Conference play kicks off for the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday as they host the Maryland Terrapins. The Terps are off to a 3-0 start after a 14-point fourth quarter earned them a win over the SMU Mustangs in College Park last week. This will be the second road game of the season for Mike Locksley and company, as they beat a terrible Charlotte 49ers squad in Week 2.
Last season, the Wolverines flexed their muscles against the Terps on the road, putting on a show in a 59-18 win. This year, Michigan is coming into the game favored by 17 points at home. That spread has moved down since opening at 18.5. Could this game be closer than last year? Let’s dig into the guys who could make a difference on Saturday.
QB Taulia Tagovailoa
Tagovailoa was highly recruited partially because of his last name and the success his brother had as a national champion, but he has been consistently a solid quarterback since transferring to College Park from Alabama.
In 2021, Tagovailoa threw for more than 300 yards seven times during the regular season, including games against Michigan State and Penn State. He also finished in the top-10 in passing yards in the FBS last season. Through three games in 2022, he is on a similar pace. He has been highly efficient converting 77.3% of his passes while racking up 895 yards.
Last year, Michigan put the pressure on Tagovailoa. forcing him to be uncomfortable in the pocket all game. It’s why he threw for only 178 yards in the game, his second-lowest mark last season. The Wolverines will need to replicate that if they hope to contain him, and thus, this offense.
The Michigan pass rush had seven sacks in Week 1 against Colorado State, but have only had one since against two inferior offensive lines. This group is still the largest question mark on the team, and a strong start to Big Ten play against Maryland would certainly silence the skeptics.
WR Rakim Jarrett
If Tagovailoa has a big day, it could be because Rakim Jarrett was able to get open. The former five-star is his quarterback’s favorite receiver. Using his immense speed as an advantage, Jarrett recorded 62 receptions for 859 yards and five touchdowns in 2021.
He opened 2022 by passing the century mark in a 110-yard, six-reception day in a win over Buffalo. Overall this season, Jarrett is averaging 17.8 yards per reception with longs of 48 and 35 yards.
Taulia Tagovailoa finds Rakim Jarrett downfield pic.twitter.com/1GkrlzMaz8— Matt Hicks (@TheFF_Educator) September 18, 2022
He’s a threat down the field and in yards after the catch, which is why he was on the 2022 Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The Michigan secondary will have their hands full with this do-it-all receiver.
S Beau Brade
The defense is not Maryland’s strong suit, but one up-and-comer is junior safety Beau Brade. He leads the team in tackles with 27 on the year, with 15 coming last week alone against SMU. In the same performance, Brade had a forced fumble and this huge interception which helped flip momentum midway through the game:
Remember the name Beau Brade https://t.co/hOlCB2F9ua— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) September 18, 2022
Brade started all five games in 2020 and appeared in 13 out of 14 games in 2021. The Terps have recent history of turning safeties into NFL players, with Darnell Savage and Nick Cross being drafted recently. Hopes are that Brade can be that next guy.
Still, this Terps defense has been less than stellar in their first three games. They’ve allowed 392 yards per game against Buffalo, Charlotte and SMU, including more than 500 last week to SMU. Michigan will have every opportunity to win this game big, but a few key plays from a guy like Brade could make this one closer than it should be.