Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Maryland Terrapins (2-8, #75 S&P+) v. Indiana Hoosiers (4-6, #65 S&P+)
When? Saturday, Nov. 21, 12 PM, College Park, Maryland
Vegas? INDIANA +2.5
Believe it or not, all of your reasonable goals for Indiana football are still within reach, but the margin of error is now officially zero. The Hoosiers remain two games short of bowl eligibility, a plateau they haven't seen since 2007, with two road games against two teams arguably worse than the Hoosiers. A victory over Maryland and a victory in the nation's saddest football rivalry after Thanksgiving will send Indiana to a bowl game for sure. Hell, college football is such a mess this year, they may just need one.
This season has been incredibly heartbreaking in a lot of different ways, but maybe now is the time for perspective. Indiana rarely makes it to their 11th game without being mathematically eliminated from a bowl game, and on the couple of instances it has happened since 2007, they've typically had to beat a team like Wisconsin or Ohio State in that 11th game to keep the hope alive. There's nothing like that this year. Sure, they'd have to collect two conference road wins to do it, but they aren't going to Michigan State again. Maryland is in the middle of one of their worst seasons in recent memory and Purdue is in their third year of auditioning for a spot in the MAC.
That was mean. Please forgive me, Mid-American Conference.
Think about it! Indiana has only lost one game all year that we unanimously agreed they needed to win before the season started. They were competitive against the top four teams in the conference and were without their top quarterback and running back against Penn State. The competitive losses made them a little more difficult to bear, as you would hope a bounce or two would go Indiana's way and they could get that marquee conference victory, but their failure to do so has made the rest of the season seem hopeless. Surely expectations haven't gotten so high that a 6-6 season would cause much hand-wringing, right?
THE OPPONENT: (#75 S&P+, #103 Offense, #34 Defense)
A lot of Maryland's woes are a result of an offense that is either attempting some weird moneyball tactic in which interceptions are the new market inefficiency or an avant garde performance piece that tries to demonstrate a more egalitarian side of football. Either way, the first year of the experiment has not been promising. Maryland QBs have combined to throw 28 interceptions in ten games this year; that's nearly three per game! If this Hoosier secondary is ever going to have a coming out party this season, it would have to be this week.
But you know how that goes.
Maryland's running back situation has been juggled, as Wes Brown (4.5 YPC) was moved into a starting position at the start of the month, relegating Brandon Ross (5.1 YPC) to a backup role, but then Brown was suspended indefinitely two days for violating the team's code of conduct, which would lead one to assume Ross would be back in the starting saddle. Perry Hillis took the majority of the snaps at QB in Maryland's last game, completing 14 of 30 passes with an interception. Caleb Rowe threw five attempts, completing all five, three to his team and two to the Spartans.
Defensively, Maryland grades out pretty well overall. They're not in the stratosphere of the top of the conference, like Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, etc. but they've done well for themselves. They're often put in horrible situations thanks to a sputtering offense, leading to multiple opportunities, high snap counts, and poor field position. Their strength comes from a defensive line that is 11th in the nation in Havoc Rate and they're among the best in the nation as a team on passing downs. You would expect Indiana to continue to score given their success against better defenses, but it won't be a cakewalk.
THE HOOSIERS: (#3 S&P+, #19 Offense, #104 Defense)
There's nothing I can tell you about this team you don't already know. Just win the last two games.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR:
- Victory could be in the trenches. As discussed above, Maryland's defensive line has been a strength all year, going up against an Indiana offensive line that has done an incredible job of keeping Nate Sudfeld upright and opening lanes for Jordan Howard. It's always fun to see two elite units go at it each and every play, so we'll see if Indiana's line will be up to the task. There's a good chance that whatever team wins up front, wins the game.
- The psyche of this poor dang team. At some point, do the close losses start to take a toll on you as a player? We know what it has done to us as fans, but does it begin to wear on the team after so many missed opportunities to get over the hump? Is there a chance that malaise sets in? Could you blame them if it does? Kevin Wilson seems like the kind of coach that can keep players focused on what is front of them, but I remember being a mentally-fragile college student, but that's another reason I'm not a football player. That, and the thorough lack of talent, of course.
- Defuse the bomb? Out of 128 Division 1 teams, Indiana's defense is 120th at surrendering explosive plays. You probably already sort of knew this by watching Indiana football, as they would tend to string some stops together before giving up massive plays that would undo everything they had done to this point. With Maryland's offense struggling like it is, can Indiana prevent the big play from undoing them? If just for one week?