The University of Maryland Terrapins host Tech, losers of three of the last four games, sporting a 4-4 overall record and a 2-2 record in the ACC. They are coming off a bad 20-17 loss to Boston College, Tech’s previous ACC foe, who had only one win prior to defeating Maryland.
To make things worse for Maryland, starting quarterback Caleb Rowe suffered a season ending injury in the 4th quarter against Boston College. Caleb Rowe is Maryland’s fourth quarterback to suffer a season ending injury this season, and their fifth projected starter overall after the transfer of preseason favorite Danny O’Brien. The offense will now be turned over to true freshman linebacker Shawn Petty or reserve Tight End Brian McMahon. Petty has never taken a snap at quarterback at the college level, but did play an option-style quarterback in high school.
Maryland’s leading rusher is also a true freshman, Wes Brown. He comes into the game averaging 4.2 yards per carry on 81 attempts to go along with two touchdowns. True freshman receiver Stefon Diggs is Maryland’s biggest threat offensively. He is averaging 17.5 yards per reception on 38 receptions, and has caught 4 touchdowns, while also being prevalent on many wildcat plays.
The bright spot for Maryland this season has been their defense. They rank 28th nationally in scoring defense, giving up an average of 20.25 points per game. They also rank 4th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing opponents to rush for an average of only 77.6 yards per game. Defending the run is crucial when playing against Tech’s 4th ranked rushing attack.
To beat Tech, Maryland will have to run the ball very efficiently. They will surely hope to avoid leaving the fate of the game in the hands of a first time starting quarterback, whomever it may be, and they will need to be able to control the clock, a weakness of the Jackets. It will also be important for Maryland to force some three-and-outs and give their struggling offense as many possessions as possible to put some points on the board.
Tech heads to College Park with a 3-5 record and 2-3 record in the ACC. Tech is coming off a 41-17 loss to BYU, which included a poor offensive performance, as the three points scored marked only the second time in the Paul Johnson era that the offense did not score a touchdown.
It is still unsure who will be starting at quarterback for Tech this weekend. It could very well be Senior Tevin Washington, or as Coach Paul Johnson hinted in his post game press conference, a change could be coming and redshirt freshman Vad Lee may get his first career start. Vad Lee has completed 11 of 21 passes this season for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns. If Vad is chosen as the starter, his arm could be the difference against Maryland’s stellar rush defense.
Although Tech’s post Al Groh defense scored seven points against BYU, coming on junior safety Isaiah Johnson’s interception returned for a touchdown, they still gave up 40+ points for the fourth time in five games. With Maryland having their fifth string quarterback starting, the Tech defense should be able to give up fewer points. Tech has forced 14 turnovers this season, and they should assuredly put an emphasis on causing some more against an inexperienced Maryland offense.
The key for Tech to beat Maryland is going to be stopping the run and forcing Maryland into long yardage passing plays. If they can force the quarterback into third-and-long situations, Tech’s defense should be able to get off the field. Look for Tech to take a few deep shots through the air early to make the Maryland defense respect the pass, and hopefully open up some running lanes. Tech’s offense will also need to convert on third downs. They were 0-10 on third downs against BYU, which is the main reason they could only hold the ball for 21 minutes. The longer Tech can hold onto the ball, the less opportunity the defense has to give up points.
Prediction: Tech: 27 Maryland: 20