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Iowa vs. Maryland Football Prediction and Preview

Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland Terrapins Football

Undefeated Big Ten teams meet up on Friday night when Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terrapins' high-flying passing attack goes up against the defensive-minded Hawkeyes

The Big Ten is kicking off October in style with two unbeaten teams meeting in College Park when the No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0) and Maryland Terrapins (4-0) play on Friday night.

The Hawkeyes are coming off a mildly disappointing effort last weekend, defeating Colorado State 24-14 in a game in which Iowa was trailing entering halftime. As has been the case since the beginning of time seemingly, the Hawkeyes are getting the job done on the defensive side of the ball as they currently rank 13th nationally allowing just 272 yards per game.

Conversely for the Terrapins, the offense has improved significantly since last season, averaging well over 500 yards per game after posting 526 yards last Saturday in a 37-16 win over Kent State. Junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa continued his sweltering start to the year against the Flashes, completing 75 percent of his throw for 384 yards and three touchdowns, and has even been generating some Heisman Trophy talk with three 300-yard passing performances in four games.

No. 5 Iowa at Maryland

Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa -4

When Iowa Has the Ball

Iowa is one of those college football programs that, no matter how much roster turnover there is, typically field one of the better offensive lines in the country. That hasn't been the case in 2021, which was exemplified against Colorado State when the group allowed eight tackles for loss and three sacks. On the year, Iowa ranks 121st nationally in line yards and 127th in offensive stuff rate, leading to just 3.34 yards per carry as a team. Star running back Tyler Goodson rushed for just 57 yards on 18 carries against the Rams, with over half of the yardage accumulated coming on a single attempt. Good enough against Colorado State, not against a Big Ten opponent on the road.

Junior quarterback Spencer Petras has looked improved since last season, upping his completion percentage to 60 percent with just one interception through the first month. The Hawkeyes seemed to take a few more deep shots last week against CSU, including a beautiful pass from Petras to star freshman Keagan Johnson that resulted in a 43-yard score. Tight end Sam LaPorta continues to be a big presence in the passing game with 17 receptions and two touchdowns, tied for seventh among tight ends in the country.

When Maryland Has the Ball

It was not a perfect performance by any stretch for the Terps last week against Kent State in a game that felt like they may have been looking ahead to Iowa because of countless errors. Tagovailoa tossed his first interception of the season, though it was a throw that bounced off receiver Rakim Jarrett's hands into the waiting arms of a defender. Jarrett's drop would be the first of many, as the Maryland receivers were credited with seven drops, according to Pro Football Focus, easily a season-high. Drops aside, the Terps boast one of the best wide receiver duos in the conference with Jarrett and Dontay Demus Jr. who combine to average over 170 receiving yards per game with six total touchdowns.

While the accolades have gone to Tagovailoa and this passing attack, senior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis continues to provide balance on offense, averaging over seven yards a carry, and already has 14 catches in four games out of the backfield. It should be tough sledding on Friday night, though, against an Iowa defense that has yet to allow 100 yards in a game all season and has held both Kent State and Colorado State to under two yards per carry in recent weeks. One under-the-radar challenge for the Terps will be potentially having to overcome poor field position, as Iowa punter Tory Taylor has become a weapon for the Hawkeyes, averaging nearly 48 yards per kick.

Final Analysis

Iowa's already shown this season that it can go on the road and beat a high-level opponent after downing Iowa State in Week 2, but Maryland presents a different challenge with a quarterback in Tagovailoa who is playing as well as any in the country right now. If this were last year, the Hawkeyes' ball-hawking defense (+5 turnover margin) would hold a significant advantage, but Tagovailoa seems to have shored up those issues that plagued him as a sophomore with just one interception through the first month. I suspect this game will come down to the wire and will lean to the home team whose offense has been more dependable to this point.

Prediction: Maryland 24, Iowa 23

Podcast: Complete Week 5 Preview and Predictions + Picks Against the Spread

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.