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Maryland at Indiana Game Preview: Hoosiers look to keep bowl hopes alive against Terrapins

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S&P+ likes Indiana's chances in three more games the rest of the way. With three wins needed to secure bowl eligibility, the Hoosiers can ill-afford to drop any of them. Here's game one.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (3-4, #47 S&P+) at Maryland Terrapins (5-2, #63 S&P+)

When? Saturday, 10/29, 3:30 PM, Bloomington, Indiana 

Channel? ESPNU

Vegas? INDIANA -5

S&P+ Projection? INDIANA, 30.2 - 23.7 (65%)

____________________________________

After a season that felt like it had the potential for something much, much more magical, the Hoosiers find themselves in a similar position as last year: needing to sweep the season's remaining winnable games in order to secure bowl eligibility. Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue are all below Indiana in the S&P+, and two of those three games are in Bloomington. Given the other two games involve Penn State at home (not impossible) and Michigan in the Big House (about as impossible as college football can get), the Hoosiers are best served dispatching of the other three. The toughest of which, the 63rd ranked Maryland Terrapins, comes first.

FIVE FACTORS

(% indicates how often a team wins the game if they win that battle. Explanation here.)


Explosiveness 
(86%)
Efficiency 
(83%)
Field Position 
(75%)
Finishing Drives 
(72%)
Turnover Margin 
(73%)
INDIANA (#70 Offense) 1.36 (26th) 40.6% (84th) 29.9 (65th) 3.60 (125th) -2 (84th)
MARYLAND (#47 Defense) 1.12 (11th) 41.7% (67th) 31.1 (103rd) 4.00 (27th) 0 (55th)

Explosiveness 
(86%)
Efficiency 
(83%)
Field Position 
(75%)
Finishing Drives 
(72%)
Turnover Margin 
(73%)
INDIANA (#32 Defense)
1.23 (56th)
37.4% (28th)
27.9 (43rd)
4.76 (70th)
-2 (84th)
MARYLAND (#72 Offense)
1.29 (51st)
44.6% (41st)
30.2 (53rd)
5.23 (33rd)
0 (55th)

THE OPPONENT

Stop me if this sounds familiar: the Terrapins are better defensively than offensively, but unlike Indiana they managed to sweep their non-conference slate (that also included FIU) and beat someone in the Big Ten other than Michigan State (it was Purdue, which still counts) giving them five wins on the season. Unfortunately, they schedule tightens up big time, and the S&P+ has them projected to lose every game until they close the season with everyone's favorite slumpbuster: Rutgers (NOTE: your mileage may vary). So it's not hard to believe that Maryland will put a big emphasis on beating the Hoosiers given what awaits them afterwards: @ Michigan, v. Ohio State, @ Nebraska.

Perry Hills remains under center despite a shoulder injury that forced him to miss a good deal of the Penn State game and the entire Minnesota game, the only two losses of the year for the Terps. It hasn't been a bad year for Hills, he's matched his passing touchdown total from last year (8) and has only 2 interceptions after throwing 13 last year. He's completing 66% of his passes but his yards per attempt (adjusted for sacks) is a paltry 5.9, painting the picture of either an offense or a player that isn't all that willing to take risks with the ball downfield. That's reflected in the team's passing explosiveness, ranked 93rd, and pairing that with a success rate of 38.8% (86th) means there's little to be excited about (or afraid of, depending on your preference) when the Terps throw the ball.

But that's hardly a concern when you can run the ball like Maryland can. Ranked 23rd in Success Rate and 18th in explosiveness, the Terps have a stable of runners and they're all good at what they do. Seven (!!!) players have at least 17 rushing attempts this season and all of them have scored, totaling 18 rushing touchdowns as a team, lead by Lorenzo Harrison and his 502 yards and 5 touchdowns. All but one is averaging over 5 yards per carry, with sophomore Ty Johnson averaging 10.3 yards per tote and an absurd 14.0 highlight yards per opportunity. The Terrapins' offensive line is also generating an opportunity rate of 47.2%, good for 5th in the country, meaning that nearly half the time, the line is springing a running back into the second level, and the runner is then generating anywhere from 4 to 14 additional yards, on average.

