Can the upset-minded Terrapins catch the Wolverines looking ahead to next week a steal a road win in the Big Ten?
The outcomes between the Michigan Wolverines (4-1) and Maryland Terrapins (3-1) have been awfully one-sided since Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in 2015 with the Wolverines winning all three contests by a combined total of 122-13. Yikes.
Good news for the Terps is that they enter Saturday coming off a bye week and are almost completely at full health, minus a backup running back or two. That's nothing like the last time these two teams met, when Maryland was down to its fifth-string quarterback.
As for the Wolverines, this has the look of a potential trap game considering the upcoming slate with the likes of Big Ten powers Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State. Can the Terps catch Michigan looking ahead toward next week? We will find out Saturday.
Maryland at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 6 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Michigan -17.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Flag fest
Against SMU in Week 3, the Wolverines were penalized a staggering 13 times. Last weekend against Northwestern, the flags were a common occurrence once again as Michigan had 11 penalties — though most are still wondering where that phantom holding call was late against Karan Higdon. In total, the Wolverines have had 46 flags thrown against them in 2018, which puts them tied for fifth most in the country and atop the Big Ten. Not the category you want to be leading. Against the likes of a Northwestern or SMU, you can get away with these types of mistakes and still come out victorious. Not the case against the upper-echelon schools in the Big Ten that are on the horizon in the coming weeks.
2. Can’t be one-dimensional
Maryland has been excellent at running the football thus far in 2018, ranking 11th in the country, averaging over 258 yards per game on the ground with a 6.19 yards-per-carry average. The Terps have a fantastic 1-2 punch leading the way in the backfield in senior Ty Johnson and redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland, both of whom topped 100 yards with three rushing TDs their last time out in the win over Minnesota. On the flipside, Maryland is currently dead last in the Big Ten in passing, averaging just 141 yards per game in the air with only four passing TDs in four games. If Maryland can’t find a way to generate offense via the pass, it could be a long day against this Wolverines defense.
3. Calm before the storm
The Michigan players and coaches don’t have the luxury of looking past an opponent, but we do. Under Harbaugh, the Wolverines are 20-4 at the Big House, and the winning percentage is even better against unranked opponents as is the case this Saturday. Fact is, this Michigan season will likely be determined by the three games following this Saturday — a game against Wisconsin, a road trip to Michigan State and then a home game against Penn State at the beginning of November. The real tests for the Wolverines are quickly approaching.
Michigan struggled right off the bat last week against Northwestern, something that has become sort of a theme for the Wolverines of late when on the road. That's not the case in the Big House, as we pointed out above. The Terps will need to have some semblance of balance on offense and force a Michigan turnover or two to have a shot at pulling the upset. If not, we will see a similar result as we have in the prior three meetings.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Maryland 13
— 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.