Maryland takes on No. 17 Minnesota on the road on Saturday. The Terps have lost five of six games since opening up the season at 2-0. They are 1-3 in the Big 10, while the Golden Gophers are undefeated overall. Last season, Minnesota was dominated by the Terps from College Park, 41-13.
Good news for the TerpsIt's been a tough first season for head coach Mike Locksley. He desperately needed a quarterback and appeared to find one in Virginia Tech grad transfer Josh Jackson. But after playing well in their first two games in wins over Syracuse (63-20) and FCS Howard (79-0), he struggled against Temple (20-17 loss) and Penn State (59-0). Jackson suffered a sprained ankle in the first half against Rutgers (48-7 win) on Oct. 5 and missed their last two games.
The Terps were blasted by Purdue on Oct. 12, 40-14 and then lost at home last week to Indiana, 34-28. That was with backup quarterback Tyrell Pigrome, who struggled with turnovers and accuracy. Running back Javon Leake led the Terps with 158-yard rushing and two scores, but the Terps' defense continued to struggle. They allowed 334 yards in the air and 189 on the ground to the Hoosiers.
For Maryland to beat Minnesota, they need to control the ball on offense. Getting Jackson back along with star running back Anthony McFarland (ankle) won't hurt as Locksley announced on Tuesday that both will return on Saturday. McFarland has 340 yards rushing and eight combined TDs this season, but played sparingly against Purdue (four carries) and sat out against Indiana. Leake has taken over with 499 yards and eight TDs. Jackson has also struggled with accuracy (51.1%) and has 10TDs with four picks.
But the defense has got to be better, especially against the pass. They are allowing 287.4 yards per game, which ranks last in the big 10. Teams are completing a ridiculous 65.6% of their passes against them and they are giving up 8.2 yards per pass. The Gophers are more of a balanced offense, but they can certainly take advantage of the Terps' defensive woes.
Soft schedule or legit contender?Minnesota is a great story right now in the Big 10. Third-year coach P.J. Fleck has his squad at 7-0 for the first time since 1960 and they are ranked 17th in the latest AP Top 25 poll. The Golden Gophers have not faced a tremendous schedule. In fact, they have not met anybody close to the Top 25 but you have to play who is on your schedule. They do have Penn State at home, Iowa and Northwestern on the road and Wisconsin at home to end the season, so it will get tougher after the Terps.
Defensively, Minnesota took advantage of a poor Rutgers squad in their last outing, holding them to just 48 yards passing and 141 rushing yards. Quarterback Tanner Morgan tossed for 245 yards with two TDs, while running back Rodney Smith led the Gophers with 111 yards and two TDs.
On the season, Morgan has completed 66.4% of his passes for 1,623 yards with 16 TDs and three picks. Smith is third in the Big 10 in rushing with 786 yards (5.7ypc) with six TDs.
Defensively, Minnesota will be tested on the ground against the Terps. They are allowing 122.9 yards per game and just 3.6 yards per carry to rank seven in the conference.
On offense, they rank sixth in total offense with 419.7 yards per game and fifth in rushing offense with 187.9 yards per game (4.1ypc).
- 1-6 ATS last 7 road games.
- 16-35 ATS last 51 following an ATS win.
- 5-0 ATS last 5 conference games.
- 4-0 ATS last 4 in October.