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Maryland was once a 4-0 football team, and the Terps entered the top 25 to set up a huge matchup with Florida State. That one turned out to be 63-0 FSU, and the seasons for both teams have gone in opposite directions since then.
In a way, Maryland reminds me of that 1999 Syracuse team that was ranked #16 in the country when they came to Blacksburg. After they left with a 62-0 loss, they never recovered, and they limped to a 6-5 finish.
Ever since getting dismantled by FSU, Maryland hasn’t played well.
27-26 W over UVA: If you struggle to beat UVA, you probably have issues.
34-10 L at Wake Forest: The Terps played a very poor game in Winston-Salem.
40-27 L vs. Clemson: This game was 40-20 Clemson until the Terps tacked on a late TD.
20-3 L vs. Syracuse: Maryland’s offense was dreadful in a loss to a Syracuse team that lost to GT 56-0.
Of course, Maryland’s record was helped by their soft early season schedule. FIU, ODU, UConn and West Virginia all range from “terrible” to “below average”.
Youth is an issue for Maryland’s offense
Much like Virginia Tech, youth has been a hindrance to the development of Maryland’s offense. A total of four freshmen start on offense for the Terps, including two on the offensive line. At their three wide receiver spots, they have three freshmen and three sophomores in the two-deep. The loss of starting wide receivers Deon Long and Stefon Diggs have been huge.
In fact, the injuries have forced Maryland to move former Virginia Tech quarterback Ricardo Young to wide receiver. Young has appeared in exactly two games in his Maryland career.
Maryland’s offensive line is extremely young, and the Virginia Tech defensive front will be a very difficult matchup for them.
LT Moise Larose (6-6, 296, Fr.): Larose started for the first time against Syracuse last week.
LG De’Onte Arnett (6-4, 295, r-Sr.): Arnett is one of Maryland’s most experienced players. He is in his second year as a starter.
C Sal Conaboy (6-4, 285, r-Jr.): Conaboy, like Arnett, is in his second season as a starter. He can play any interior line position.
RG Michael Dunn (6-5, 295, r-Fr.): Dunn is only a r-freshman, but he has started in every game this year.
RT Ryan Doyle (6-4, 295, r-So.): Doyle finds himself in the starting lineup despite not lettering last season.
That offensive line blocks for a running game that averages just 142 yards per game on the ground. That ranks #89 in the country.
The Terps will run a ton of read option with quarterback C.J. Brown (6-3, 210, r-Sr.). Brown has missed a couple of games with injuries, but he is second on the team in carries (71) and third in yards (256). He also leads the team with six rushing touchdowns.
Brown started off strong this season, much like the rest of the team. However, a lack of quality talent at the wide receiver spot has limited him in the passing game. He has completed 61% of his passes for 1,473 yards, with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Against Syracuse last week, Brown threw two picks and no touchdowns as the Terps struggled to move the football (he also had 15 carries for just 5 yards in that game).
With his top two receivers out, Brown will turn to the following receivers:
Lavern Jacobs (5-11, 185, So.): 27 catches, 428 yards, 15.9 ypc, 2 TDs
Nigel King (6-3, 210, r-So.): 18 catches, 263 yards, 14.6 ypc, 2 TDs
Amba Etta-Tawo (6-1, 190, r-Fr.): 17 catches, 222 yards, 13.1 ypc, 1 TD
Malcolm Culmer (5-11, 190, r-Fr.): 4 catches, 52 yards, 13 ypc
That’s a very young and inexperienced group of wide receivers. However, Virginia Tech’s secondary is vulnerable and shy of depth right now. I would be a bit surprised if senior corners Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum played this week. True freshman nickel Chuck Clark is also hurt. That means sophomore Donovan Riley could be pressed into action, or Tech could slide Detrick Bonner to nickel and play Der’Woun Greene at free safety as they did against Miami. Neither situation is ideal. However, the matchup advantage still goes to Virginia Tech as long as nobody else gets hurt.
The Terps will primarily use two backs against Virginia Tech.
Brandon Ross (5-10, 205, r-So.): 106 carries, 512 yards, 4.8 ypc, 4 TD
Albert Reid (5-9, 205, So.): 57 carries, 274 yards, 4.8 ypc, 1 TD
Ross has gained 584 yards, but he’s lost 72, which shows that the Maryland offensive line is prone to allow penetration. As a comparison, Trey Edmunds has lost just 24 yards this year on 33 more carries. Again, that should be a favorable matchup for the Virginia Tech defense.
We mentioned earlier that the Terps have really struggled in their last five games. Here’s a look at their offensive numbers in those games.
vs. FSU: 33 rushing yards, 1.3 ypc, 201 passing yards, 0 TD, 0 INTs
vs. UVA: 136 rushing yards, 4.5 ypc, 332 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs
vs. Wake: 39 yards rushing, 1.7 ypc, 334 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
vs. Clemson: 82 rushing yards, 3.3 ypc, 282 passing yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
vs. Syracuse: 81 rushing yards, 2.2 ypc, 211 passing yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs
Ideally, Maryland would be able to turn to the running game against the Hokies. If they can shorten the game, and they can get Logan Thomas flustered and force turnovers, then they can have a chance to win the football game. However, they have to be careful to avoid their own mistakes on offense. The Terps have tossed six interceptions in their last three football games.
