Michigan hits East Coast to battle struggling Maryland
Kickoff moved to noon due to weather concerns
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Michigan Wolverines will leave the friendly confines of Ann Arbor this weekend to battle Hurricane Joaquin and the Maryland Terrapins on the East Coast.
When Michigan last played outside of the Big House in the season opener, it fell, 24-17, to a Utah team that is now ranked No. 10 in the country. Since that loss, the Wolverines blew out three West Coast teams by a combined score of 94-14 to jump into the top 25 for the first time in two years.
But can they take their show on the road?
The matchups in this game certainly favor Michigan, which brings the nation's 4th-ranked scoring defense to College Park. D.J. Durkin's group allowed just 121.8 pass yards and 82 rush yards per game during the nonconference season, the best and second-best marks in the Big Ten, respectively.
Unfortunately for the Terrapins, the passing game has been nothing short of disastrous this season. Maryland quarterbacks have combined to complete just 50.4 percent of passes for nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Junior starter Caleb Rowe, who took over from Perry Hills during a 48-27 home loss to Bowling Green in Week 2, was picked off four times last week at West Virginia.
Maryland lost the game 45-6.
Whether it's Rowe or Hills under center on Saturday, Maryland's offense will be terribly one-dimensional. The turnovers, the Michigan secondary and near-Hurricane force winds will all but erase any chance for the Terps to pass the ball.
That means Randy Edsall's offense will have to attack the Michigan front seven, which allows 4.8 yards per rush. Look for Brandon Ross, who averaged over 6.1 yards per carry and gained 358 yards in the first four weeks, to set the tone for Maryland. If he can't, Michigan's defense will shut down the Terrapins.
The Wolverines will, however, reportedly be without their second-best cornerback, Channing Stribling, on Saturday.
On defense, Maryland has been one of the worst groups in all of football, allowing 467 yards per game (21st most in all of FBS) to an average slate of teams. Bowling Green went into College Park and picked up 692 yards of offense against the Terrapins in Week 2. Six-hundred and ninety-two yards of offense. West Virginia nearly matched that number last weekend, gaining 601 yards against Maryland.
Michigan won't put up over 600 yards on Saturday, but if Maryland continues to allow nearly six yards per carry, it will be another blowout.
Michigan's rushing leader, De'Veon Smith, left last weekend's blowout win in the 3rd quarter with an ankle injury and will not play in the Big Ten opener. Smith has 69 carries for 331 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns this season, but the Wolverines have enough depth behind him to keep pounding the ball.
Ty Isaac has been excellent in a limited role this season, rushing for 8.5 yards per carry and a touchdown on just 20 touches since transferring from USC. Derrick Green (23 carries, 74 yards) has turned into the team's short-yardage back, while last year's starter, Drake Johnson, is steadily climbing back into the mix after tearing his ACL in Columbus last November.
The offensive line dominated BYU last weekend, but it'll face a much stiffer test this weekend. Maryland boasts the second best pass rush in the nation, picking up 17 sacks in its first four games.
Kickoff was originally scheduled for 8 p.m., but weather from Hurricane Joaquin pushed the start up to noon. The game will still be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
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