Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#107 Maryland vs.
#108 Illinois
Friday, September 17, 2021 at 9:00pm EDT
Written by Ben the Pen

Maryland has opened the season 2-0 and will take on Illinois (1-2) in the Terps' first Big 10 game of the season. Illinois is 1-0 in the Big 10 after upsetting Nebraska 30-22 as 6.5-point underdogs to open the season on Aug. 28. Since then, the Illini have dropped two straight UTSA (30-37) at home and to Virginia (42-14) on the road.

The Terps are coming off a 62-0 win over FCS Howard last week at home.

These teams last met in 2018 at College Park, where Maryland crushed Illinois 63-33.

Terps get first road test

Maryland was just too big and fast last week for FCS Howard in a 62-0 Maryland romp. The Bison had the ball just 22:47, went 0-for-11 on third downs, amassed 146 total yards and eight first downs. That was predictable for a team that played in two games in the spring and didn't play in the fall. Taulia Tagovailoa completed 22 of 27 for 274 yards with three TDs and was able to sit for most of the second half.

The Terps will lean on Tagovailoa to win because their running game might be a bit suspect. They have rushed for 195.5 yards in two games, while passing for 339.5 yards. But take away the Howard game, where they rushed for 227 yards, they rushed for 164 yards on 44 carries against the Mountaineers in the opener. That's just 3.7 yards per carry, but they were able to throw for 332 yards against a team that was considered to have one of the top passing defenses in the nation last year.

At running back, Tayon Fleet-Davis (214 yds, 1 TD) leads the way, while Isaiah Jacobs (brother of Josh) is also in the mix. Sophomore Peny Boone (6-1, 245) is the one to watch because of his size and speed.

Defensively, Maryland should be a little down at linebacker with Chance Campbell off to Ole Miss. Thus far, they've stuffed the run (57ypg), due to improved play up front. Highly-touted freshman linebacker Branden Jennings (8 tackles) is living up to his reputation. Last season, that unit allowed 230 yards per game and if they can continue to improve the rush defense, they can earn a bowl berth.

Peters is back at QB

Senior QB Brandon Peters (6-5, 220) has not lived up to expectations as the starting quarterback, who transferred from Michigan three seasons ago. This season, he injured his throwing non-throwing shoulder in the first quarter against Nebraska. Rutgers transfer Arthur Sitkowski came in and has had mixed success. He's completed 56.9% for 611 yards with six TDs and just one pick. But in both games he started against Virginia and UTSA, he struggled with accuracy. Head coach Brett Bielema announced on Monday that he's going back to Peters as the starting quarterback.

“Had a conversation with Art yesterday, brought him in, talked about where we’re at, what we’re doing," said Bielema on Rivals.com." It wasn’t anything he did or didn’t do well. He played extremely well, especially the way he first entered the game going back to the Nebraska game.”

“I thought the guys really did a nice job rallying around him and did some good things,” Bielema said of Sitkowski’s play. “But I told him if the roles were reversed and he was the starter and was knocked out of the game and BP came in, we’d do the exact same thing 100 times over. I think honesty’s always the best policy, and that was just being real.”

Knowing Maryland's history, Bielema would like to rely more on the running game. Running back Mike Epstein (107 yds) is injured and might not play. Freshman Reggie Love (83yds) is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. The Illini overall are averaging just 143 yards rushing (86th) and 215.3 passing yards.

Defense is a major concern in this one considering how capable Tagovailoa is as a QB. Last week against Virginia, they were shredded in the air by over 400 yards from Brennan Armstrong. Last season, they allowed 237.1 passing yards and this season, it's up to 311.7 yards (122nd). Maybe that's a small sample size in three games, but that's a major concern for a pretty experienced defense.

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Full-Game Side Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

The weather seems fine for this game and I think that's the only thing that could help Illinois (bad weather). The fact that they can't stop the pass this season and are struggling against the run (170ypg) is a sign that the Terps, who have balance, should dominate this game. The only concern is that this is Maryland's first road trip. Other than that, they have an advantage at just about every position including quarterback. That's the most important position and even though Peters is back as the starter for the Illini, that doesn't elicit comparisons of Jeff George or Tony Eason. He's just pretty average and he will have to throw since Illinois isn't a dominant running team. Tagovailoa should have a field day with Dontay Demus Jr. and Rakim Jarrett putting up big numbers.

Prediction: Maryland -7.5

Full-Game Total Pick

Insiders Status:

Rating:

Maryland is certainly capable of putting up 40 points as Virginia did, but it will be a little tougher on the road, playing in front of a crowd. Illinois' offense was stuffed in that game and Maryland's defense is capable of holding them to under 20 points. The Terps' defense will stop the run and force Peters to throw, which is not always the best thing. They should be able to get pressure against the 6-5 quarterback with DE Durrell Nchami, a future star, who already has two sacks. They held a pretty good West Virginia squad to just 24 points and going back to last season, the Terps have played four of five unders and seven of the last nine.

Prediction: Under 60.5
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Written By Ben Hayes , "Ben the Pen"

Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for nearly 30 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13! Ben has had great success in handicapping college football, the NFL, college basketball, the NBA and MLB for 25+ years.