At 6-2 the Maryland Terrapins head to Miami with the opportunity to turn what many thought would be a mediocre season into a great one. But the task will not be an easy one for the Terps, who face their toughest 4 game stretch of the season. Maryland does have winnable road games against Miami and Virginia, but they wrap up the season at home against two top 25 opponents and Atlantic division foes in Florida St and NC State. Three weeks ago I would not have called the Terps game at Miami winnable. Maryland, however, seems to be hitting their stride at the right time. After struggling to beat Duke in College Park and coming up short against Clemson in Death Valley, Ifelt it would be a struggle for the Terps to reach 7 wins. Maryland has gotten strong play from QB Danny O’Brien, better play from their offensive line and has forced turnovers on with an attacking defense. This game is a chance for the Terps to show if they are for real, or if they have taken advantage of a weak schedule so far.
So how likely is it that Maryland will be able to go to Miami and beat the ‘Canes? It would be a huge win for a Maryland program that is trying to keep Ralph Friedgen’s job secure for at least another year. Maryland may catch a few breaks this week. Miami is expected to be without leading rusher Damien Berry and starting QB Jacory Harris. Harris’ status is still up int he air, but Berry has been ruled out. While Harris is inconsistent, he is a play-making threat and without him in the line-up the Terps will need to make life hard on freshman back-up Stephen Morris. Maryland will look to blitz the young QB and take advantage of a fast and play-making secondary. S Kenny Tate has emerged as a versatile play-maker for the Terps. In order for the Terps to have a shot in Coral Gables, Tate and fellow safety Antwine Perez need to have big games.
Offensively, Maryland will have their hands full keeping O’Brien on his feet. While the ‘Canes are not known for having a dominant front seven, they do have some good pass rushing DE’s. Maryland has gotten good play out of an injury riddled line, but a lot of that has been because they have featured a short passing game, which gets the ball out of O’Brien’s hands. In some sense, Maryland’s weakness on offense matches up with Miami’s weakness, but Maryland’s strength also matches up with Miami’s. The Terps have a strong group of receivers with good speed and size, but Miami is only allowing 152 yards passing per game. If Maryland struggles to move the ball through the air, they will have trouble sustaining long drives. Maryland has not shown the ability to consistently run the ball against adequate to good defenses. Will that change this week?
Despite improved play of late and the advantage Maryland has due to Miami’s injuries, I still don’t believe the Terps can hang with Miami on the road. It should be a close game, but I think the ‘Canes outlast the Terps 24-17. Any reason to think I am wrong about the outcome of this game?