Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
What: Indiana Hoosiers (4-6, 0-6) at Maryland Terrapins (2-8, 0-6)
When: Saturday, November 21 at Noon
Where: Byrd Stadium in College Park, Maryland
How to Watch: The game will be broadcast on the B1G Network. You can also listen to the game on the IU Radio Network.
What’s at Stake: The Maryland Terrapins don’t have anything to play for beyond pride and avoiding the ignominy of finishing last in the B1G. They have already fired their head coach and the search for the new leader of the program is already underway. The Indiana Hoosiers have plenty left to play for and no margin for error. The Hoosiers need to win back-to-back road games to reach bowl eligibility and they’ll be attempting to snap a streak of six straight losses. The losses were mostly against high-quality competition and IU was very competitive but still, the record is 4-6 and the Hoosiers (and Kevin Wilson) badly need a victory.
A Few Things to Look For
1. A Woeful Passing Offense
If IU’s secondary was ever going to step up and have a big day, Saturday would be the perfect time. The Hoosiers are 85th in the country against the pass and they are nearly last in the country on third down (which is mostly opponents completing passes to move the chains). Meanwhile the Terrapins are turning the ball over at a historic rate. Terrapin quarterbacks have thrown 28 interceptions through ten games. Those picks are coming at a rate of one for every 11 attempts. No team has thrown interceptions at a higher rate in the past 20 seasons. Caleb Rowe has thrown 15 interceptions in 114 attempts and Perry Hills has thrown 12 interceptions in 174 attempts. Hills appears likely to be the guy on Saturday and I think he is the more dangerous threat to IU because of his legs (more on that in a bit) but he’s been sacked on nearly 9% of his drop backs and is only completing 50% of his passes on only 4.6 yards per attempt. In B1G games, the Terrapins have only thrown for more than 200 yards on one occasion (against Penn State) and they’ve yet to exceed 250 yards. If yet another QB lights up the Hoosiers secondary and has a huge day, you’ve got to question why they are even paying a secondary coach.
2. Run Perry, Run!
While Perry Hills may not be much of a passer and his wide receivers haven’t been much of a threat so far this season, the junior QB can definitely hurt the Hoosiers with his legs. Hills has run for more than 100 yards three different times this season (170 against Ohio State, 124 against Penn State and 104 against Iowa) and he has three rushing touchdowns. Hills is not lightning quick but he’s mobile, has good vision and is tough to bring down (6’3”/210 pounds). I think the Hoosiers will probably be using a linebacker to “spy” on Hills are they should watch a lot of tape from the past two weeks as both Wisconsin and Michigan State kept Hills under 50 yards.
3. Wrecking Crew: IU’s Running Game
I know the Hoosiers came up short against the Wolverines and reasonable minds can have a civil disagreement about IU’s final two plays last Saturday. The finish aside, I can’t understate how impressed I was with the smashmouth football Indiana was able to impose onto the Michigan Wolverines defense. Michigan’s D came into the game as one of the best units in the country and IU mauled them up front as Jordan Howard ran around and through them for the majority of the game. Dan Feeney was amazing and the rest of the O-Line deserves credit as well. With Howard healthy, the running game should be the focus of IU’s offense and I hope to see more of the same on Saturday in College Park. The Terrapins are actually pretty good against the run (36th according to S&P+) but Michigan and Iowa were as well and IU was able to run on them. Here are the previous rushing totals for Maryland’s B1G opponents:
-Michigan State ran for 141 yards (3.4 yards per carry)
-Wisconsin was held to 117 yards (2.9 yards per carry)
-Iowa only had 110 yards (2.5 yards per carry)
-Penn State only managed 48 yards (1.5 ypc)
-Ohio State ran for 182 yards (3.9 ypc)
-Michigan ran for 198 yards (4.9 ypc)
To recap, only one B1G opponent has exceeded four yards per carry and the one that did was Michigan way back in the conference opener. So, the Terps run defense is not porous but IU’s running game should expect to be successful against anyone while Howard is healthy and I’m looking for more of what we saw last Saturday.
4. Special Plays
“Special plays” are big in any football game. To me, those include big interceptions, blocked field goals or punts, very long touchdown catches or runs or kick/punt returns for touchdowns. Maryland is last in the country in turnover margin and IU needs to make sure they take advantage of Maryland feeling charitable. Make the turnovers count and turn them into points. In addition, the Hoosiers need to make sure they eliminate William Likely from the game. Likely is one of the top return men in the country and a potential game-changer. He is averaging 24.1 yards per return on kickoffs and has a 100-yard kick return TD. He is also averaging 17.7 yards per punt return and has two touchdowns. Griffin Oakes has been extremely good at putting the ball through the back of the end zone on kickoffs and that needs to continue. Erich Toth has actually had a pretty decent season and IU’s coverage units have been good pretty much all season. The kicker, punter and each member of the coverage units will need to be on their game to make sure Likely has no chance to change the game on Saturday.
Stay tuned to Hoosier Huddle for more excellent coverage of this week’s matchup. We’ll have multiple preview pieces and the best post-game coverage you’ll find anywhere.