Michigan (7-2, 4-2) has one tune-up left, Maryland (4-5, 2-4), before two huge games to end the regular season.
It would be easy for the Wolverines to overlook a bad Maryland team with a trip to Madison and The Game coming up. But, it should be used as an opportunity to try to work the kinks out of the passing game.
The Terps haven’t exactly garnered a ton of media attention this yea, sans the Week One over Texas. We made it easy to get to know them. Here are three strengths and weaknesses of second-year coach DJ Durkin’s squad.
Once again, Michigan comes up against a team that has performed well in turnover margin. Coming in at second in the Big Ten, the Terps have only lost three fumbles and had the ball intercepted six times. They haven’t played against the likes of Khaleke Hudson, though; plus, that could be a byproduct of not having the ball (more on that later). The Michigan defense will probably get one but no more.
On the other side of the ball, Maryland has 10 interceptions on the year, led by JC Jackson and Darnell Savage, with three each. I was wrong last time I made this prediction, but this will only be Brandon Peters’s second game starting, he’s a redshirt freshman and he’s almost given one away before–expect Maryland to have at least one interception this game.
The Terps are second-best in the Big Ten at drawing penalties. Whether they’re actually good at drawing those penalties or refs are just feeling sorry for them is an open debate. Seriously, wait until you get to the second half of this. Either way, you’re going to see a lot of flags on the Wolverines–Michigan is the second-most penalized team in the Big Ten.
Maryland relies on its best wide receiver, junior DJ Moore, and best running back, junior Ty Johnson, to handle punt return and kick return duties, respectively. Their skill has the Terps ranked third in both categories. Moore averages 12.8 yards per punt return, and Johnson 26.6 yards per kickoff return, plus Johnson took a 100-yarder to the house.
The Terps average 36.3 points allowed per game, the worst in the Big Ten. Giving up 62 to Ohio State inflates that number a bit, but they also allowed 41 to Texas, 38 to UCF, 37 to Northwestern, 39 to Indiana and 31 to Rutgers. It doesn’t matter how bad Michigan’s pass offense is or how much they struggle in the red zone, expect 30-40 points against this shaky Maryland D.
Surprise, the Terps also rank last in this category. They’ve given up a whopping 433.7 yards per game this year with former Wolverine d-coordinator Durkin at the helm. That is awful to hear if you’re a Maryland fan and Michigan is coming off a 427-yard performance after taking its foot off the gas against a better defense in Minnesota.
3rd Down Defense
Yes, another defensive category that Maryland ranks dead-last among Big Ten teams in, allowing a conversion 49.7 percent of the time. Even though Michigan’s pass game is suspect, don’t expect that number to go down after Saturday. The Wolverines will gain so many yards on first and second down with its run game, Brandon Peters probably won’t throw often, especially if the Minnesota game is any indication.