The Spartans are licking their wounds after the loss to Ohio State
The Maryland Terrapins and Michigan State Spartans will hook up in East Lansing on Saturday in a Big Ten East matchup of two teams with different outlooks on the remainder of the season. Injuries have gutted the Terrapins (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten) in 2017 and subsequently derailed what began as a promising season. The Spartans (7-3, 5-2) are coming off a loss to Ohio State that essentially eliminated them from New Year's Six bowl contention.
Maryland at Michigan State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Michigan State -16
Three Things to Watch
1. Michigan State's body language
It will be interesting to see Michigan State's motivation level after such a demoralizing loss a week ago. A division championship and a New Year's Six bowl appearance are both likely out of the question, but the Spartans are still playing for one of the prestigious second-tier bowls. They'll need an impressive showing in their last two games to make that happen. You should be able to tell right way if Mark Dantonio's team is up to the task.
2. Can Ty Johnson get it going?
Johnson (above, right) was the catalyst for Maryland's 3-1 start to the 2017 season. The Terrapins' leading rusher (700 yards, eighth in the Big Ten) scored four times during that stretch and has found the end zone just once since then. Head coach DJ Durkin needs to make it a point to get Johnson the ball early and often, as he is Maryland's best chance of competing in this game. If Johnson can have success early, this could be an interesting contest. Particularly considering Michigan State is fourth in the Big Ten in rushing defense (111.8 ypg).
3. Can Brian Lewerke bounce back?
Lewerke had his worst game of the season against the Buckeyes, completing just 50 percent of his passes and tossing two interceptions. As poor as Maryland has played recently, there's no guarantee that that Spartans can win this game simply by pounding the ball on the ground with LJ Scott and others. Lewerke needs a bounce-back game to regain confidence and help the Spartans finish strong and reach their new goal — winning 10 games. Don't be shocked if you see an opening series designed around Lewerke throwing the ball just to get his mind right.
There's no real reason to expect this game to be close. Despite last weekend's loss, the Spartans are still one of the Big Ten's top four teams. Given the difference in terms of level of talent as well as Maryland's injuries, Michigan State should be able to dominate this one from start to finish. Look for a couple of big pass plays from Brian Lewerke early on to give the Spartans the lead. Once that happens, it will be time for LJ Scott to shine running the ball, shortening the game and getting the Spartans a much-needed rebound win.
Prediction: Michigan State 34, Maryland 9
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also covers the Big Ten for Black Heart Gold Pants, Iowa's SB Nation blog. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.