At 2-5 on the season, the Hoosiers desperately need to start winning games to keep their bowl hopes alive. After Tom Allen’s announcement that Jack Tuttle is now week-to-week with a foot injury, the Terps are becoming more popular in Vegas, now favored by 5 points. Still, this remains one of the more winnable games left on Indiana’s schedule and maybe a final chance to prove that all is not lost.
Maryland is 4-3 this year, and 1-3 in conference, putting them above Indiana in the Big Ten East standings. Like most (all) of Indiana’s opponents so far this year, the Terps have had an easier schedule thus far, with wins over Howard and Kent State padding their record a little bit. Maryland also has a 20-17 win over Illinois under its belt, something that would have been unimpressive if it weren’t for Illinois’ 9OT victory over Penn State last weekend.
Like Indiana, Maryland has lost three straight games. Iowa beat the Terps 51-14 in College Park, while Ohio State put up 66 against them two weeks ago in a 66-17 victory in Columbus. Last week, Maryland lost 34-16 to a Minnesota team who’s been a bit up and down this year themselves. Considering how unpredictable the Big Ten has been this year, it’s difficult to discern exactly how good Maryland is. One thing I can say with confidence though is that they are not in that Elite tier of the Big Ten East that Indiana’s last three opponents usually belong to, so this will be the easiest game since the September 25th matchup with Western Kentucky.
Maryland is led by Taulia Tagovailoa at quarterback, the younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback and former Alabama star, Tua Tagovailoa. Taulia has completed 71% of his passes so far this year for 15 touchdowns, but has thrown eight interceptions. The Hoosier defense had a chance to see him last year, when they forced three interceptions while allowing only one touchdown. Compared to his brother, he’s not much of a rushing threat, averaging just .2 yards per carry on the season. He’s also been sacked 14 times already this year.
Maryland has been bit pretty hard by the injury bug this season, losing receivers Jeshuan Jones and Dontay Demus for the season. The two had combined for 731 yards on 46 receptions for five touchdowns as two of Tagovailoa’s favorite targets. Nebraska transfer Marcus Fleming has been one of the guys to step up in their absence, as he had five catches for 62 yards last week in their loss to Minneosta. The Terrapins have six runningbacks on the roster with over ten carries on the year, which is even more than the Hoosiers have used despite losing guys to injuries and the transfer portal. Tayon Fleet-Davis has gotten the most carries of the group, averaging 5.7 yards per for five touchdowns.
The good news for Indiana is that Maryland is more of an offense-first team. They’ve averaged 421 yards and 28 points per game, both good for fifth in the Big Ten, but behind two prior Indiana opponents, Michigan State and Ohio State. Obviously the Hoosier defense was a bit overmatched against the Buckeyes last weekend, but if the Indiana defense can replicate their performance against Michigan State, who is averaging 6.3 more points per game than Maryland, they should be in good shape. Maryland’s 62-0 win over Howard certainly skews their scoring average too.
Maryland’s defense is 11th in the conference in yards per game allowed, welcome news to Indiana’s struggling offense. Their rushing defense is the second worst in the Big Ten, also good news to a team who will potentially be missing both their first and second string quarterbacks to injuries. Only Indiana has allowed more points on the year, which is probably attributable to the strength of schedule and the sheer fact that the defense is almost ALWAYS on the field because of the offensive struggles. Of the remaining opponents on Indiana’s schedule, this will be the best chance for the offense to figure some things out and give the Hoosiers a chance to go bowling again this year.