Two games remain in Michigan’s forgettable 2014 season, but if the Wolverines win one of them they can earn a few extra weeks of practice and one final inglorious bowl game. Whether that happens or not, 12 seniors will play their final games in the Big House tomorrow against the Maryland Terrapins. Jake Ryan, Devin Gardner, Brennen Beyer, Raymon Taylor, Delonte Hollowell, Matt Wile, Will Hagerup, Joey Burzynski, Jonathan Keizer, Alex Mitropolous-Rundus, and Alex Swieca will lay their all on the field, fighting for one final game.
|Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – Big Ten Network
|Maryland Head Coach:
||Randy Edsall (4th season)
||93-98 (19-28 at Maryland)
||Mike Locksley (3rd season)
||Brian Stewart (3rd season)
|Returning 2013 Starters:
||17 (8 offense, 9 defense)
||7-6 (3-5 ACC)
||UM 45 – MD 17 (1990)
||Michigan leads 3-0
|Record at Michigan Stadium:
||Michigan leads 3-0
With Ohio State looming next Saturday, a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff bid for the taking, Michigan’s best remaining chance for a win is tomorrow. Maryland comes in one game better than Michigan overall at 6-4 and 3-3 in the conference, but the Terps are essentially a reverse of Michigan: better offense but worse defense.
Randy Edsall’s squad won four of its first five games of the season, beating James Madison (52-7), South Florida (24-17), Syracuse (34-20), and Indiana (37-15), and falling to West Virginia (40-37). The win over Indiana gave Maryland its first ever Big Ten victory, but it would be short-lived as the Terps met reality with a 52-24 loss to Ohio State. They got back on track with a 38-31 win over Iowa, but were demolished by Wisconsin, 52-7. Then, Maryland topped Penn State 20-19 in State College, but last week got crushed by Michigan State, 37-15.
A season of ups and downs has Maryland bowl eligible, but needing to win its final two to ensure a winning season.
Michigan and Maryland haven’t met since 1990 when Michigan won 45-17. Michigan has scored just 44 points combined in its past two games. Can Michigan beat the Terps to gain bowl eligibility? Or will Maryland force Michigan to go into Columbus fighting for its life next week? Let’s take a look at the matchup.
Michigan defense vs Maryland offense: When Maryland has the ball
Maryland’s offense ranks 65th nationally in scoring (28.8 points per game), 111th in rushing (113.9 yards per game), 66th in passing (229.8 yards per game), and 111th in total offense (343.7 yards per game). It also ranks 114th in time of possession (27:26), 116th in third-down conversions 31 percent), and 103rd in sacks allowed (2.8 per game). By comparison, Michigan averages 40 more rushing yards, 60 fewer passing yards, converts third downs seven percent better, and has allowed 10 fewer sacks.
The offense is led by quarterback C.J. Brown, who ranks eighth in the Big Ten in passing with 172.3 yards per game. He has completed just 52.7 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 375 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and five touchdowns.
Brown is the only player on the team with more than 100 carries (117), but running backs Wes Brown and Brandon Ross each average about seven carries per game. Ross is the second-leading rusher with 261 yards and two touchdowns, while Brown has 260 yards and four scores. Neither has a 100-yard rushing game this season.
Maryland’s offense took a huge blow a couple weeks ago when leading receiver Stefon Diggs suffered a lacerated kidney and will likely miss the rest of the regular season. Diggs ranked second in the Big Ten with 5.8 receptions per game and fifth with 72.7 yards per game. His five touchdowns led the team. His absence leaves Deon Long to carry the load. Long is the only other player with more than 20 receptions, with 38 for 450 yards and a touchdown. Marcus Leak has the second-most receiving touchdowns — three — which have accounted for one-sixth of his receptions. The fourth-leading pass catcher is Ross, who has 14 receptions for 212 yards and two scores.
Michigan offense vs Maryland defense: When Michigan has the ball
Maryland’s defense ranks 82nd nationally in points per game (29.0), 97th against the run (198.3 yards per game), 83rd against the pass (238.5 yards per game), and 97th in total defense (436.8 yards per game). It holds opponents to a 38 percent third-down conversion rate — the same as Michigan’s defense — and has been pretty good at getting to the quarterback, raining 23rd with 28 sacks — one more than Michigan.
The line hasn’t been able to stop the run with nose tackle Darius Kilgo, who has 37 tackles, seven for loss, and two sacks. But the ends have been pretty good, especially Andre Monroe, who leads the team and ranks second in the Big Ten with 8.5 sacks and ranks second on the team with 11 tackles for loss. The other end, Keith Bowers, has 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
The linebacking corps is the strength of the defense, led by outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, who leads the team and ranks fifth in the conference with 12.5 tackles for loss to go along with 5.5 sacks. The other outside backer, Matt Robinson, has just 26 tackles and 1.5 for loss. In the middle, Cole Farrand and L.A. Goree have a combined 169 tackles and six for loss. They rank sixth and 10th in the Big Ten in tackles, respectively.
Cornerback Sean Davis leads the secondary. His 94 tackles and eight pass breakups lead the team and he ranks fourth in the Big Ten in tackles. The other corner, William Likely, leads the Terps with 12 passes defended, which is also tied for first in the conference. His five interceptions also lead the Big Ten and he has returned two of them for touchdowns. Safeties Zach Dancel and Anthony Nixon have combined for 55 tackles, one for loss, six passes defended, and two takeaways.
Special Teams: The other third
Kicker Brad Craddock hasn’t missed yet this season, having made all 14 attempts with a long of 57. Nine of his 14 field goals have been from 40 yards or longer and the 14 average 39.7 yards. Punter Nathan Renfro ranks seventh in the conference with an average of 41.2 yards per punt. He has landed 20 of his 71 punts inside the 20 and 11 have gone longer than 50 yards.
Likely averages 11 yards per punt return — fourth in the Big Ten — and has returned one for a touchdown. He will take over the main kick return duties from Diggs. His seven kick returns so far this season have averaged 32.6 yards, compared to Diggs’ 23.9.
Neither team has a very good offense, especially without Diggs, but the main difference in this one is Michigan’s defense compared to Maryland’s. While it took a big hit with the dismissal of Frank Clark, it’s still much better than what the Terps bring to the table.
The weather calls for cold and rainy conditions, perhaps even freezing rain. That’s not conducive to offense and favors the team with the better defense and the better running game. Maryland’s main advantage is its passing game, but that should be negated by the weather.
I expect another ugly offensive game by both teams, similar to the Michigan-Northwestern game. On senior day in Michigan Stadium, Michigan will find a way to pull it out and become bowl eligible.
Michigan 17 – Maryland 16