However, Maryland isn’t going to be able to run the football against Virginia Tech. Their running game has been completely shut down over the last five weeks (well, except for that one game against UVA, of course). When they haven’t been able to run the ball, they’ve been turning it over. That’s a terrible recipe with which to play the Virginia Tech defense. The Terps are going to struggle to score on Saturday, unless they get some help from the Hokie offense.
Here’s a look at the NFLDraftScout rankings for Maryland’s offensive starters:
C.J. Brown: #26 QB in 2014
Brandon Ross: #32 RB in 2016
Lavern Jacobs: Unranked WR in 2016
Nigel King: #44 WR in 2016
Amba Etta-Tawo: #42 WR in 2017
Dave Stinebaugh: #29 TE in 2014
Moise Larose: unranked OT in 2017
De’Onte Arnett: #76 OG in 2014
Sal Conaboy: #32 C in 2015
Michael Dunn: unranked in 2017
Ryan Doyle: #67 OT in 2016
From a talent perspective, the Terps are one of the lowest-rated teams the Hokies have faced.
The Maryland Defense: Unspectacular, but Solid
Maryland’s defense doesn’t stand out in any particular area, but they are solid across the board.
Pass Eff: #47
Third downs: #26
The outliers amongst those stats are their very good ranking in third down defense, yet their red zone defense is among the worst in college football. From a percentage standpoint, there’s a good chance the Hokies will continue the red zone success they had last weekend (four touchdowns in five trips).
However, they first must get to the red zone against a Maryland defense that has been solid. Let’s be fair to the Maryland offense and run the same numbers for the defense over Maryland’s last five games. These are the numbers opponents put up on the Terps:
vs. FSU: 183 rushing, 4.3 ypc, 431 passing, 5 TDs, 0 INTs
vs. UVA: 242 rushing, 4.9 ypc, 263 passing, 1 TD, 0 INT
vs. Wake: 47 rushing, 2 ypc, 260 passing, 2 TD, 0 INT
vs. Clemson: 247 rushing, 4.3 ypc, 304 passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
vs. Syracuse: 242 rushing, 5.4 ypc, 140 passing, 0 TD, 1 INT
Despite their solid numbers for the overall season, things have been trending down defensively. Four of their five most recent opponents have gashed them on the ground, and with the exception of a completely mediocre Syracuse team, they’ve all been able to throw the football as well. That bodes well for a Virginia Tech offense that has to be confident after last weekend’s balanced and dominating performance against Miami.
Maryland runs a 3-4 defense, but like any other 3-4 it can be morphed into a 4-man or 5-man front depending on the personnel grouping of the offense. Even though Miami technically runs a 4-3, at times we’ll probably see some similar defensive formations this week.
Maryland’s defensive line has the size that you typically see out of a 3-4 defense.
DE Quinton Jefferson (6-3, 275, So.): Jefferson is one of Maryland’s most active defensive players. He has five TFL and a sack this season.
DT Darius Kilgo (6-3, 310, r-Jr.): Kilgo is in his second season as a starter. He has 4.5 TFL and two sacks. David Wang played very well against a head-up nose tackle last week, and he will have another challenge this week.
DE Keith Bowers (6-1, 275, Jr.): Bowers was an Honorable Mention Freshman All-American two years ago when he had six TFL and 2.5 sacks. However, he was banged up last season, and he hasn’t made a single tackle for loss this year.
I think the Hokies will attack the Terps with plenty of their zone plays, and it will be important to get the outside linebackers blocked inside on those outside zones. Maryland has one very good linebacker.
OLB Marcus Whitfield (6-3, 250, r-Sr.): Whitfield began his career as a defensive end, but then had to adjust to outside linebacker. He never had much playing time until this year, but he has 12.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks. He is Maryland’s top playmaker on either side of the ball.
ILB L.A. Goree (6-2, 235, r-Jr.): Goree was yet another Honorable Mention Freshman All-American for the Terps, but he hasn’t developed into anything more than a “solid” player. He has four TFL and one sack.
ILB Cole Farrand (6-3, 245, Jr.): Farrand led Maryland in tackles last season, and he’s doing the same again this year. He has 67 total stops, with four TFL and 0.5 sacks.
OLB Matt Robinson (6-3, 240, r-Jr.): Robinson played safety this season before bulking up and playing outside linebacker. He has 3.5 TFL on the year. I believe he’s an exploitable player in the Maryland defense.
Just like in the front seven, there are holes in the Maryland secondary.
CB Isaac Goins (5-11, 195, Sr.): The JUCO transfer has two interceptions this year after playing sparingly last season.
