Hey, look: Indiana-Maryland is appointment television. And no, we’re not talking about basketball, soccer or baseball.
Just as the Hoosiers have been authoring one of the most enjoyable seasons the program has seen in a generation, the Terrapins are having some fun, too. That is, when they’ve been able to play. Maryland has logged only three games so far — and none since Nov. 7 — after a wave of COVID-19 cases ripped through its program. When we last saw the Terps in action, they were running away with a 16-point win at Penn State, their second in a row after squeezing past Minnesota just before Halloween.
Though they’re still early in a full rebuild under second-year coach Mike Locksley, the Terps feel like they might be a tick or two ahead of schedule. Though it does not have a particularly deep roster, Maryland is showing that it has enough talent at the skill positions to, at the very least, make games interesting.
So it should lead to some compelling television this weekend when the Hoosiers and Terps kick off at noon at Memorial Stadium.
Here are a few thoughts on the matchup:
Taulia vs. Penix
In a battle between two of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks last week in Columbus, Michael Penix Jr. outplayed Ohio State’s Justin Fields in the head-to-head matchup. This week, Penix finds himself in the middle of another QB showdown. For the first time in what feels like forever, Maryland has a quarterback. And by that I mean a really, really good quarterback. It’s Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa, who’s demonstrated over Maryland’s past two games that he, too, is worthy of top-tier consideration.
Tagovailoa — and really Maryland as a whole — rebounded admirably from an awful 43-3 season-opening drubbing at Northwestern, throwing for 676 yards in the next two games. He’s commanding a Terps offense that jumped on Minnesota and Penn State early, and will certainly look to do so again. In Maryland’s last two games, Tagovailoa is 22-for-27 for 331 yards and four touchdowns in the first quarter, and his completion percentage (81.5%) in that period is the third-highest in the country behind Fields and Mississippi State’s Will Rogers. On the first drive of the past two games, Tagovailoa is a combined 14-for-16 for 157 yards and two touchdowns. So, yeah, it doesn’t take long to get him going.
This is a really fun matchup at the sport’s most important position, one that could make this game the most entertaining on this week’s Big Ten docket.
There’s another one-on-one matchup to watch
In a season full of encouraging developments for Indiana, one of the biggest bright spots has been the emergence of Ty Fryfogle. Last week, the senior became the first receiver in Big Ten history to record back-to-back 200-yard games, the first IU wideout to reach 200 yards twice, and the first Hoosier since Nate Sudfeld (2015) to claim consecutive Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week awards. He’s been great, as we all know.
On the other side, Maryland has been pleased by the accelerated growth of true freshman corner Tarheeb Still, who has eagerly accepted the challenge of locking onto the top receivers on the field. Still has been excellent in coverage through the first few games of his college career, showing really good ball skills for a newcomer. He has four breakups in three games, and leads all freshmen nationally with 1.33 passes defended per contest. Still matched with Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman and Penn State’s Jahan Dotson in his last two games, and will likely spend a good amount of time running around with Fryfogle this weekend.
A chance to run
Look, Indiana isn’t a good running team. It’s just not what the Hoosiers do. But it sure would help if IU could get something going on the ground this week. Against Maryland, there might be an opportunity to do so. The Terps have yielded 681 rushing yards in three games, though nearly half of that total came in the season-opening debacle in Evanston. Minnesota, meanwhile, tallied 5.2 yards and five scores across its 50 attempts in late October. Maryland demonstrated at least some capacity to lock down the ground game against Penn State, holding the Lions to merely 94 yards on the day. Was that the start of a turnaround, or was it an outlier? It’s taken a few weeks to discover the answer, but we should have a better idea after Saturday. For an IU group that simply hasn’t established traction, this could be an opportunity to find the running lanes that haven’t consistently been there this fall.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Maryland Terrapins (2-1) at No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers (4-1)
Where? Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
When? Saturday, Nov. 28, noon ET
Channel? ESPN2 | Roy Philpott (p-b-p), Kelly Stouffer (analyst) & Dr. Jerry Punch (sideline)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Buck Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Indiana -12
SP+ Projection? Indiana by 12 (35-23), 76 percent chance of Hoosier victory