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Game Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Maryland Terrapins

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NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a week makes. Last week, with an unproven Rocky Lombardi drawing the start and a hot Purdue team coming to East Lansing, 78 percent of you thought Purdue would win. This week, fan confidence seems to be higher (I supposes the poll below will confirm or deny this), as the Michigan State Spartans are coming off of a big win against the Boilermakers.

Meanwhile, MSU’s opponent this Saturday — the Maryland Terrapins — seems to be in shambles due to the DJ Durkin situation in which the head coach was initially reinstated following administrative leave, and then subsequently fired about 24 hours later. It begs the question — what kind of effort is Maryland going to put forth following this emotional roller coaster?

Let’s preview the matchup.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2018 Record — 5-3 (3-2 Big Ten)

Offense (per game basis)— 360.9 total yards, 253.25 passing yards, 107.6 rushing yards,

Defense (per game basis)— 353.3 yards allowed, 275.88 passing yards allowed, 77.4 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored (per game basis): 23.38
Cumulative Points Allowed (per game basis): 21.0

Current S&P+ Ranking: 33rd

Maryland:
2018 Record — 5-3 (3-2 Big Ten)

Offense (per game basis) — 377.7 total yards, 131.38 passing yards, 246.3 rushing yards

Defense (per game basis)— 337.8 yards allowed, 186 passing yards allowed, 151.8 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored (per game basis): 31.63
Cumulative Points Allowed (per game basis): 24.5

Current S&P+ Ranking: 54th


Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 7-2
Last Michigan State Win: Nov. 18, 2017 (17-7)
Last Maryland Win: Oct. 22, 2016 (28-17)
Michigan State all-time record: 699-456-44
Maryland all-time record: 649-592-43


Previous Game Results (Quick Hits Recap)

Michigan State 23, Purdue 13
While very few analysts were picking the Spartans to win this game against a Boilermakers team that just embarrassed Ohio State in the week prior, Michigan State didn’t flinch. With a redshirt freshman in Rocky Lombardi at the helm, the Spartans passed for 318 yards, and out-gained the Boilermakers by 87 yards total. Defensively, the Spartans held Purdue to its lowest scoring output of the season (13 points), and its second lowest rushing yardage total of the season with 62 yards (held to 42 rushing yards against Missouri in Week 3). It was a great all-around win for the program, with Lombardi and Justin Layne standing out in the game. Lombardi was recognized for his stellar performance:

Maryland 63, Illinois 33

Illinois is not what many would consider a good, or even average, football team, but still you have to admire what Maryland did on the ground in this game with an absurd 431 rushing yards and 712 total yards. Javon Leake lead the way with 140 yards and three touchdowns on just five carries. Anthony McFarland added 83 yards himself, and five Maryland players in total had at least 54 yards rushing. In the passing game, Kasim Hill easily had his best performance of the season with 265 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. How the team plays this week following the return and then dismissal of DJ Durkin remains to be seen.


Key Matchups

Michigan State rush defense vs. Maryland rush offense: MSU boasts the No. 1 rush defense in the nation, allowing just 77.4 yards per contest. Maryland, on the other hand, has the 11th best rushing attack in the NCAA with over 246 yards per game. Something has to give here, and the Spartans — known for holding teams under their rushing average (and points per game average, too) will play a big role in if the Spartans win or not. It won’t be an easy task, as Maryland has three running backs — Ty Johnson, Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake — who all average more than seven yards per carry.

Kasim Hill vs Michigan State Secondary: Other than last week’s offensive explosion, Hill has really struggled at the quarterback position this season. He has completed just 52.6 percent of his passes for 966 yards and nine touchdowns. He has only surpassed 200 yards passing on two occasions. Michigan State’s secondary has allowed a lot of passing yards, mostly getting destroyed on underneath routes that end up picking up chunk yardage. The Spartans rank 112th in the country in terms of passing yards allowed. The pass defense can’t allow Hill to get going, and must keep Maryland one dimensional. Cornerback Josiah Scott is expected to return this week as well, perhaps giving the unit a boost.

The Spartans must watch out for Tre Watson and Darnell Savage Jr.: A little bit outside of the box here, as specific matchups for these player may vary, but the Spartans offense needs to be aware of these two players at all times. Watson, Maryland’s WILL linebacker, leads the Big Ten in solo tackles with 49, and his four interceptions tie him for fourth in the entire country — and, remember, he’s a linebacker. Watson’s teammate, Savage Jr., also has four picks this season from the safety position. Well on his way to All-Big Ten honors this season, Savage was an honorable mention in 2017. Whether it’s Rocky Lombardi or Brian Lewerke running the offense, they have to know those two players are ballhawks.


Game Info

Time: Noon EST
TV Channel: ESPN2
Location: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, College Park, Maryland
Weather expectations: Mostly sunny, high of 60 degrees, winds west-northwest at 10 miles per hour
Line: Michigan State -2.5


Overview:

I am not sure what to think about Maryland’s chances in this game. The program is in a horrible place right now, and the university’s optics were awful — reinstating a guy that had no business earning his job back and then firing him due to backlash the next day. There are players fighting with each other and walking out on team meetings, and I think those actions are to be expected in such an unfortunate scenario. From a football standpoint — and I want to be clear that what is going on at Maryland is much bigger than what happens on the gridiron — the Spartans seemingly have the advantage here.

From MSU’s perspective, there are question marks, too, but mainly regarding injuries. Most notably, will Lombardi get another start while Brian Lewerke continues to heal? I imagine Lombardi will play, though Lewerke is supposedly getting closer to being ready. As mentioned earlier, Josiah Scott is expected to make his 2018 debut, but how limited will he be? Cody White also has a chance to play this week, but that seems unlikely. And, even though the Spartans are the more talented football team and are dealing with less distraction right now, road games in the Big Ten are always tough. The team that can control the trenches and control the clock will win — and I expect that to be Michigan State.

A team decimated by injuries versus a team dealing with some serious distractions and drama. What happens next?

Poll

The winner of this game will be...

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Michigan State
    (176 votes)
  • 20%
    Maryland
    (44 votes)
220 votes total Vote Now