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Key Matchups: Michigan at Maryland

The Wolverines and Terrapins take center stage Saturday afternoon.

Michigan v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

No. 6 Michigan heads to College Park to face Maryland for its final road game of the regular season, with Michigan opening as the 14.5-point favorite. The Wolverines have improved to a 9-1 record this season, going 3-1 on the road and 6-1 in conference, which is good for sixth in the CFP rankings. Michigan, in its attempt to appear in its first Big Ten championship game, has to win out while relying on either Ohio State or Penn State to take down Michigan State to gain the bid from the east.

The Terrapins are fifth in the Big Ten East, with a 5-5 record and two wins in conference play. They are currently on a two-game losing streak and hope to pull off a huge upset at home. Will the Terrapins snap their current losing streak or will Michigan head into rivalry week with a single loss? Let’s see what the numbers say.

Michigan starting QB Cade McNamara has cemented himself as a cornerstone of this Wolverine team. His passion and belief in his teammates to achieve where others have fallen short has been so apparent over the course of the season. McNamara’s leadership is evident and that makes him essential in Michigan’s success. The Wolverines will look to McNamara once again to bring home another win.

The quarterback has grown more comfortable at the helm because of his firm belief that this team has what it takes to win it all. He has improved to a 62.5 percent completion rate in conference play, throwing for 1,512 yards, 9 TDs and 2 INTs. Maryland’s defense has allowed opponents on average 258.2 passing yards per game. This gives McNamara and his receivers the room to go to work picking apart the Terrapins secondary. McNamara has 1,883 passing yards 12 TDs and 2 INTs on the season.

The Wolverines have the chance to have a high passing yard game, should they find that necessary. In their last two games, the Terrapins allowed Michigan State 287 passing yards and a 73.3 percent completion rate, while allowing Penn State 363 passing yards and a 57.4 percent completion rate. If Maryland wants to keep up, their are going to have to rely heavily on their own passing threat, starting QB Taulia Tagovailoa.

Tagovailoa has been the entire offensive output for the Terrapins all season. This is evident in Maryland’s lopsided offense as they average 319.5 passing yards a game, when they average 431.5 yards of offense per game. Against ranked AP teams, Tagovailoa has thrown for 1,157 passing yards, 7 TDs and 9 INTs off a 65.9 percent completion rate. This heavy number of pass attempts leaves them susceptible to turnovers, as evident by the number of picks so far this season. In conference, Tagovailoa has thrown for 2,115 passing yards, 11 TDs and 9 INTs with a 66.8 percent completion rate. He’s good for 3,105 passing yards, 20 TDs and 10 INTs on the season.

The Wolverines’ defense allow their opponents on average 178.4 passing yards per game. They are the fourth opponent ranked in the AP for the Terrapins and Michigan’s improved secondary will present a challenge to Maryland. In their last two games, Michigan allowed Penn State to throw for 223 passing yards with a 54.5 percent completion rate. They kept Indiana under 100 passing yards with a 40 percent completion rate. Both teams heavily relied on their passing threat. The Wolverines should have no issue getting after Maryland’s passing game either.

Maryland has struggled to maintain a balanced offense this season because of their struggling ground attack, as the Terrapins average 112 rushing yards a game. This could stem from struggling to maintain the line as evident from their low rushing yards and amount of sacks to their QB. Through ten games this season, the Terrapins have allowed 23 sacks. Protecting the QB is essential for a team that heavily relies on a passing game, therefore controlling the line is critical for Maryland, but that could prove difficult. They are going to have to find an answer for Michigan’s reapers, which has been a struggle for all of Michigan’s opponents so far this season. Aiden Hutchinson and David Ojabo come into this game with 10 sacks apiece.

Michigan, on the other hand, has built an offense around their ground attack and offensive line, averaging 225.1 rushing yards a game. This comes from Michigan’s offensive line’s ability to create opportunities for their running backs. They have also been the reason why opponents have only gotten to a Michigan QB eight times all season. Michigan’s offensive line should have no difficultly controlling the line and pushing Maryland around. This leaves Maryland with the task of eliminating Michigan’s ground attack, which will be no easy feat.

The Maize and Blue have called upon their ground game all season to put them in the win column and they have been successful because of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Corum sustained an injury against the Hoosiers and will likely miss out the rest of the regular season. Freshman Donovan Edwards returned off an injury against Penn State, but it has been all Haskins the past two weeks.

Haskins is 15 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards on the season. He will be the first running back for the Wolverines since Karan Higdon to collect over 1,000 rushing yards. This week presents the perfect opportunity for Haskins to run all over Maryland, given that the Terrapins allow 157.5 rushing yards a game. Against conference opponents, Haskins has rushed for 704 yards and 2 TDs on 147 attempts. He has taken up the heavy workload after Corum went down to injury, but that was welcomed with open arms for the senior running back. His ability to gain tough yards and move the chains for the Wolverines has been critical to elevate Michigan to victory. He will be called upon once more this week to provide Michigan with a balanced offensive attack. Haskins has 985 rushing yards and 11 TDs on 196 attempts on the season

Maryland on the other hand, has struggled to produce an effective ground attack. Their leading rusher, senior Tayon Fleet-Davis, has 69 rushing yards on 23 attempts against AP ranked opponents this season. In conference games, Fleet-Davis has 192 rushing yards on and 3 TDs on 58 attempts. This will unlikely provide Maryland with any ground advantage as the Wolverines allow 123.2 rushing yards a game. The Terrapins have 13 rushing TDs on the season, which is half of what Michigan has produced in the same time frame. Fleet-Davis has 441 rushing yards and 6 TDs on 91 attempts this season.

Michigan is going to have to head into College Park with an effective plan to eliminate the Terrapins passing threat. This will come from effectively breaking up passes and forcing turnovers. With a minimal attack from the Maryland backfield, Michigan will have the ability to control the line. The Maize and Blue come in with a balanced offense and their dominant backfilled should elevate them to their tenth win of the season. Their main focus will be getting out with a win with minimal injury.

Maryland’s advantage lies in their ability to produce passing yards. Should they beat out Michigan’s secondary and effectively move down the field, they possess the opportunity to make this game difficult for the Wolverines. The Terrapins are going to have to play a near perfect game should they want to keep Michigan on their toes. However, they are going to have their hands full, as they have to figure out a way to contain Michigan’s rush offense and defensive ends, while simultaneously providing a clean passing game.

The Wolverines hold the advantage in this matchup and won’t mess around with Maryland. They understand that a win over the Terrapins is a step toward the top of the Big Ten East. Maryland won’t go down quietly, but that effort might not be enough to stop the Wolverines.

Maryland hosts the No. 6 Wolverines at Maryland Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. start time.