Terps Football: Michigan State Game Preview
Opponent: Michigan State Spartans (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten Conference)
Location: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (51,802)
Date: Saturday, November 3, 2018
Time: 12:00 PM ET
TV/Radio Broadcasts: ESPN2, Maryland Sports Radio Network
Series Record: 7-2 Michigan State
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Following a tumultuous week in College Park, Maryland’s football team will host Michigan State in a game that could determine their postseason fate. Interim head coach Matt Canada has his work cut out for him once again to prepare his squad for what will likely be another extremely emotional game. Reaching that coveted 6-win plateau in early November would far surpass any expectations for this team considering all of the turmoil within the program, and they have a chance to do just that on Saturday afternoon.
From Bad to Worse
On Tuesday afternoon, in a move that shocked the college football landscape, the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents recommended after weeks of deliberation that no one be fired in the wake of multiple investigations into the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and allegations of a “toxic culture” within the football program. Following the board’s recommendation, President Wallace Loh reinstated head coach DJ Durkin who returned to practice immediately. On Wednesday evening, following immense pressure from the public and several prominent local politicians, he reversed his decision and fired Durkin.
This entire process was botched from the start, which shouldn’t come as much surprise to anyone who has followed the actions of Maryland’s athletic department over the years. However the University’s actions this week have led to a heap of negative press from all across the country, and rightly so. Regardless, for the second time in the last three years the athletic department will be tasked with hiring a new head football coach during the offseason. Money was tight before, and it’ll only be tighter now that they’ll owe Durkin approximately $5 million and will likely owe the McNair family a sizable sum. Just when you think Maryland can’t mess things up any more than they already have, their extreme incompetence rears its ugly head.
Can We Talk Football?
With Durkin officially gone, hopefully it becomes a bit easier for the team to focus on the only thing they should have had to focus on from the beginning: football. This game against Michigan State presents an excellent opportunity to notch a quality win and reach bowl eligibility with three games still to play in the season. The Spartans have an identical record to the Terrapins, with their signature win coming on the road to Penn State. They’ve also had their share of slip-ups, losing to Northwestern and Arizona State.
The primary question surrounding this game is who will start at quarterback for head coach Mark Dantonio. Junior Brian Lewerke had been the starter for every game in 2018 until last week, when freshman Rocky Lombardi started in his stead due to a shoulder injury. Lombardi was extremely impressive, throwing for over 300 yards and being named the conference’s co-Freshman of the Week. Dantonio has yet to announce who will start this week.
Offensively, this Spartans team is unlike most we’ve seen historically. Their rushing offense is one of the worst in the country, barely averaging over 100 yards on the ground per game. They’ve also been one of the worst in the nation on 3rd down. They’re led by their passing game, and are averaging just over 250 yards through the air. This makes the team’s quarterback decision that much more important for Maryland’s defense in their game preparation.
As you’d expect, Michigan State is led by a very solid defense. Their unit currently ranks as the 39th-best in the country, and their secondary is excellent at creating turnovers. They are solid on 3rd down, and are led by linebackers Joe Bachie and Andrew Dowell, who lead the team in tackles.
This game presents a tremendous opportunity for Canada’s team, but they’ll need to be at the top of their game in order to knock off the Spartans at home. Quarterback Kasim Hill has played better at home in the last few weeks, but facing Michigan State’s defense will be much different than facing Rutgers or Illinois. When the Terrapins beat the Spartans at home two years ago, Perry Hills did just enough with his arm to compliment the team’s excellent running game to win. Hill will need to do the same on Saturday afternoon.