Aug 30, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins running back Brandon Ross (45) carries the ball against the James Madison Dukes at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
With the South Florida game just hours away, we decided to tackle some hot button issues in advance of the game. Ahmed Ghafir and myself provide our responses below for some interesting topics that concern the Maryland football team.
What is the biggest key to stopping South Florida?
Chris Bengel: The South Florida offense is going to live and die with freshman running back Marlon Mack. Mack rushed for an astounding 275 yards and four touchdowns last week against Western Carolina. To put that performance in perspective, Mack only had 10 fewer rushing yards than the entire Terrapins roster combined. The Sarasota native may only be 6’0, but he is a very quick and shifty runner that can give opposing defenses fits. One of Mack’s strongest attributes is his vision. The freshman tailback is a very patient runner that sees the play develop better than most.
I predict that we’re going to see Maryland bring an extra man in the box quite frequently in order to stop Mack. Safety Sean Davis is likely going to be brought up to the line of scrimmage to help defend. Davis had a ton of success in applying pressure against James Madison a week ago. It’ll also help that linebackers Cole Farrand and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil will be healthy for this one.
Ahmed Ghafir: Marlon Mack is the obvious answer here. Offensive coordinator Paul Wulff has said this week that it will be a running back by committee, somewhat similar to Maryland’s status. However, Mack’s dominating game last week makes him the clear-cut choice. His elusive speed, quick footwork and brute strength makes him a very difficult running back to bring down. By stopping Mack, Maryland will also put a ton of pressure on sophomore quarterback Mike White to do damage in the air, and that’s something the Terps are licking their chops for. White isn’t the most talented quarterback and had a shaky game last week against an FCS team. If he can improve against Maryland, it will be a much closer game than many expected.
What are you looking to see out of C.J. Brown this week?
Chris Bengel: Let’s be honest, most Terp fans were expecting more out of C.J. Brown last week against a lesser opponent. Brown misfired on several easy throws, and didn’t complete 50 percent of his passes. With the amount of offensive weapons that Maryland has, Brown is going to be expected to light it up. Brown only went 11-of-24 for 111 yards against the Dukes. His lone touchdown came on a beautiful stop-and-go route by wideout Deon Long, and Brown hit him in stride. I expect the Terps to throw the ball a little more this week, especially with the Bulls having an inexperienced secondary. Brown should have a better effort this week.
Ahmed Ghafir: Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. I know he can make the tough passes, as well as himself and the coaching staff. If he’s consistently accurate, Maryland fans will begin to watch the threatening offense take shape. That’s a scary thought for Maryland’s opponents, but it’s still an “if” for Brown. It’s important to realize every quarterback at any level makes mistakes. But the deep ball must improve if Maryland wants to excel this year.
Who is the Terps player that no one is talking about?
Chris Bengel: This one is easy for me. Everyone talked about C.J. Brown and Brandon Ross’ success on the ground last week, but Wes Brown isn’t getting nearly enough praise. This is a guy that missed all of last season due to suspension, and wasn’t even listed on Randy Edsall’s two-deep depth chart prior to last week’s contest. While a majority of Brown’s carries were when the game was already out of hand in the second half, he displayed tremendous vision and poise throughout. The Baltimore native averaged a staggering 6.2 yards-per-carry against James Madison, and nearly had double the carries of Ross’ backup Albert Reid. Brown is definitely going to see the field a ton this season and for good reason.
Ahmed Ghafir: Andrew Isaacs. Even when he committed, he seemed to be forgotten about a little bit, but it’s easy to love him when you look at his game. Right now, he needs to become a more complete tight end and continue to work on the receiving aspect of his game, but his blocking ability has really opened up the running game. Just a sophomore, expect Isaacs to become a big part of the Maryland offense this year.
Who will be the offensive standout star against the Bulls?
Chris Bengel: I’m going to go with Stefon Diggs. Aside from Long’s touchdown, Maryland’s wideouts didn’t have too much production. I look for C.J. Brown to get back on track, and look for Diggs a great deal. The former Good Counsel star should find the end zone against the Bulls.
Ahmed Ghafir: C.J. Brown. Despite having accuracy issues, I fully expect Brown to exploit the talented yet inexperienced South Florida secondary through the air, solely because Maryland just has too many weapons on offense. Brown will account for at least four of Maryland’s touchdowns today.
What about on the defensive side of the ball?
Chris Bengel: I’m going to ride the hot hand here, and go with Sean Davis. He led the Terps in tackles last season, and looks even more polished this season. Davis is always around the football, and also showed his prowess in blitzing the quarterback against James Madison. The junior could be one of the most talented safeties ever to come through College Park.
Ahmed Ghafir: The run defense will certainly be tested when they face Marlon Mack. With the return of seniors defensive end Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil and linebacker Cole Farrand this week, I think they will not contain him every play, but do enough to secure the victory. This is a great early test for this defense as they will face many other premier running backs, such as Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman. Through the air, Maryland will give up less than 150 yards. With the pass rush so explosive and playmakers in Will Likely, Sean Davis, Alvin Hill and Jeremiah Johnson, White will have another long day at the helm of the South Florida offense.
What’s your prediction for the game?
Chris Bengel: South Florida is an intriguing matchup for the Terps. The Bulls boast a lethal running game, but leave a lot to be desired through the air. Sophomore Mike White had an abysmal game against Western Carolina last week as he only completed nine of his 26 pass attempts. Penn State transfer Steven Bench could see time against Maryland if White struggles once again. Either way, Maryland should win this one pretty handily. Look for the Terps to establish the ground game with Ross and the Browns against a weak South Florida defense. I’ll go with a 41-17 Maryland victory.
Ahmed Ghafir: I’ll go 31-20 Maryland with a garbage time touchdown by South Florida. Maryland is clearly the more talented team of the two, and it will show. I do, however, expect a slow start.