Week 6 Preview: Michigan vs. Maryland
When: 12 p.m. ET Saturday, October 6
Where: Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, MI
Line: Michigan -17.5
So Northwestern in their stadium is a tougher team than we thought, especially when they are keyed up to play Michigan – more proof that indeed, football is NOT played on paper. During last week’s preview I made sure to mention this while breaking down the statistical analysis. This was because based on the numbers this game should not have been close. However, Northwestern did a fair job of containing the run early and forcing Michigan to air it out in order to beat them. The Wolverines had mixed results until the second half when they were able to finally put a few nice drives together. This was a direct result of the defense playing stout as they normally do and QB Shea Patterson stepping up in clutch time and putting the team on his back. Last week I said that NW could win if they could slow down the run and try to force Shea to beat them. They almost did that except Michigan eventually moved the ball on the ground and Shea did beat them. Obviously he had help but by and large, this game had his marks all over it, even while it was his lowest rated game in terms of completion percentage at 62.5 percent.
The Maize and Blue escaped Evanston with a 3 point win which was closer than most would have liked, many were clearly upset with this, and the few that realize a win’s a win are likely me and my (5) friends. Now it’s time for Homecoming and if you haven’t seen the masterpiece that @_TyRogers_ put together, you are missing out, big.
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) October 4, 2018
Michigan’s coming home party, at least I hope it’s a party, welcomes Maryland to the Big House. The Terps are a team that sort of scares me. They’ve had a tumultuous off-season and have an interim head coach that by most expert accounts was on the fast track to being a head coach somewhere, anyway, before getting the interim gig after Coach DJ Durkin was put on leave. This isn’t the place to get into why all that happened so you can go ahead and Google it if you don’t know. Oh, and the Terrapins are 3-1. This game smells of a trap game; let’s hope the Wolverines don’t fall into it.
On the path to 3-1, Maryland has beaten Texas (yes currently 23 ranked Texas) and has lost to Temple (yes Temple) both at home. The Temple loss wasn’t close either. It was a 35-14 game, however, the following week the Terps shellacked Minnesota 42-13 to open conference play.
Which Maryland team will show up to play Michigan? Most likely the team that beat Texas will, and they will choose to leave Temple’s punching bag at home. Teams naturally find a way to pump themselves up to play the Wolverines and Maryland, like Northwestern last week, is coming off a bye week this week.
Maryland’s only road test this year was against Bowling Green where they prevailed, but this ain’t no Doyt L. Perry Stadium, this week it’s in the biggest College Football Stadium in the World, THE BIG HOUSE, of course.
Michigan vs Maryland Statistical Analysis
First we will look at some key statistics.
|Team||Record||Avg Point Diff||Off YPP||Off YPG||3rd Down %||Def YPP||Def YPG||Def 3rd Down %||T/O Diff.||PPG||PPG Allowed|
If you are a Michigan fan and you expect this to be a blowout, you should think long and hard about your expectations and how much they actually mean to you. Let’s start there. As mentioned, Maryland is coming off a bye and had an extra week to prepare. Northwestern had the same scenario, granted they were playing at home, but it certainly looked like they used that extra prep time to their advantage.
Comparing these teams by the numbers, Michigan has the edge (sometimes slight edge), when it comes to pretty much everything except 3rd down conversion rate, point differential defensive 3rd down percentage and turnovers caused. Third down conversion percentage may end up being the difference between this being a close game or a not so close game. If the Michigan defense can get the ball back to the offense without allowing many points (likely), then eventually Michigan should be able to put up points – I just don’t know how many.
Defensively, Maryland is only giving up 104 yards per game to opposing rushing attacks. Harbaugh recently said that Michigan’s goal is to throw for 200 and run for 200 every game. The passing part may be the easier of the two to achieve with Maryland averaging about 210 yards per game allowed to opposing passers. Conversely, Maryland is dead last in the B1G in terms of passing offense and is ranked 120th in the nation for the same stat. They do run the ball effectively, to the tune of 258+ yards per game and they do it with a bevy of backs, WRs, and running QBs. The problem for them is that Michigan is the 4th best run defense in the country and Maryland just isn’t a good passing team so far this year. This plays right into the strengths of Michigan except Don Brown’s unit is also the 4th best pass defense in the country.
By the numbers, Maryland should struggle to score points and Michigan might too. That will be the deciding factor. It could be a close game obviously, if both teams don’t score a lot, or it could be Michigan having their way with the Terps as if Scott Frost was back in town. I’m just saying don’t be shocked if this one is more Northwestern than it is Nebraska.
Who are these guys?. . .
