Penn State (5-2) vs. Maryland (2-4) 3:30 pm
Maryland defeated the Nittany Lions 20-19 in Happy Valley last season. The Terrapins are coming off of a bye week while Penn State is coming off a 38-10 loss in Columbus to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Both teams played Ohio State, Maryland lost 49-28 in the Horseshoe on October 10th.
The Nittany Lions will need to find consistency this week on the road in Maryland. The team is averaging 23 points per game and will look to run the football on a suspect Terrapin front seven. Penn State is averaging 162 rushing yards per game and 177 passing yards through the air. Part of the team’s struggles have been because of a weak offensive line that is allowing 24 sacks (5 last week vs. Ohio State) on the season. The lack of cohesiveness on the offensive line has forced head coach James Franklin and the offensive staff to run the ball first which has taken the football out of quarterback Christian Hackenberg’s hands. On the year, Hackenberg has completed 53.1% of his passes for 1,206 yards with 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Running back Saquon Barkley has been the main component of the offense (team leading 567 yards 8.3 yards per carry 3 TD’s) as the Nittany Lions have been one dimensional most of the season. In order to stop the Terrapins from keying on Barkley and the running attack, the offensive staff must be able to break tendencies by passing on first and second down. This will stop Maryland from crowding the line of scrimmage and, in turn ,open up bigger running lanes for Barkley. Penn State utilized this type of game plan against Indiana and the Hackenberg exploded with a four touchdown performance (2 rushing 2 passing). Wide receiver Chris Godwin leads the team with 30 receptions for 493 yards with one touchdown. Godwin runs precise routes and is not afraid to go over the middle of the field to make plays for his quarterback. In order to get the road victory on Saturday, Godwin along with teammate DaeSean Hamilton (19 rec. 220 yards 3 TD’s), must get involved early on in the game to exploit the Maryland secondary.
The Penn State defense is very solid giving up 17.7 points per game and leads the FBS in sacks with 27. Led by defensive lineman Carl Nassib (team leading 11.5 sacks), the unit is very physical and has the ability to take over a game. Penn State is allowing 145 rushing yards per game and has been very good at defending the pass yielding 152 yards per game to their opponents. In order to win the game on the road, look for Penn State to force Maryland quarterback Perry Hills to beat them with his arm. Last week, the Nittany Lions were hurt by the mobility of Ohio State quarterback J.T Barrett. However, Hills is not as athletic as Barrett and has struggled in reading coverage this year (4 interceptions on the season). The defense will look to bring pressure from the edge to keep Hills in the pocket and pressure him into quick throws in the flat. Penn State has done an excellent job in forcing turnovers and must be able to win the turnover battle on Saturday. On the year, the Nittany Lions are +7 in turnover margin.
Maryland has been averaging 24.3 points per game this year and has had great success running the football this season. The Terrapins are rushing for 177 yards per game and are passing for 163 yards through the air. Quarterback Perry Hills has completed 47.4% of his passes for 439 with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions this year. Hills has been inconsistent when the game has been put on his shoulders and must be able to work off of play action to have success in the vertical passing attack. Hills is a good runner that has added 289 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground averaging 8.0 yards per rushing attempt. Running back Brandon Ross leads the team with 431 yards averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 2 touchdowns. Maryland will need to stretch the Penn State defense vertically and keep the pressure off of the offensive line. Wide receiver Levern Jacobs leads the team with 22 receptions for 222 yards with 2 touchdowns. The offense has been plagued by penalties and has committed 7.8 penalties per game and has averaged 74 penalty yards per game.
The Terrapins have allowed 34.7 points per game and will be challenged on Saturday in run support. On the year, Maryland has struggled in shutting down the run from opposing offenses and is giving up 196 yards per game. This lack of success has put pressure on Terrapins in pass coverage, as the team has been forced to play safeties and nickel backs up near the line of scrimmage. The Terrapins have been burned by big plays all year in and have surrendered 260 passing yards per game. Two bright spots for the defense has been linebacker Jermaine Carter who leads the team with 63 total tackles and the fact that the unit has been able to generate a pass rush (20 sacks entering this game). In order to get the conference win on Saturday at home, Maryland must be able to force turnovers against Hackenberg. The Terrapins are last in FBS in turnover margin at -11 (127 of 127 teams) and will need a better effort on Saturday afternoon to give their offense field position.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
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