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Game Preview: Maryland Terrapins vs. Michigan State Spartans

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a disappointing season for both the Maryland Terrapins and Michigan State Spartans in 2019, but the two teams will both look to end the regular season on a high note on Saturday.

While it has indeed been a frustrating season for MSU, the Spartans still have plenty to play for this weekend. A win gives Mark Dantonio’s team bowl eligibility — something Dantonio has accomplished 11 times in his previous 12 seasons in East Lansing. It’s also Senior Day for the Spartans, so expect the seniors and the underclassmen to do everything in their power to get this win. This team should be focused with an extra game on the line.

After a strong 2-0 start where Maryland outscored opponents 142-20, the Terps have spiraled out of control. Maryland’s only win since then came against lowly Rutgers. The team is not bowl eligible, but would love nothing more than destroying MSU’s bowl hopes and ending the year with a win.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2019 Record — 5-6 (3-4 Big Ten)

Offense (per game average) — 355.3 total yards, 229.09 passing yards, 126.2 rushing yards

Defense (per game average) — 319.5 total yards allowed, 215.91 passing yards allowed, 103.5 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored: 245 (22.27 ppg)

Cumulative Points Allowed: 256 (23.27 ppg)

Current S&P+ Ranking: 40th

Maryland:
2019 Record — 3-8 (1-7 Big Ten)

Offense (per game average) — 345.9 total yards, 176.0 passing yards, 169.9 rushing yards

Defense (per game average)— 450.9 yards allowed, 264.82 passing yards allowed, 186.1 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored: 287 (26.09 ppg)

Cumulative Points Allowed: 397 (36.09 ppg)

Current S&P+ Ranking: 88th


Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 8-2
Current streak: Michigan State with two straight wins
Last Michigan State Win: Nov. 3, 2018 (24-3)
Last Maryland Win: Oct. 22, 2016 (28-17)
Michigan State all-time record: 706-465-44 (.599)
Maryland all-time record: 652-604-43 (.518)


Previous Game Results

Michigan 27, Rutgers 0

Let’s not get too excited, it was Rutgers. But, still, it was nice to see the Spartans break a five-game losing streak and get back on track. Also, shutouts are rare and always fun to see. As expected, Michigan State dominated this game in every aspect. MSU out-gained Rutgers 395 yards to 140 yards (heck, Cody White nearly out-gained Rutgers by himself with 136 receiving yards). The Spartans won the time of possession battle by a mark of 37:51 to 22:09. The MSU defense also forced two turnovers. Brian Lewerke was sharp, completing 70 percent of his passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Elijah Collins notched his third career 100-yard rushing game with 109 yards on 31 attempts. And as mentioned, it was a huge game for Cody White who had 11 catches and three touchdowns.

Nebraska 54, Maryland 7

This Maryland defense is really bad. Like, truly bad. The Terrapins have given up 38 or more points to six opponents this season, and give up more than 36 points per game on average. Nebraska — a team that came into this game only averaging 25.8 points per contest— took advantage of the Terps defense by hanging 54 straight points on them. Offensively, Maryland wasn’t much better in this game. The Terrapins didn’t even get on the board until there were just over three minutes left in the game. Maryland only passed for 57 yards and gained nine first downs all game (Nebraska had 31 first downs). This was Maryland’s Senior Day as well, so that was a rough way for the seniors to play their last game in College Park.


Key Matchups

Cody White versus Maryland cornerbacks: I highlighted this matchup as an important one against Rutgers as well, and White did not disappoint. White lined up in the slot throughout the game, and just ate all day against the Scarlet Knights. With Darrell Stewart Jr. likely to miss another game, White has to continue to be Brian Lewerke’s No. 1 target. Whether Maryland shadows White with Marcus Lewis, or lines up another cornerback on him, or tries to double team, it’s important for White to win these battles. Or, at the very least, White needs to command the secondary’s attention to open up opportunities in the passing game for other receivers.

Maryland rushing attack versus MSU front seven: While Maryland does not do many things well, running the football is something the Terps have had success with. Maryland averages just about 170 rushing yards per game, which ranks a respectable 55th in the NCAA. Javon Leake leads the team with 716 yards, eight touchdowns and an impressive 7.8 yards per carry. Anthony McFarland Jr. has added 480 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, while Tayon Fleet Davis has amasses 265 yards and two touchdowns as well. The Terps have a stable of capable backs, so Raequan Williams, Mike Panasiuk and company will have their hands full with the ground game. Taking away the run game will be a recipe for success.

Michigan State pass rush versus Maryland offensive line: In addition to the front seven stopping the run, getting pressure on the quarterback is going to be key. MSU is fifth in theBig Ten with 32 sacks this season. Maryland is tied for last in the conference with 34 sacks allowed. Expect Kenny Willekes and the other MSU pass rushers to be in the backfield all day. Oddly, giving all of the offensive line injuries, Michigan State’s offensive has given up the least amount of sacks in the Big Ten with just 17. So, on the other side of the coin, it will be important for MSU to continue to keep Lewerke upright.


Game Info

Time: 3:30 (EST)
TV Channel: FS1
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Weather expectations: Cloudy with a chance of rain showers/snow. High of 36 degrees, winds blowing east at around 13 miles per hour
Line: Michigan State -21.5


Overview:

This is a very winnable game for MSU. The Terps are in a downward spiral right now and seem to allow everybody to put up a large amount of points on them. Since it is the last game of the year, though, I expect Maryland to come into East Lansing focused and ready to pull the minor upset. For MSU, I mean the Quick Lane Bowl or Pinstripe Bowl or whatever bowl was not exactly the goal entering the season, but it is where we are at and is worth going for at this point.

I think the Spartans have favorable matchups pretty much everywhere in this one. The one thing Maryland is decent at offensively — running the football — just happens to be the biggest strength of the Michigan State defense, which only allows 103.5 yards on the ground (12th in NCAA). The pass defense matches up favorably as well, as Maryland only averages 176 yards per game through the air — 111th in the nation. Offensively, as much as a struggle as it has been for the Spartans this season, I fully expect Michigan State to take advantage of a defense that allows more than 450 yards and 36 points per game.

The weather doesn’t look like it’s going to be the greatest, and again, it’s been a disappointing season, but let’s support these seniors on Senior Day and cheer them on in Spartan Stadium as MSU looks to earn a bowl berth. Go Green!

For more on Maryland, check out our “Get to Know the Opponent” piece.

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