State’s next-best corner behind Porter Jr. Maryland native Zakee Wheatley has also become a key contributor in the secondary and a player Maryland recruited heavily out of Archbishop Spalding. While Penn State sits second in the Big Ten in redzone defense (73.5%) and have allowed just five passing touchdowns on 34 attempts, the Terps will look to rebound and prove themselves among the most efficient redzone offenses. Maryland is tied for eighth nationally with Tennessee after scoring on 93.8% of their redzone attempts, including 26 touchdowns on 32 attempts.

Penn State Nittany Lions: Key Transfer

WR Mitchell Tinsley, Sr.
The Nittany Lions might not have another Jahan Dotson, but they’ve got a few excellent targets in place for what should be a terrific passing attack. Helping the cause is Tinsley, a 6-1, 203-pound downfield threat who made 43 catches in his first season at WKU and blew up last year with 87 catches for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns. He may not be the number one target for Clifford downfield, but he is devastating in this offense as a number two receiver. Among current FBS receivers, Tinsley ranks seventh in career receiving touchdowns (22), 21st in career receiving yards (2,143) and 26th in career receptions (163). While Clifford struggles to establish a vertical offense, the addition of Tinsley alleviates pressure on Parker Washington and Keandre Lambert-Smith. Maryland’s secondary has struggled to avoid penalties on deep balls down the sidelines so far this season and the trio of receivers pose a risk to the Terps’ backline.

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