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Michigan State Football vs. Maryland Preview

The Spartans face off against Maryland for a vengeance 64 years in the making.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The year was 1950, and it was the second game of Michigan State's season. The Spartans were coming off a 14-7 win against #3 Michigan in the first game, vaulting MSU from #19 to #2 in the polls.

Then came Maryland. The Spartans suffered their only loss of the 1950 season in a 34-7 defeat in East Lansing to the Terrapins. Michigan State would finish the season ranked at #8 in the AP poll; the Terrapins did not finish in the top 20.

It's been 64 years y'all. It's time for payback. Here's a look at this year's Maryland squad.

The Terrapins on Offense

The big loss this week for Maryland is quite obviously the absence of wide receiver Stefon Diggs due to suspension (shaking hands matters, kids). Diggs ranks second in the Big Ten currently with 52 receptions, so quarterback C.J. Brown will have to find another main target. That player will most likely be senior wide receiver Deon Long, who has a yards per catch average close to Diggs's (11.1 to Diggs's 12.6), and has 35 receptions on the year.

As for the man who will be throwing those passes, C.J. Brown has some history with Michigan State. His father, Clark Brown, started at quarterback for the Spartans in 1983, and C.J. grew up a Michigan State fan. The younger Brown has had what I would call a fairly average season, as his passer rating ranks 8th in the Big Ten, just below Devin Gardner and just above Christian Hackenberg. Brown is also the team's leading rusher, running for a net total of 380 yards (sacks included as negative yards in that total).

Running backs Brandon Ross and Wes Brown will split the carries at that position. Ross has averaged 4.1 yards a carry, and Brown has averaged 3.8 yards a carry this season. Maryland's offense isn't the Buckeyes' offense, and I'm happy to see that.

The Terrapins on Defense and Special Teams

Maryland has about an average to slightly above average Big Ten Defense. Their defense ranks 44th in the FBS in Football Outsiders' S&P+ ranking, with little deviation between the run and pass defense. If you're more into yards per rush/pass, Maryland ranks 10th in the Big Ten allowing 4.23 yards per carry, and 7th in the Big ten allowing 6.4 yards per pass attempt (note that this is slightly better than MSU's 6.5 yards per pass attempt).

For the second straight week the Spartans will be facing a great defensive lineman, as senior Andre Monroe is third in the Big Ten with 7.0 sacks and tied for eighth with 10 tackles for a loss. Sophomore linebacker Yannick Ngakoue will be another Terp to look out for -- he's fourth in the Big Ten with 12.5 tackles for a loss.

Kicker Brad Craddock (try saying that five time fast) is yet another Australian kicker that seems to be all the rage in college football these days, and looking at his stats you can see why: He hasn't missed any of his 14 field goals this season, including 9 from 40+ yards, one of which was a 57-yarder. If Maryland gets it anywhere inside the MSU 40-yard line, it's a fairly good bet that three points are on the way.

As for the return game, since Diggs is out they'll have to find a new kick returner. Defensive back William Likely is dangerous not just on defense (five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns), but also on punt returns, as he has returned one for a score this season.

Keys to the Game

  • Maintain the run game momentum. Jeremy Langford was on his way to one of his best games last week as a Spartan until MSU was forced to pass the ball to catch up. Maryland's run defense is statistically worse than OSU's, so it's a reasonable assumption that the Spartans should be able to find multiple big plays on the ground.
  • For the umpteenth straight week, watch out for the big play. Losing Diggs was a huge blow for Maryland, as I feel he could've had a huge day exploiting a Spartan back four that looked out of sorts last week against the Buckeyes to say the least. I don't think Maryland has quite the rushing game to challenge the Spartan defense, so it'll be up to Trae Waynes and company to bounce back from last week.
  • Keep on truckin'. It was a bit crushing to see the Spartans' playoff hopes explode last week. That said, back-to-back double digit win seasons sounds pretty darn good, doesn't it? I guess this isn't so much a key to the game as it an observation, but the Spartans showed they can bounce back from a loss once already this season (albeit against Eastern Michigan, but MSU looked impressive doing it).
All in all, a great weekend for Spartan athletics based in Maryland this week, with the basketball season tipping off tonight and the football team taking on Maryland tomorrow. Get pumped y'all.