Tech eyes bowl eligibility Saturday against Maryland

Terrapins

After starting their season with a conference win against Miami, the Maryland Terrapins have lost two of their last three contests to West Virginia and Temple. Despite their shortcomings, the Terrapins are still undefeated in conference play and head on the road for the first time to face the Jackets. The Terrapins rank in the bottom half of the ACC in almost every major statistic. If the Terrapins want to earn their first road win of the season, they will have to do the following.

Maryland will have to establish a running game in order to free up some pressure off of quarterback Danny O’Brien. Senior running back Davin Meggett has been averaging 81.75 yards per contest and five yards per carry. If Meggett can force the Tech defense to respect the running game, the play-action will open up and allow O’Brien to have more time in the pocket. Meggett should have an advantage with two of Tech’s linebackers listed as playing in the game. If he can expose the mismatch, he can help Maryland’s attack and help win the time-of-possession battle.

With a run game established, the second task that Maryland will have to accomplish is to build up O’Brien’s confidence. Maryland should kick off the game with some easy throws and play-action passes in order to make sure their quarterback is comfortable throwing the ball so that he is less likely to be error prone. O’Brien is averaging 37.5 pass attempts per game, the highest average in the ACC. If he hits some short passes early, he will feel more comfortable looking down the field and throwing deeper routes to some of his speedy receivers.

Finally, Maryland will need to slow down Tech’s run game by allocating extra defenders to stack the box. If the Terrapins can rely on their cornerbacks to defend senior receiver Tyler Melton and junior receiver Stephen Hill one-on-one, they can stack the box with nine defenders and more effectively stop the run game. However, if they allow big plays in the passing game early, the Terps will have to back off the line of scrimmage and more honestly defend the pass. If Tech is allowed to get it’s run game going, Maryland will have to score on almost every possession to keep up.

Jackets

The Jackets return home from a 45-35 road win in Raleigh, NC to face off against the Maryland Terrapins. The Jackets are undefeated with a 5-0 record and are using their high powered option offense to collectively outscore their opponents 258-129 throughout the season. The Jackets lead the all time series 13-6, and Saturday’s matchup will be the first time since 2007 that the two teams have faced off. Tech will be looking to bring their conference record to 3-0, along with remaining undefeated at home. In order for the Jackets to avoid the upset, they will have to execute the following.

The Jackets’ front seven will have to force Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien into mistakes. O’Brien is in his second year at Maryland after earning ACC Rookie of the Year award in 2010. Despite his strong play, he is still mistake prone when the pocket is collapsing. In Maryland’s contest against West Virginia, O’Brien threw three interceptions and could not overcome the turnovers in the end. If the Jackets’ front line can move O’Brien out of his comfort zone, they should be able to force some turnovers.

Second, the Jackets’ backups will have to play well in the possible absence of starters at linebacker. Sophomore outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu and redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Daniel Drummond both suffered injuries against NC State, and may not play during the game against the Terps. Redshirt junior Malcolm Monroe and redshirt freshman Quayshawn Nealy will have to step up their performance in the case that both players are absent and be able to aid in run support and pass coverage.

Finally, the Jackets will have to reestablish an efficient passing game. Redshirt junior quarterback Tevin Washington struggled against NC State, only hitting four passing for a 33 percent completion percentage. Washington missed several wide open throws in Raleigh and will have to hook up with junior wide receiver Stephen Hill among his other receivers in order to make the running game more effective.

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