Michigan at Maryland Preview 2019

Everything you need to know before Michigan kicks in the door in College Park at noon tomorrow.

Kickoff Time: Noon EST
Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium
Michigan -21.5, O/U 55.5

Oh how the context of this game has changed dramatically in a week. At one point this season Maryland was within eight spots of Michigan in SP+ (34 vs 26 in week 4). Maryland's dismantling of a then-ranked Syracuse squad while Michigan struggled against Army started to make this look like a bleak away game. The Wisconsin game did not help this outlook.

Since then, Michigan's offense has started to catch its stride and Maryland, once again, is struggling to field a healthy quarterback. Michigan just dismantled a top 10 Notre Dame team and Maryland, well, they blew out Rutgers?

Michigan fans are finally taking a step back from the ledge and playing a banged up Maryland team going into the bye might just be what everybody needs. November football has not always been the friendliest to Michigan football but here we are and considering how we got here from September, it could've been way worse. Or maybe that's just the Notre Dame effect? After all it lifted spirits in 2009, 2010, and 2013, all seasons that could be forgotten about.

I called Illinois Rutgers+ because at the time they fit the title but after back-to-back wins over Wisconsin and Purdue I have elevated Illinois from bad bad to meh. Maryland is the new Rutgers++ (an extra + because they're capable of doing things when not injured). If there is one thing Michigan fans could use right now it's two blowouts in a row, and tomorrow makes for a great opportunity for that.

Maryland Offense vs Michigan Defense

Old but Gold
 Maryland has two quarterbacks with over 100 pass attempts which is a result of injuries. Starter Josh Jackson (#17) suffered an ankle injury against Rutgers, leaving Tyrrell 'Piggy' Pigrome (#3) to replace him. Piggy would then suffer a knee injury this past weekend against Minnesota, leaving third stringer Tyler DeSue (#13) to take the beatings. Josh Jackson did play briefly against the Gophers and is an option against Michigan, but basically Michigan will face either a limping starter or a freshman who went 4-12 against Minnesota.

Still, depending on which game you look at Maryland's yards per play has been a high as ~8 and as low as ~2. Against weaker defenses, Maryland's offense has feasted on the big plays. In fact seven players have plays of 50 or more yards, four more different players have plays between 30-50 on the season. Against Penn State, the Terrapins gained 128 yards of offense. I would expect more of a Penn State game performance against Michigan than the 79 points they put up against 1-7 FCS Howard.

Running back Anthony McFarland (#5) suffered a high ankle sprain against Temple in week 3 and has been limited ever since. He did have an 80 yard touchdown run against Rutgers but most of the running efforts have been by Javon Leake (#20). Javon's been averaging 8.2 yards per carry, with his most impressive performance this season coming against Indiana (158 yards, 6.9 avg, 2 TDs). But again, against Penn State these numbers dropped to 10 yards on 6 carries. Leake's averages are a bit inflated by runs of 64, 60, 42, and 33 against various opponents.

Receiver Dontay Demus Jr. (#7) is the other player to crack the 80-yard play club (also against Rutgers). At 6'3" he's the kind of guy they can try to chuck it deep to along with 6'4" tight end Tyler Mabry (#80).

Maryland's offense uses a lot of "Speed in Space" concepts but inferior and banged up talent. They may run nine plays that go nowhere, but the 10th one is lethal. They may get one or two big plays against Michigan but that's probably it. When healthy, they've carved up weak defenses (Howard, Syracuse, Rutgers) but when facing a defense with a pulse, or in Penn State's case a top 10 defense, they go nowhere. Maryland's offense should return some guys from injury in this game but wobbly quarterbacks and running backs are not going to beat Michigan.

Maryland Defense vs Michigan Offense

The things that worked are back
Much like the Maryland offense,  the defense is following a similar script. Good against bad teams, bad against good teams, lots of injuries, etc. They shut out Howard but gave up 59 to Penn State. They held Rutgers to 7 but averaged giving up 42 points against Purdue, Indiana, and Minnesota.

Usually this is the part where I say it's Michigan trying to figure out their identity on offense but, uhh, they're actually starting to? Notre Dame's defense isn't stellar by any means, #38 in SP+, but Michigan not only looked competent, but they dominated. Gattis has introduced some classic Harbaugh schemes into the offense and the Irish looked completely unprepared. And guess what, it's the stuff Michigan was actually good at running last year. So how should they fair against Maryland? Probably better.

Maryland ranks 56th in rush defense, 116th in pass defense, 78 in scoring defense, and 94th in overall defense. Even September Michigan would probably fair well against this defense, but now they're in something resembling a rhythm.

Some names to watch out for: linebacker Keandre Jones (#4) leads the team with six sacks on the season, cornerback Antoine Brooks Jr (#25) leads the team in solo tackles, and defensive tackle Keiron Howard (#59) is the type of strongman who could disrupt the run game.

I don't know what else to say, really. When you give up over 600 yards to Penn State, almost 500 to Minnesota, and over 500 to both Indiana and Purdue, you're probably not going to do well against Michigan. If all goes well, we might see some Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton action.

"Blarg I am-" wait is the ref still watching? He is? Ok "blarg I am dead"
Best Case Scenario
Michigan picks up where they left off in the last six quarters and puts up >500 yards against a struggling Maryland defense. Michigan's defense beats up an already beat-up Maryland offense and shuts down the big run play. We feel good about this going into the bye week and the State game hype gets elevated.

Worst Case Scenario

Maryland gets some of their big plays to work and keep it close around halftime. Michigan should win comfortably even in some of the worst case scenarios here but Maryland has some very annoying tools. I'm feeling better about Michigan's offense but am still slightly skeptical that they could regress to the mean.

I wonder if they like playing Michigan because it typically means less push-ups?

The Part Where Patrick Gets the Score Completely Wrong
Michigan - 42
Maryland - 7

Past Highlights 

 If you get hurdled by a fullback you have to quit football, them's just the rules.

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