Eyes on the Enemy: Maryland

Football

Fresh off Jim Harbaugh’s first top-10 win since 2016, the Michigan football team will head to College Park riding high.

The 14th-ranked Wolverines (6-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) outgained Notre Dame by over 250 yards in last week’s 45-14 blowout — a performance that saw U-M eclipse the 300-yard mark on the ground for the first time all season. This week, the Wolverines will face a Maryland defense allowing 424.1 yards per game — second-worst in the Big Ten only to Rutgers.

Offensively, the Terrapins (3-5, 1-4) have cooled off quite a bit after posting 142 points across their first two games. In the six games since, Maryland’s offense is averaging less than 20 points per game. That figure is weighed down by the Terps’ struggles against ranked Big Ten teams, which include a shutout against then-No. 12 Penn State and a 10-point dud against then-No. 17 Minnesota.

So, how can Michigan spoil the Terrapins’ homecoming game?

Capitalize on favorable matchups against a porous secondary

For a U-M team that has only surpassed 300 passing yards once this season, this matchup will present an opportunity to let senior quarterback Shea Patterson sling it. The Terrapins have been torched through the air, as they’ve yielded a conference-worst average of 273.6 passing yards per game under the offensive mind of first-year head coach Mike Locksley.

With starting safety Antwaine Richardson (torn ACL) already out for the season and senior defensive back Marcus Lewis (lower body) questionable for Saturday, the Wolverines’ highly-touted receiving corps of Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black could have a big day. Physically, U-M’s receivers seem likely to overmatch Maryland, even if sophomore slot-man Ronnie Bell’s injury keeps him out of the game.

If Bell is inactive, expect Mike Sainristil — who had three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Irish last week — to get the nod in the slot. Despite being a true freshman, Sainristil’s lightning-like speed makes him a big-play threat on any route. On Monday, Jim Harbaugh lauded Sainristil’s improvement over the last four weeks, particularly in response to a recent rut in practice.

Don’t become Dontay Demus’ next victim

Maryland’s passing attack isn’t among the Big Ten’s most daunting, but Dontay Demus Jr. has established himself as one of the conference’s top wideouts. The 6-foot-3 sophomore has four games this season with at least 80 receiving yards, of which he’s eclipsed the century mark in two, and a team-best four touchdowns. His 31 receptions are tied for ninth-most in the Big Ten.

But in the Terps’ two games against ranked conference opponents, Demus has been a non-factor. He hauled in one catch for 18 yards against Penn State and recorded three receptions for 21 yards against Minnesota and failed to find the end zone in either game. If Michigan’s defense is to deliver another strong performance this weekend, it’ll start with neutralizing Demus.

The verdict

Maryland’s inconsistent play has been well-documented throughout the season. The Terps have celebrated a 79-point victory, suffered a 59-point defeat and fallen short in games that went down to the wire. Even so, Maryland has home-field advantage, a talented roster and a homecoming crowd at its back in this weekend’s upset bid.

But it won’t be enough. The Wolverines are riding high off the program’s best win in recent memory, and a far less talented Terrapin team won’t be enough to halt that momentum unless U-M’s early-season self-inflicted wounds resurface.

Final: Michigan 38, Maryland 17

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