While the Wolverines tend to struggle against scrambling QBs, Maryland’s best passer and starting QB, Kasim Hill, isn’t much of a scrambler. When they want to run with the QB it’s typically Tyrrell Pigrome who comes in for that.
Freshman RB Anthony McFarland is having a good season so far. He’s second on the team behind starting RB Ty Johnson with 291 yards and 2 TDs while Johnson has 300 yards rushing and also has 2 TDs. The Terps have a third RB in Tayon Fleet-Davis who isn’t too far behind either of the previous backs in carries, but has half as many rushing yards.
Maryland’s passing attack isn’t really worth discussing at this point; they’ve only attempted 85 passes this season and completed only about half of those. To put that into perspective, even Michigan who by all accounts is a run heavy team, has attempted 127 passes. Maybe Coach Canada has something up his sleeve and plans to unleash the passing attack against Don Brown’s secondary, but I’m not so certain that this is a wise move.
If there are many passes caught it’s likely going to be DJ Turner, Taivon Jacobs, or one of the running backs hauling them in. Targets have been super sparse for anyone else. 6’2 Freshman WR Jeshaun Jones could be an option as well.
Defensively, LB Tre Watson is who I’d have my eyes on if I’m looking for someone to watch on the Terps defense. He’s had 25 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception this year. LB Isaiah Davis also has a couple of sacks and is second on the team in tackles. Antoine Brooks plays a role similar to Michigan’s Viper position. He plays some DB and also some LB. Darnell Savage Jr. and Tino Ellis are probably the two best defensive backs on the team. Ellis has 7 passes defended already in 2018.
Marlyand wins if. . .
They can hold Michigan on 3rd down, win the penalty battle, and find ways to score on the Wolverines’ vaunted defense. They need to attack underneath and find some way to pass the ball. A one dimensional team usually doesn’t fair too well against Don Brown, especially when that is a running team. Look for the Terps to try to use a ton of misdirection, screens, quick passes, and read/options to try to use Michigan’s aggression to their advantage.
Michigan wins if. . .
They get their penalty situation under control and can sustain drives. If Michigan is able to run for their normal 200 yards or more they should be in pretty good shape. This game will become close if they aren’t able to run and it’s all on the passing game. If this is the case, they may win, but it may be closer to last week’s game than one that easily covers the 17.5 point spread. I’m confident that the tools are there to be very successful passing the ball, we just haven’t seen a game where this offense puts up more than 250 passing yards. Quite honestly, they haven’t had to have that type of success throwing the ball to win games. Even against Notre Dame it was the lack of running game that did them in.
Thoughts From The BluePrint Family
I don’t make predictions but here’s some facts. Maryland is last in the B1G in passing. One-dimensional offenses don’t fare well against this Michigan defense. Michigan is undefeated in non-rivalry home games under Harbaugh and has outscored opponents 114-22 in his time here. After how happy the players were beating Northwestern and celebrating in the locker room that way, I don’t think they’ll be looking ahead at all. We’ll find out if last week was a turning point.
I think Michigan coming back from from 17 on the road last week was both telling and damming. The team dug deep when they could have just turned over and folded. Patterson and Winovich willed their respective sides of the ball to play emotionally and complete a unique win.
This week’s Maryland team is going to come to play, however, it’s Homecoming week for the Wolverines. Homecoming at noon should have them playing at a high level… on paper. If Michigan wants to win this game they will have to do the small things and play gritty. However I believe the staff will have something ready for the Terrapins, and that is a team hungry to prove their worth after a shaky game a week ago. Michigan takes Homecoming, Go Blue.
Michigan had another slow start on the road last weekend against Northwestern and early it looked like the same Jim Harbaugh team that we are used to seeing on the road. Slow starts on both sides of the ball, defense struggles early and gives up points, while also being down early in the game.
But we saw a spark that we have been dying to see from Michigan football and the defense shut Northwestern down after they went up 17-0. Northwestern did not score another point or even cross the fifty-yard line in the impressive comeback by the Wolverines.
This weekend against Maryland could also be another trap game. I believe on the offensive side of the ball Maryland is much better than Northwestern and will probably give Michigan a test early in the game.
Last week, Shea Patterson had one hell of a game when it came down to the decision making. He did not put up big numbers that we have been wanting to see but he has been very accurate and efficient this season. That’s something this Michigan team lacked the last couple of seasons. I expect Shea, Karan and Chase Winovich to lead this team in a possibly closer game than people think. If Michigan comes out flat leading to another slow start this will be another hair-pulling, head-scratching game for Michigan fans.
In the end, Michigan wins by at least two to three touchdowns. The number one defense in the country will continue to be more stingy, will lockdown the outsides and will get after the Quarterback.
You have to love a team who comes back, after being down 17-0 on the road!
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