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Get to Know the Opponent: Maryland

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The Terps love to run the ball, so that should work out well for them.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After playing three out of four games at home in October, the Spartans will hit the road this weekend and head out east for a matchup against Maryland. The Terrapin football program is in the news already this week for their bizarre decision to retain and reinstate head coach D.J. Durkin, despite all the evidence telling them to do otherwise. Here’s your primer on the other things to know about this weekend’s opponent.

School: University of Maryland

Nickname: Terrapins

Conference: Big Ten (East Division)

Location: College Park, Maryland

Head Coach: D.J. Durkin (3rd season)

Record: 5-3 (3-2 in Big Ten)

Mascot: Testudo

All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 7-2

Things are a mess right now for Maryland, with D.J. Durkin being reinstated on Tuesday as the Terps head coach, the program seems at a crossroads. There were reports of several players walking out of a team meeting with Durkin, and the student body is planning a protest and drafting legislation hoping to have Durkin removed. Durkin is yet to coach a game this year after the death of player Jordan McNair in practice before the start of the season.

In his absence, Matt Canada has gotten the Terps off to a solid start, including a season opening win against Texas. There may very well be some, perhaps many, players in the locker room that would prefer Canada remain in charge. All this could play into the Spartans favor this weekend, but it’s hard to tell how these things will shake out.

Team Stats

Maryland has been a pretty decent offensive team so far this season, averaging 31.6 points per game, ranking 48th nationally. Most of their damage has come on the ground, where the Terrapins rank 11th in the country in rushing the ball, averaging more than 246 yards per game. They have the third best yards per rush average in the country as well, with 6.25 yards per rush.

Through the air the results are quite the opposite. Maryland is fourth from the bottom in passing yards per game at just 131.4 yards per contest. They are a little better in yards per attempt at 6.8, which is 96th nationally. But they just don’t throw the ball very much, just 19.4 times per game, the seventh fewest in the country.

Here is your reminder that MSU has the best rushing defense in the country allowing only 77.38 yards per game and is sixth in yards per rush at just 2.74 yards per attempt. So a strength on strength matchup here.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively Maryland checks in at 50th overall in scoring defense allowing 24.5 points per game. Their rush defense is 59th overall, allowing 151.75 yards per game, and they are 40th in rushing yards per attempt at 3.70 yards per rush.

The passing defense has been even better. Maryland is 22nd in total pass defense allowing 186 yards per game through the air. They are a little lower in yards per pass, allowing 6.6 yards per attempt, ranking 37th overall. But they have more interceptions (14) than passing touchdowns allowed (13), one reason why their opponent passer rating is the 26th best in the country.

Key Players

After a quarterback carrousel last season, the Terps seemed to have found their guy in freshman Kasim Hill. He is one of three QB’s to attempt a pass this year but has handled the bulk of the work. Hill is completing 52.6% of his passes and has nine touchdowns against three interceptions. He isn’t really a rushing threat though, as he is currently negative on the year due to sacks.

The rushing attack comes from a trio of running backs. Anthony McFarland and Ty Johnson lead the way. They both have over 60 rushing attempts and are closing in on 500 yards rushing, and they both average over seven yards per carry. Neither are big pass catchers though, as they have combined for 12 receptions for 93 yards.

Tavion Jacobs leads the way for the wideouts, but none of them have put up huge numbers. Jacobs has 18 catches for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Jeshaun Jones is second on the team with 163 yards and a team leading three TD’s. Junior DJ Turner has played in only six games but is second on the team in receptions with 13 and yards per game at 26.5.

For reference, Brandon Sowards would be the second leading receiver on Maryland in terms of yards and receptions.

On defense, Byron Cowart leads the team with three sacks, and has five tackled for loss. Junior defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. actually leads the team with 8.5 tackles for loss.

Tre Watson and Darnell Savage Jr. each have four interceptions for the Terps defense on the season, and they both have a defensive touchdown as well.

Freshman kicker Josh Petrino hasn’t had many field goal attempts, just five so far, but he has made all of them and is also a perfect 34-for-34 on extra points.