The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (4-2, 1-1 B1G) and Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0 B1G)
The Location: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Maryland
The Time: 12:00 PM
TV/Radio: 105.7 FM, ESPN2
The Coaaches: Randy Edsall (4th season, 17-26 at Maryland) and Kirk Ferentz (16th season, 113-80 at Iowa)
The Maryland Terrapins bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for them. After losing badly at home to Ohio State for their fifth straight time in six attempts, the Terps needed to regroup a little. The Buckeyes came into College Park and absolutely walloped the Terps 52-24 in a game that wasn’t very close from start to finish. C.J. Brown only made it one half against the Buckeyes before being pulled as the offense sputtered, and the defense gave up over 500 yards to Urban Meyer, J.T. Barrett, and Ezekiel Elliot’s dangerous O.
Most importantly, Maryland got a chance to get healthy during the bye. C.J. Brown’s wrist injury has been a lingering issue, but he’s gotten a week to rest and recuperate. The same goes for the linebacking corps that has had its own fair share of injury woes. The Terrapins also managed to get back Abner Logan, who was suspended before the season began but had his charges overturned following an appeal. Logan was penciled in on the two-deep, and should bolster the linebackers and add some much needed depth.
They’ll need it, because Iowa is coming to town pretty hot. After losing to Iowa State in week three, the Hawkeyes have rattled off three wins against Pitt, Purdue, and Indiana in succession. Worse for the Terps is that Iowa has looked better and better each game, and they’re looking to prove they can do it against some real, quality competition. A road win against Maryland would probably do the trick in convincing the rest of the Big Ten that they’re legitimate contenders in the West.
Against Indiana, much like most opponents, the Hawkeyes offense looked phenomenal for a half. Iowa scored 28 points in the first quarter alone. Jake Rudock finally looked like the starter Iowa was expecting all along at quarterback, throwing for 210 yards and 2 first quarter touchdowns. But while that was a complete game, the Hawkeyes left some room for concern when their entire team went stagnant for the second half.
But their defense will be tested against the Terps, as will their offense. So who comes out on top?
Key to the Game: Third Down Efficiency and Red Zone Play
Little known fact: Iowa’s opponents are only converting 31% of their third downs against a stingy defense. Third downs (and the ability to prevent teams from converting them) are almost always indicative of how good a team is, just look at some teams in the top 25: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Nebraska, TCU, VT, Georgia, Marshall, and Iowa. Every yard is going to be tough to come by for the Terps today, and if Iowa causes Maryland, a team that converts a meager 37% of their third downs, to struggle on third downs then this team won’t score many points.
But the same goes for Iowa in the red zone. Maryland’s one of the worst teams in college football in opponent third down conversion percentage (91%), but they’re one of the best in red zone defense. Iowa, on the other hand, is pretty bad at both converting third downs and capitalizing in the red zone. Despite having a battle tank of a running back in Mark Weisman, Iowa’s play calling in the red zone is suspect at best. Either they convert, or they’re not going to score enough points either, and Maryland will be very ready to stop them from doing so.
X-Factor of the Game: C.J. Brown
Plain and simple, C.J. Brown is the key to this game. Against a defense like Iowa’s, Maryland has to capitalize on their chances when those big plays arise. The Terps are a explosive, but Iowa controls the clock against everyone. Rather than getting the chance to connect on three deep balls (and hitting it once), Maryland will get two. Those times when Diggs or Long get open have to be converted, or the Terps will assuredly fail.
Brown’s also going to have to get rid of that ball. Iowa has shredded opponents in the trenches so far this season, and Brown has a tendency to hold onto that ball for awhile. He’s got to stay healthy, and to do that means he has to get rid of the ball quickly and run the option effectively by reading that linebacker right every time. But Maryland’s fortune rests with Brown’s ability to play top notch football. He doesn’t have to be perfect at all, but he does have to be efficient.
Prediction Time: Current record 6-0
28-21 Maryland. Iowa has one of the more overrated defenses in all of college football. Much like Marshall, the issue is that they haven’t played anyone. The Terps have played people, gotten a reality check, and know what they need to do to win tough games. Iowa has no idea, because they’ve had creampuffs up to this point. Terps win this one close