Breakdown: Michigan vs. Maryland
Last weekend proved to be chaotic, as both Ohio State and Penn State suffered their second losses of the season.
But Michigan’s hopes of playing for a Big Ten championship are still bleak.
Coming off a two-game homestand, the Wolverines will travel to College Park in search of their third-straight win. Maryland, on the other hand, is fresh off a loss to Rutgers in Piscataway.
As the Wolverines (4-2 Big Ten, 7-2 overall) prepare to face former defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin for the second time, the Daily breaks down Saturday’s matchup:
Michigan pass offense vs. Maryland pass defense
With the way the Wolverines are running the ball, it’s hard to imagine redshirt freshman Brandon Peters — who was officially named Michigan’s new starter this week — being asked to attack the Terrapins’ secondary very often.
If it does come to that, Peters will have a favorable matchup against a Maryland defense allowing 258.9 yards per game through the air.
When Peters’ name has been called, he has looked capable. He opened the scoring against Minnesota with a 20-yard screen pass to sophomore tight end Sean McKeon that was taken to the end zone, and he threw another touchdown pass to Evans against Rutgers. In those two appearances, he has completed 18 of his 26 passes for 180 yards.
Ultimately, though, the Wolverines will likely lean on the run game until Maryland proves capable of stopping it.
Michigan run offense vs. Maryland run defense
If last week’s performance is any indication, it could be a long day for the Terrapins (2-4, 4-5).
Maryland allowed 5.2 yards per rush on 46 attempts against Rutgers, highlighted by Gus Edwards’ 109-yard day.
Now, the Terrapins will be tasked with stopping a Wolverine ground game that clicked in every regard against Minnesota. Junior Karan Higdon and sophomore Chris Evans combined for 391 yards against the Golden Gophers, all while posting four touchdowns — three of which came on runs of 60-plus yards.
That success was, in large part, a byproduct of an offensive line that is finally coming into its own. And with fifth-year senior Ty Isaac slated to return against Maryland after sitting out against Minnesota, the Terrapins’ job is only going to be harder.
Maryland pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense
The depth in Maryland’s quarterback room continues to dwindle with each passing week.
Tuesday afternoon, it was reported that Max Bortenschlager would be a game-time decision against the Wolverines after he suffered an injury in the fourth quarter against Rutgers.
Bortenschlager has become another name on a laundry list of injuries under center for the Terrapins, as Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill both suffered season-ending ACL tears through Maryland’s first three games.
If Bortenschlager is unavailable, walk-on Ryan Brand — who received his first snaps of the year against Rutgers last week — will take his place under center.
Either way, the Terrapins will face a Michigan secondary that ranks first nationally in passing defense, allowing an average of 142.8 yards per game through the air.
That’s an unenviable matchup for any quarterback, let alone the fourth-string option.
Maryland run offense vs. Michigan run defense
The Terrapins are entering Saturday’s matchup averaging 172.6 rushing yards per game, led by running back Ty Johnson’s 78.1 yards per game.
Though the Wolverines are allowing an average of just 102.6 yards on the ground, teams have found brief success against them. On Minnesota’s sole touchdown drive last week, the Golden Gophers opened with a 16-yard completion before running the ball nine consecutive times for 59 yards and finding the end zone on a 10-yard rush.
The problem for opposing teams, however, is sustaining that success. Minnesota finished the game with just 90 rushing yards, thanks in large part to sophomore VIPER Khaleke Hudson’s historic game, which featured 15 tackles, 8 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble.
And with Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst continuing to thrive on the defensive line, it’s hard to imagine Maryland finding success against this run defense.
Henry Darmstadter has converted on five of his seven field goal attempts this year, and is perfect on extra points. Redshirt freshman Quinn Nordin can’t say the same.
After an exceptional start to the year, Nordin has struggled through the last three weeks. He missed an extra point and 49-yard field goal against Minnesota, missed a 37-yarder against Rutgers and botched another extra point against Penn State.
Neither Maryland nor Michigan have flashed an above-average return ability, and with Nordin’s struggles as of late, Darmstadter could be the safer bet.
Chase Winovich joked that the Wolverines’ rallying cry would be centered around the fact that Durkin didn’t say goodbye to him prior to accepting the Maryland head coaching job. But in reality, Michigan is just looking to keep its winning streak alive.
The Terrapins, however, are trying to correct course after falling to 2-4 in the Big Ten with a loss against Rutgers last weekend.
At the end of the day, though, there hasn’t been any bulletin board material to push the needle in either team’s favor.
Prediction: Michigan 31, Maryland 7