Well hello there. It’s homecoming in the first week of October, so naturally that means Michigan gets a traditional Big Ten opponent this wee — Oh.
Still, it’s a gut-check game of sorts, and Maryland has beaten Michigan in the Big House this decade. They may also be less likely to sit on a 10-point lead at half because Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t coach Maryland. The floor is yours…
Jared- By every metric out there, Maryland is the best team Michigan has played since Notre Dame, so we can’t sleepwalk through this one. They have the 20th ranked defense, beat a pretty solid Texas team, and wiped the floor with a Big Ten team not named Rutgers or Nebraska. I think this game is the perfect degree of difficulty before Michigan gets into the gauntlet that is the second half of the season. Maryland is good, not great, and Michigan is an ascending team with goals of being great.
I’ll be watching our offensive line closely (no surprise). They played their best game as a unit against Northwestern and I want to see if that was a fluke or if this is finally a group that looks ready to be a strength of the team. Our pass catchers did not have their best day last week, so a bounceback game for guys like Nico Collins and Sean McKeon would be reassuring. Finally our cornerbacks looked a little out of sorts last week as well, especially in the first half. I want to see if Lavert Hill can get his head around in coverage to avoid those costly penalties that extend drives. Michigan should win this one, but don’t be surprised if this contest is once again closer than expected.
Kevin: I can’t figure Maryland out as a program. They get good talent, have a capable (interim) coaching staff, and aren’t afraid to schedule tough non conference games. Yet they fall off the deep end by November. They beat Texas again, and Texas is (a) good and also (b) (maybe) back. They lost to Temple. Temple is not good. Statistically, Maryland is very average through five games. Quarterback is a smidge over 50 percent completion, running game is spread across three guys, none of them standouts, and only two of their receivers have double-digit catches and more than 100 yards to-date.
And yet, they could still show up and kick Michigan in the teeth because we still don’t know how good Michigan really is. If it’s the Maryland that forced three turnovers against Texas, PANIC. If it’s the Maryland that lost to Temple by three touchdowns, REJOICE.
Sam -- This isn’t really a question of whether Michigan wins or not. Maryland has scored a single touchdown the last three years against the Wolverines, and bring a similar approach with slightly better players into Ann Arbor this Saturday.
Jared hits the nail on the head: Michigan’s offensive line needs to continue proving themselves. This week, they get former No. 1 recruit Byron Cowart and Jesse Aniebonam. If Runyan and Bushell-Beatty can cope, it goes a long way towards dispelling concerns for the three-game stretch against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State. If they don’t, Pep Hamilton should be able to survive with max protection.
Maryland is a screen-heavy team, so I’m not really worried about the cornerbacks. Northwestern ran one screen Saturday, which turned into a 36-yard jaunt to set up the first touchdown. This game will stress the safeties, but since Don Brown got a look at what he needs to improve, Kinnel and Metellus will likely look better prepared. Otherwise, Michigan is built for spread-and-shred defenses with bullets at their disposal like Devin Bush, Khaleke Hudson and the defensive ends.
The only rub? Expect showers on Saturday, which can lead to turnovers. Turnovers are a key ingredient in any upset.
But Sam, showers can also mean wild offensive formations and being forced to run different plays than they normally would! Also, special teams hilarity!
Dan P: The key to this game for the Wolverines will be how they start this ball game. Maryland is an athletic team with a talented offense and a top-25 defense. If Michigan isn’t careful, they could see themselves in a similar situation to this past week against Northwestern.
They will have to slow down the big three running backs for Maryland: Ty Johnson. Anthony McFarland, and Tayon Fleet-Davis. Those three average 7.7 yards per carry; something the Wolverines cannot afford to let happen. Shutting down the run is something Don Brown and this defense have been pretty good at this season, but this will more than likely be their toughest test yet. Seven different Maryland players have scored rushing touchdowns on the year. It could be an upset watch if the defense starts slow like it did against Northwestern.
Offensively I would really like to see more plays with Shea Patterson running the football. If it is truly going to be a day full of showers than handing the ball off to Higdon, Evans, or Wilson every play will be something that is a common occurrence. The ability for Shea to keep the ball and take off for a few yards himself could end up being a key part of this game. On top of that, I’d love to see more RPO and for Shea to become more comfortable in that style for the upcoming games on our schedule.
One thing is for sure, if Michigan looks past the Terrapins on Saturday as the bigger games approach, Maryland will put up a much closer fight than what we are expecting.
Andrew V: We’re at the point in the season now where every game comes with a challenge. If Michigan can stop Maryland’s running game then Michigan will win, it’s as simple as that. I’m looking to see a strong start on the defensive side of the ball, instead of the so-so first half performances we’ve seen in several games this season. Take Maryland out early, don’t give them the feeling that an upset is possible.
Kevin: Hey guys remember how Michigan was going to make a point to not be penalized as much this season? About that…
vs SMU: 13 penalties / 137 yards
vs Nebraska: 8 penalties / 77 yards
vs Northwestern: 11 penalties / 100 yards
Oooooof. And bizarrely, very few of those have been holding calls! That level of penalty yardage can and will keep a team like Maryland in a game on the road. The week Michigan makes it through a game without a dumb targeting call, an illegal formation penalty...or even a holding penalty from Mars is the week they truly play 60 minutes of football. Hopefully I’m not waiting until Halloween weekend...
Daniel A: I have a weirdly gross feeling about this game - to the point where I didn’t bet on it or put it in MMQB because something doesn’t feel right. Ending last week on an unanswered run was nice, but the team didn’t look great. Yes, being at home certainly helps a group of guys that have started horribly on the road in 2018, but Maryland has an incredibly high ceiling as a football team.
They run a lot of screens and have an armada of mobile quarterbacks. Michigan has, at times, really struggled against both of those things. Northwestern ran a screen for 30 yards last week, and Don Brown’s struggles with mobile quarterbacks is well documented. If Maryland plays to their ceiling, I think this game will be close going into the second half. There’s the chance that bad Maryland comes out, and the team that got smoked by Temple will be in for the longest of long days if that happens.
I’m a broken record at this point, but once again my eyes will be on the passing game. I know that Michigan’s running game works against less-talented teams and that it can be a good compliment to the air assault. I know the defense is good and the special teams have been a revelation. What I don’t know is if the passing game can do enough to keep defenses honest. I have faith in Shea, but that’s about it right now. If there’s one thing Jim McElwain’s teams at Florida were known for, it was fast starts followed by frustratingly unfocused and undisciplined play - much like the drops and bad routes we saw last week against Northwestern. I cheer for UF as a second team and more regression from the receivers would scare me greatly. Need a big game from someone this week. Let’s get back on track.
True Dan, but Florida wideouts also liked to partake in extracurricular endeavors that got them suspended from games.