I’ll be honest, the Terps have been great, so writing this was a little more difficult than your average piece. There just isn’t much to complain about with this team yet. Still, when you start to nitpick and look at actual, legitimate flaws on the team that may eventually surface against stiffer competition, you find a few.
1. Converting red zone trips into touchdowns, not field goals
Who would’ve thought that being 100% on red zone trips this season would actually be a fault? So far this season, the Terps are one of ten teams that have been not had a single failed trip in the red zone. So why is that a fault? Because they’re settling for field goals, and that’s not what great teams do. Take a look at this chart for a nice explanation:
|Name||G||Attempts||Scores||Score %||TD||TD %||FG||FG %|
If you take out teams that haven’t taken ten trips to the red zone, you can dwindle the list down to Oregon State (3-1), Maryland (4-0), Oklahoma State (3-0), Penn State (3-1), Stanford (4-0) and Ohio State (4-0). If we put in bold the touchdown rates of those teams, you can see the problem Maryland runs into. Each of those other teams converts RZ trips into touchdowns 75% of the time or better. Maryland? Not even 55%. Only six teams in college football settle for field goals more often than Maryland, and their combined record is 6-11.
That’s points left on the board, and points that even a powerful offense like Maryland can’t afford to leave there against great teams. Settling for field goals is still better than not scoring any points, but realistically the Terrapins have to get a lot better to hang out with the elite teams in this regard. In fact, in red zone touchdown conversions, Maryland ranks 91st nationally. Imagine how they’re going to fare against an even tougher defense like Florida State?
Believe me when I tell you the Terps want to get the heck out of this category in short order.
2.) A third receiving threat needs to emerge
For a team with a much talent on the outside as Maryland, they certainly don’t have the stats to show for it. Outside of Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, no other Maryland receiver has recorded nine or more catches. I will grant you that Maryland has ran the ball 177 times and thrown it only 71, but the fact remains that only Long and Diggs have benefited from this offense (as far as receivers go). Everyone else is picking up the scraps.
That’s probably got to change at some point if Maryland wants to be successful. Against tougher teams who have as the requisite cornerback depth to cover both those two elite receivers, Maryland might be in trouble if they need someone else to emerge as a threat. Sure, we know that Nigel King (and his three catches on the year) will be coming back, that Levern Jacobs is a speedster, and that Dave Steinbaugh has relatively good hands, but none of the aforementioned players have translated those skills into on-field productivity.
Given how much Maryland runs the ball, though, this may not be an issue. With Brown, Diggs, Ross, and Long, Maryland has four players who can assault you in plenty of ways. Still, we’ve seen Ross struggle against bigger defensive lines before, and against tougher competition he may end up being much less productive (see: 3 yards per carry vs WVU). Having someone else emerge from the pile as a legitimate red zone threat (maybe King?) may help point one become less an issue.
3.) Play a full sixty minutes of football.
Want another fun by numbers stat? Maryland has scored only 14 points in the fourth quarter this season — in total. Over four games, the offense has seemingly let off the pedal late instead of continuing to steamroll opponents. We saw the issue flare up against Connecticut, when the Terps offense stalled and the Huskies started to press a bit (the game was never in question, but it was nerve-wracking).
But it isn’t just the fourth quarter, because there are times during games when the Maryland offense sputters out for a quarter at a a time. We’ve yet to see the Terps put together four straight quarters of total dominance, and the competition they’ve been playing should have allowed them to do that. Will this become a bigger problem against better teams?
Frankly, I can see it. Clemson, Florida State, and Virginia Tech can all shut down teams offensively for one quarter, two quarters in a game. Couple that with another quarter where Maryland loses focus and you’ve got offensive issues. Maryland can be shut down for a quarter, as no offense is perfect. But they can’t shut down because they themselves have let off the gas a bit. If the Terps want to be considered an upper-echelon team in the ACC, they need four quarters of football.