That is, quite simply, absurd.

Defensively, the Terrapins are tremendous against the pass both in Success Rate (37th) and limiting explosiveness (2nd) but are now missing stud defensive back Will Likely for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. His absence didn't hurt them against Michigan State, who was breaking in new QB Brian Lewerke, it remains to be seen if Indiana can get their passing offense on track enough to make a difference.

If they can't, they could always try running the ball a billion times. For as good as Maryland is against the pass, they're that bad (and worse) against the run. Ranked 125th overall out of 128 D1 teams, there just isn't anything they do well against the run. They allow a success rate of 44.5% (89th) and aren't any better at limiting explosiveness (83rd). Opponents know it too, they're running the ball 72.2% of the time on standard downs, good for 4th in the country.

With an overall havoc rank of 73rd, Maryland also suffers from a dearth of big plays, particularly among their linebackers (98th) and defensive backs (93rd).

THE HOOSIERS

That was a bizarre game last weekend. From the start it looked like the Hoosiers were completely out of it and the defensive meltdown we all feared was possible had finally happened, as Tom Allen's defense surrendered 24 first half points to a Northwestern team that hadn't really made a habit out of scoring a great deal this season. After halftime, the defense pitched a shutout, surrendering only 37 yards in the process and providing the offense opportunity after opportunity to get the score evened up.

Unfortunately, the other unit couldn't oblige them, and only found the endzone once. It has been an all-too-common theme this season as the Hoosiers far too frequently stall out on offense. They're now a ghastly 125th in the country in points scored per trip inside the 40 and only generating a successful play 40.6% of the time (84th). Dan Feeney returning to limited action didn't have a profound impact on a rushing attack now ranked 101st, as the Hoosiers only averaged 3.1 yards on 27 carries against the Wildcats.

Richard Lagow piled up over 300 yards but needed nearly 60 passes to do it and threw two interceptions against zero touchdowns. The first interception was a sure touchdown over the middle, but a poorly placed ball forced Luke Timian to skinny-up his route back towards the cornerback he had beaten cleanly on a post, who then made a tremendous play to secure the pass despite having his back turned to the ball the entire time. The second interception looked destined to drop right into Ricky Jones' breadbasket before Kyle Queiro made perhaps the most sensational defensive play of the entire football season, reeling in the ball at the apex of his leap with one hand. Of course, his other hand was taped up in a club, leaving him without the option of using a second hand, even if he wanted to.

THREE THINGS

  • Zander Time?: After seeing the offense struggling mightily in back to back games, many Indiana fans are calling for a change at quarterback. While Lagow, for better or for worse, gives this team the best chance to win in Kevin Wilson's conventional air-it-out offense, it might not be a bad idea to give Zander Diamont and the read-option an extended look against the Terrapins given how poorly they've performed against the run to date. Granted, Indiana hasn't been able to run the ball effectively since the entire right side of the line went down, but assuming Feeney plays more and more snaps in the coming weeks, perhaps improvement is on the horizon?
  • Third Down: The Maryland defense is ranked 28th on third down while the Indiana offense is ranked 99th. It is imperative that the Hoosiers have good first and second down play to stay out of third and longs if they want to shake off their drive-stalling habits this weekend. That's, in all likelihood, going to be dependent on how well they can run the ball. Hoo boy.
  • Masters of the Fourth Quarter: In the fourth quarter this season, Indiana's offense is ranked 5th and their defense is ranked 12th. Unfortunately, most games have unfortunately spiraled too far out of control for that to matter so far, but if the Hoosiers can keep it close through three, you have every reason to be extremely confident in the final frame. After years of seeming to fall apart as the game goes along, the Hoosiers now suddenly transform into Ole Miss offensively and Louisville defensively at the end of a game.

PREDICTION

I like Indiana's chances in this game. They looked good last season in the winnable games they had to have and I think Kevin Wilson and the staff will have the team ready to play, making sure they understand this is an opportunity that cannot be squandered. HOOSIERS 27, Maryland 16.