Blue White Illustrated

Maryland Pregame

Penn State Sports Magazine

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howling home crowd would also create the kind of environment in which McSorley and company have frequently thrived over the past three seasons, the kind that in re- cent years has helped propel the Nittany Lions to victories over the likes of Ohio State and Michigan. Maryland may not in- spire the White Out-level anticipation that the Big Ten's perennial powers do, but Penn State might just need its 12th man this week. Because the Terrapins have had their moments. At times, such as in their season-open- ing victory over Texas and last week's near miss against Ohio State, the Terps have looked like the kind of team that could hang with just about anybody in the Football Bowl Subdivision. At other times, however, they've been nearly unwatchable. Simply put, Maryland has been one of the country's most unpredictable teams this season – up one week, down the next, never settling into the kind of groove that would allow outsiders to get a fix on their true character. One week after being shut out by Iowa, the Terps racked up 712 yards and 63 points against Illinois. A week after that, they managed only a field goal against Michigan State. But in the two games that followed – at In- diana and home against Ohio State – they totaled 84 points. There is, of course, a big disparity be- tween the better teams on their schedule and perennial stragglers like the Hoosiers and Illini. That disparity helps account for Maryland's seemingly bipolar nature. But it's still hard to explain how a team that totaled only 100 yards and three points against the Spartans on Nov. 3 could light up the 10th-ranked Buckeyes for 535 yards and 51 points two weeks later. You could pore over Maryland's statistics for clues as to why they've been so erratic, but their numbers, too, are full of conun- drums. For instance, they field the Big Ten's third-ranked running game, yet are 11th in the conference in time of posses- sion. Also, while they aren't very good at putting pressure on opposing quarter- backs, ranking 11th in the league in sacks with only 17, they are great at getting inter- ceptions, ranking first in the FBS with 18, three of which they have returned for touchdowns. Given all those contradictions, it makes perfect sense that Maryland should find it- self on a precipice as it gets set to wrap up its regular season. The Terps are 5-6 and need a victory to become bowl-eligible. Whether they get it or not will depend in large part on which version of their team shows up on Saturday. Will it be the ver- sion that came within a blown two-point conversion of ejecting Ohio State from the College Football Playoff race? Franklin is wary of that team, and seemingly with good reason. "They do a nice job," he said. "They cre- ate a lot of conflict. They have an absurd number of explosive runs, and that's going to be challenging." Maryland has lost its past three games, so it's missed some opportunities to be- come bowl-eligible. But the fact that it's even in contention going into the season's final weekend is an accomplishment in it- self. It's hard to imagine any team in col- lege football enduring more anguish than the Terps have suffered this year. The death in June of lineman Jordan McNair from heatstroke brought on by an off-sea- son workout led to media reports of a "toxic" culture within the football pro- gram. Strength coach Rick Court was fired and head coach D.J. Durkin placed on paid administrative leave. When Durkin was reinstated on Oct. 30, the outcry from students, alumni, politicians, media and even some players was so intense that university president Wallace Loh fired him the following day, shortly after he had finished conducting his first practice of the season. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been Maryland's interim head coach this season, and more often than not, they have been competitive. Under his leadership, the Terps have made no pretense toward fielding a balanced offense. They've made it plain that they want to run the ball as often as possible. Rather than banking on an equally potent passing game to keep op- posing defenses honest, they've deployed an array of shifts and motions aimed at 2 Pigrome was Mary- land's starter last year before suffering a season-ending in- jury on opening day. He's set to start against PSU on Sat- urday in place of the injured Kasim Hill. Photo by Eric Up- church/MGoBlog N O V E M B E R   2 1 ,   2 0 1 8 B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M

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