The Michigan Wolverines have played some really good teams in college football this season. You can go back to Wisconsin who is quickly rising up the polls. Or even Michigan State and Penn State in the past three weeks. However, the two best quarterbacks they will face this season come in the final two weeks of the year. Can they handle the air raid attack of the Maryland Terrapins? Let’s dig into this week’s matchup and who Wolverines’ fans should have their eyes out for on Saturday.
Redshirts Sophomore QB Taulia Tagovailoa
Tagovailoa has become a household name in the football world with the lore of Tua coming in for Jalen Hurts in the second half of the National Championship and leading the Alabama Crimson Tide to a championship without starting any games that season.
His brother Taulia followed suit heading to Alabama. But when offensive coordinator Mike Locksley headed to College Park to become the head coach at Maryland, the younger Tagovailoa went with him ad instantly became the starter.
In his second season with the program, Tagovailoa has turned into a star in the college landscape. He’s ninth in college football with 3,105 passing yards and 24th in the nation with 20 touchdowns. He loves to throw the deep ball, almost to a fault. According to PFF, he completes about 42% of his ball beyond 20 yards down the field. However, he has also thrown five of his 10 interceptions from that range. Still, he has earned an elite passing grade of 93.2 when he goes deep down the field.
Unfortunately for the Terapins, their best deep ball threat, Dontay Demus Jr., got injured a few weeks back. In six games, he had seven receptions of 20 air yards or more on just eight targets in that range. Without him, Maryland's offense just has not been as explosive.
Tagovailoa is coming off three consecutive weeks with 350 or more yards at an average of 48.3 attempts per game in that span. But only one of those games has resulted in a victory for the Terps; a 38-35 win over Indiana a few weeks back.
Unfortunately for Tagovailoa, he hasn’t seen a pass rush like Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo will provide on Saturday. And under pressure, the redshirt sophomore has been subpar. He completes only 41.8% of his passes when feeling the heat and has just 489 passing yards when the pocket isn't clean. If Michigan doesn’t let him stand in the pocket, he could struggle on Saturday.
Sophomore WR Rakim Jarrett
Jarrett is coming off two of the best games in his career. The former five-star recruit had 10 receptions for 105 yards in last week's loss to Michigan State. The week prior he had 6-for-70 with a couple of 20-plus yard receptions over the past two weeks. He leads the team in receptions and receiving yards after the midseason injury to Demus Jr.
The sophomore receiver is tied for fifth in the Big Ten with five touchdowns this year and was on the preseason All-Big Ten team for both PFF and Athlon Sports. It’s been a bit of a challenge for him to fill in as the No. 1 receiver on this team, especially with his five drops on the season. Still, he is easily Tagovailoa’s best option in the receiving game and he is fed the ball early and often.
Jarrett is a speedy receiver who is crafty with the football. Containing him is going to be a really important part of slowing down the Terrapins’ passing game on Sunday.
Senior TE Chigoziem Okonkwo
We spoke about the several big games Tagovailoa has had over the past few weeks. Well, two of them were with the help of Chigoziem Okonkwo. The senior tight end has 20 of his 40 receptions and 197 of his 374 yards on the season in the past two weeks.
His ascent has been notable in the past two weeks and one would have to assume he will be targeted plenty this week. Similar to Jarrett, he has some trouble hanging onto the football with five drops this season, but the veteran tight end has been Tagovailoa’s red zone target all year long.
He has five touchdowns on the season, tying him for the team lead in the receiving group. If Tagovailoa isn’t going down the field, he’s probably dumping it off to Okonkwo underneath.
Q3- Under 9: Maryland 21, Michigan State 34— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) November 13, 2021
On his first drive after the pick, Taulia Tagovailoa brings the Terps down the field in three plays and caps the drive off with a 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo for his second touchdown of the day. pic.twitter.com/Ry2gDczgNr
Expect the hot hand in the Maryland offense to stay get some attention this weekend.