The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (5-3) vs. Syracuse Orangemen (4-4)
The Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
The Time: 3:30 p.m.
TV, Radio, Internet: ESPN3, ESPN 980 (Radio)
The Coaches: Randy Edsall (11-21, third season at Maryland) and Scott Shafer (4-4, first season as Syracuse head coach)
Meeting The Opposition: Syracuse has rode with the middle of the pack for a majority of this season.
Quarterback has been a position of great inconsistency so far. Senior Drew Allen took the reins early on and has never played well when he has seen the field (two touchdowns and eight interceptions. Sophomore Terrel Hunt seems to be the guy that the Orange are most comfortable with. Hunt hasn’t been lighting the world on fire in terms of offensive production though. The New York native has passed for 806 yards (58 percent completion percentage) to go along with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. He does have he ability to get yards with his feet. Hunt is third on the team in rushing with 270 yards and is a remarkable athlete. When the play breaks down, Hunt doesn’t hesitate to take off. In this past weekend’s contest against Wake Forest, Hunt rushed 10 times and scored the game’s lone touchdown on the ground. When given time in the pocket, Hunt can throw an accurate ball, so the Maryland pass rush will be key in this game.
The running game is where Syracuse has the ability to gash opposing teams. Junior Jerome Smith is one of the better backs in the ACC and can break any run for a big gain if he’s given running room. Smith really is perfect combination of size and speed. He is able to turn the corner with solid acceleration and can absorb plenty of first contact. Smith has rushed for 587 (5.1 yards-per-carry) and is tied for third in the ACC with eight touchdowns on the ground. The Delaware native can also catch the ball out of the backfield, which makes him a dual threat. The Terrapins will need to know where Smith is at all times.
The wideouts aren’t any type of players that are going to blow you away. One of their big problems is the inconsistency at the quarterback position. Syracuse only has one wide receivers with multiple touchdown grabs in junior Christopher Clark. Clark has 23 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Jarrod West is Syracuse’s leading wideout with 15 catches for 300 yards and a touchdown. The Pennsylvania native is the Orange’s downfield threat and can get open for a big play at any time.
Key Questions and Storylines:
1.) Can Maryland get pressure on Terrel Hunt?
Since ACC play has begun, the Terps haven’t been able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. They did seen to have some level of success last week against Clemson. Maryland got in quarterback Tahj Boyd’s face on several occasions. Tackling will have to be more sound if they don’t want Hunt to run wild on Saturday. However, Maryland should be well-prepared for Hunt as they recently faced a similar signal caller in Boyd and had an extra week to prepare. The return of linebacker Matt Robinson certainly helped the Terps somewhat contain Boyd in the last game as far as the tackling aspect goes.
2.) Can Maryland effectively run the football once again?
In the latest depth chart that was released on Monday, sophomore Brandon Ross was listed as the starter and looks to be recovered from the shoulder injury that kept him out against Clemson. Sophomore Albert Reid had a solid performance in Ross’ absence (15 carries for 70 yards), despite a very costly fumble. As impressive as Reid’s day was, Ross has proved that he is the superior back all season and his return is huge for Maryland. Syracuse has surrendered 1,158 rushing yards (144.8 yards-per-game) and opponents are averaging 3.66 yards-per-carry. The running room should be there for Ross and company, as clearly the Orange don’t have a stout run defense. Ross will need to be effective and take some pressure off quarterback C.J. Brown in his return to the lineup.
3.) Can C.J. Brown return to form?
Since ACC play begun, it’s been a barrage of injuries and inconsistent play for Maryland’s signal caller. Brown has missed the Virginia and Clemson games and also missed significant portions of the Florida State and Wake Forest contests. Since the West Virginia win, Brown has completed 21 of 38 passes for a mere 219 yards along with two interceptions against Wake Forest.
Brown is going to have to regain his form if Maryland wants to go to a meaningful bowl game. Maryland’s offense was most successful this season when Brown was running the read-option and that kept defenders on their toes. The Pennsylvania native didn’t run the ball himself too much during ACC play and that is something that will need to change. Obviously, Syracuse’s defense is a little more talented than the likes of Florida International and Old Dominion. However, if Brown isn’t tentative has confidence, he should be able to have a good amount of success on Saturday.
The Terrapins will win if:
A.) They can establish the run game early and keep Levern Jacobs involved.
B.) Maryland forces multiple turnovers much like they did against Clemson.
The Terrapins will lose if:
A.) Jerome Smith has a career day on the ground.
B.) C.J. Brown turns the ball over multiple times in his return to the lineup.