S Sean Davis (6-1, 190, So.): The true sophomore is second on the team in tackles with 65.
S Anthony Nixon (6-1, 205, So.): Nixon has had a totally quiet season. He has 34 tackles, 1 TFL, no interceptions and no passes defended.
CB William Likely (5-7, 175, Fr.): A 5-7, true freshman corner. This could have big play potential. However, Likely is a very good athlete. He was a 4-star recruit from Florida with a big offer list.
That’s a vulnerable group of defensive tackles that includes a true freshman, two true sophomores and a JUCO senior.
Let’s look at their NFLDraftScout.com ratings for Maryland’s defense.
Quinton Jefferson: #35 DE in 2016
Darius Kilgo: #10 DT in 2015
Keith Bowers: #63 DE in 2015
Marcus Whitfield: #22 OLB in 2014
Cole Farrand: #33 ILB in 2015
L.A. Goree: #25 ILB in 2015
Matt Robinson: #39 OLB in 2015
Isaac Goins: #106 CB in 2014
Sean Davis: #12 FS in 2016
Anthony Nixon: #18 SS in 2016
William Likely: #71 CB in 2017
On the whole, Maryland’s defense seems to be rated higher in terms of NFL potential than Miami’s defense. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing what Virginia Tech’s offense was able to do to the Hurricanes last week.
However, the Maryland defense has performed poorly in the more recent five games. They haven’t been able to stop anybody. Can they stop a Tech offense that is coming off its two best (total yards) performances of the season?
The Kicking Game
William Likely is a dangerous return man for Maryland. The 5-7 corner is averaging 27.4 yards per kickoff return. Though he’s only averaging 8.7 yards per punt return, he does have one return for 27 yards. Virginia Tech’s coverage teams have struggled recently, so they’ll need to play better this week.
Brad Craddock (6-1, 190, So.) has been very consistent this year, going 16-of-20 on his field goal attempts. His longest kick came from 50 yards, and he’s only missed one kick inside 40 yards on the season. At this point, we have no idea who Virginia Tech’s kicker is going to be. Here are the choices:
Ethan Keyserling (r-Jr.): Missed three field goals earlier this year.
Michael Branthover (Jr.): Tech’s former starting punter. He has experience as a kickoff man
R.J. Warfel (Fr.): Has never played in a college game.
Eric Kristensen: Has never played in a college game.
Keyserling and Branthover have experience on a college football field, but it has never been particularly impressive experience. Eric Kristensen was issued a number today according to the HokieSports.com roster (#22), so this could be a clue that he’s had a good week of practice and will dress on Saturday.
Nathan Renfro (6-1, 205, So.) handles Maryland’s punting duties. He averages 41.5 yards per punt. The Terps are #49 nationally in net punting.
At this point in the season, talent takes over. Coaches have done all they can do with schemes, game plans, coming up with new ideas each week, etc. Every team’s book is out on film, at this time of year. In November, it comes down to being ready to play, talent, and turnovers.
Virginia Tech has more talent than Maryland. I’m confident the Hokies will be ready to play. I’m willing to bet that blowing out Miami reenergized them. It’s Senior Day. I think Tech will come out and play a good game. As far as turnovers go, I don’t know. Logan’s turnovers have gone like this in 2013:
He’s been very much hit or miss since ACC play began. My gut feel is that we’ll see the “hit” version of Logan Thomas over the final two games of the regular season. If that happens, barring a major letdown by Tech’s defense, Maryland won’t be able to win this football game. If they can make it a field goal kicking contest, they’ll have a chance. However, if the Hokies score touchdowns in the red zone like they did last week, this one won’t be close.
Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Maryland 7
Will Stewart’s Take: If the Hokies play like they did against Miami, they will absolutely smoke Maryland. Like, 2004 – style beatdown.
Ha! I crack myself up. One good game, and I’m talking smack. Truth is, I don’t have much of a clue how this one is going to go, because the VT team we saw against the Canes was very different from the one we had seen in previous weeks, especially offensively. And I’m not just talking about the turnovers; I’m talking about lining up in something other than shotgun, running less read option, and giving the ball to the running backs a lot more. Not to mention blocking a lot better.
Will the Hokies go back to shotgun read option, with Logan keeping the ball the vast majority of the time? If so, then Maryland can do what everyone else did, and tee off on the running game and see what happens with the passing game. Will the offensive line block the Terps as well as they blocked the Canes? If so, the Hokies are going to put up at least decent offensive numbers, maybe some very good offensive numbers. And so on.
Defensively, I don’t see VT giving up the huge yardage plays against Maryland that they did against Miami.
Bottom line, the Terps are really floundering right now, but Miami game aside, I still don’t have a lot of confidence in the Hokies. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Hokies are going to win. I’m just not confident enough to pick a four-score victory. I can see anything from a ten-point win to a 42-7 blowout. I’ll play it a little on the conservative side.
Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Maryland 10