Michigan is looking for its first road victory of the season and its fourth consecutive win overall this weekend against the Maryland Terrapins. Coming into this game Michigan is ranked in the AP top 25 for the first time in two years at #22. Also, the defense is ranked #2 in the nation in terms of total defense. Because of the threat of Hurricane Joaquin, the kickoff time has been moved from 8 PM to Noon, but not even a hurricane is going to stop the momentum coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines currently possess. Here is your Last Look at everything you need to know before kickoff.
What: #22 Michigan Wolverines (3-1) at Maryland Terrapins (2-2)
Where: Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium College Park, Maryland
When: October 3, 2015 at Noon
Channel: Big Ten Network
Michigan leads the series 3-1 but lost to Maryland 23-16 last year in the Big House.
Michigan had its most impressive win so far this season, shutting out BYU 31-0! The defense only gave up a little over 100 yards of offense, and quarterback Jake Rudock had his first game with no interceptions.
Maryland was beat down 45-6 by West Virginia and allowed 600 yards of offense. Maryland hurt themselves with six turnovers and only kept the ball for 23 minutes of the game.
Players to Watch for Michigan:
Like last week, the stable of running backs are who to watch for two reasons. First, DeVeon Smith and Ty Issac have both had games with over 100 yards rushing and show no signs of slowing down. They are running behind a much improved offensive line that seems to get stronger as the game goes on. They are hitting the right holes and most importantly, taking care of the football. Secondly, the Terrapins have given up over 200 yards rushing in each of its two losses, including 304 yards last week. If that defense does not sharpen up this week, the Michigan backs will punish them for over 200 yards of their own.
Smith did leave the game last week with a lower leg injury but by all reports is expected to play saturday. Look for him to get more rest this week if Michigan begins to pull away from Maryland. The great thing is that the Wolverines can provide him that rest because there are three more guys that can come in and run just as well. I think Issac gets a heavier load this week and will find the end zone again.
As for the defensive players, wow, how can I just pick one? Just plug in a name and I could tell you how important it is for the Maryland coaching staff to watch where they are on the field. The entire front line has put tremendous pressure on the quarterbacks these last few weeks and the linebackers have made sure running backs do have much space to work with. The secondary has played great man-to-man coverage, picked off a few passes, broken up several more, and shut down the larger BYU receivers last week. Good luck to the Terrapins to try finding a weakness to attack, because you have to watch every man in a Maize and Blue winged helmet.
Players to Watch for Maryland:
Will Likely should be a guy Michigan looks out for on the field. He is one of the best kick and punt returners in the country. He has run two back to the house, both over 60 yards each, and averages 28 yards per return. Should Michigan score or punt a lot, the special teams unit better play well and get to him quickly. Likely also lines up at corner for the defense. He has done quite well there too. He has 20 tackles, five pass break-ups, and two forced fumbles on the year. Rudock will need to know where Likely is on the field and try to avoid him.
Terrapin quarterback Caleb Rowe should be the guy who starts again this week. Even though he had a pretty tough game last week, he is the one who can throw the ball deep and stretch the field. If Maryland wants any chance at winning this game, Rowe must play much better this game and connect on some big plays. He did have four interceptions last game, but look for him to focus on taking care of the ball this week. The Wolverine defense must get pressure on him and force him to either take the sack or throw quickly to force turnovers.
This week the one thing that can change the game is a little different, the weather. We already know the kickoff was pushed up eight hours in hopes of getting through the game before Hurricane Joaquin’s effects hit, but that does not mean it’s going to be sunny at noon. Still expected are heavy rains and strong wind gusts at game time, so that could play a huge role in the turnover battle. The ball is going to be slippery, so can the running backs hold on to the ball? The winds could alter passes and field goal attempts, so will that limit the amount of down field throws? Or persuade teams to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking? Both teams will have to take extra care of the ball in what could be an interesting afternoon. I believe this will give Michigan the advantage if both teams are forced to keep it on the ground. The Wolverine line and running backs are much better than the Terrapins.
Michigan comes away 4-1 with another impressive victory, defeating Maryland 31-6. I do not think the Terrrapins reach the end zone, but we could see a couple field goals due to good field positioning from Will Likely’s kick/punt returns. The Michigan defense will continue to dominate. The will get to the QB and force three turnovers. Expect a big day from the Michigan running backs, totaling over 200 yards once again. Also look for Rudock to have another turnover free day. The Wolverines will begin conference play 1-0 and possibly move up the rankings!