Michigan hosts Maryland tomorrow for the first time since 1990 and for the first time as Big Ten conference foes. Both teams have much to play for — Michigan to become bowl eligible and Maryland to assure a winning season. Twelve seniors will play their final game in Michigan Stadium. Can Michigan pick up its sixth win? Or will Maryland complete the Big Ten newbie sweep of the Wolverines? Here are our picks.
Justin: Michigan’s defense suffered a huge blow last weekend when Frank Clark was dismissed from the team for a domestic violence incident in an Ohio hotel. Clark was having the best season of his career and recorded the game-saving stop to beat Northwestern (he didn’t actually sack Trevor Siemian, but made the play that caused Siemian to slip). Without the leader of the defensive line, Michigan will have to rely on Taco Charlton and Mario Ojemudia to step up.
Maryland, however, lost its top player to injury when receiver Stefon Diggs suffered a lacerated kidney a couple weeks ago. He leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, so his loss evens out Clark’s.
In normal weather conditions, the offense should be able to have more success against Maryland’s defense than it did against Northwestern’s. The Terps have given up big passing games (511 passing yards by West Virginia) and rushing games (370 yards by Syracuse) this season and rank in the bottom third nationally in both categories.
I expect an evenly matched game, but with cold and rainy conditions — perhaps even freezing rain — expected, it won’t be as high scoring as it normally would be. It’s basically a coin flip, but I’ll give the edge to Michigan at home on senior day.
Michigan 17 – Maryland 16
Sam: Didn’t have a chance to write up a full prediction, but his score prediction is below.
Maryland 23 – Michigan 19
Derick: This season has been nothing short of a disaster for Michigan, as its 5-5 record has unthinkably become a secondary story to off-field issues like playing Shane Morris with a concussion, running Dave Brandon out of town and dismissing Frank Clark for hitting his girlfriend.
Losing Clark will certainly hurt the Wolverines’ pass rush, but this defense has been among the best in the country all season, never allowing an opponent to score more than their season average despite spending most of the game on the field thanks to an anemic offense.
Luckily, one of the greatest pretenders in all of college football is coming to town in the form of the Terrapins. Maryland is 6-4 on paper, but their best wins are against bad Iowa and Penn State teams by seven points and one point, respectively. In fact, when Michigan State walked into Maryland’s night game atmosphere and pounded the Terps 37-15, it was the closest contest the new Big Ten team has had against a ranked opponent.
Ohio State and Wisconsin both dropped 52 points on this Maryland team, so when Michigan is on offense it will be a battle of which unit can be less inept. Michigan has yet to score 20 points on a defense with a pulse this season, but matches up with a Terps team allowing 29 points per game.
Michigan needs this win to become bowl eligible, because an upset in Columbus isn’t on the menu. I think Brady Hoke’s squad will pull out one more for their embattled leader and top Maryland.
Michigan 20 – Maryland 17
Josh: I said Northwestern would be Michigan’s last win and I’m sticking to it. Even without Stefon Diggs I expect Maryland to air it out and connect on a few deep bombs. I wasn’t very high on Frank Clark (as a player) to begin with so I don’t think they will miss him much. He was inconsistent at best and rarely made any noise against decent opponents. The pass rush still leaves much to be desired (by which I mean it leaves a lot to be desired) and I think CJ Brown will have plenty of time to toss it to whoever Blake Countess is covering, how did he go from all-conference player to this?
Michigan doesn’t have an offense to speak of and while I’m sure guys like Devin Gardner will play their hearts out they’re just not very good at what they do. Gardner can’t read defenses and/or find the open guy, etc. etc. We all know the story by now. What started as the place Hoke seemingly couldn’t lose (won his first 19 home games) the Big House has become as unfriendly to the Wolverines as the road has been during Hoke’s tenure. I feel bad for the seniors, and even for Hoke, but as Brady once said, “This is Michigan fergodsakes” and at Michigan what has transpired under Hoke’s watch is not acceptable.
Maryland 27 – Michigan 13
Joe: I want to believe that this team will come out fighting for their coach, fighting for a bowl berth and wanting to go out with a win for the home crowd. I want to believe these things but I just have not seen enough of this over the last month. The offense has been dreadful and the defense has been just good enough to keep things interesting. If Michigan is able to establish the run and control the clock, the defense will take care of the roller coaster ride that is Maryland. You never know what they are going to do from one week to the next. I have serious doubts that Michigan will be able to make this happen and have even less confidence in the passing game. I’d love to see a third straight victory and secure a bowl bid but can’t see it happening. Maryland scores late to win at the Big House.
Maryland 24 – Michigan 17