It wasn’t their best performance of the season, but Michigan (8-0) got a much-needed victory last weekend over in-state rival Michigan State, its first in the last four years. With the win, the Wolverines remained at No. 2 in the AP rankings while coming in at No. 3 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings that were unveiled earlier in the week.
On the other end of the spectrum, Maryland (5-3) has lost three out of its last four games after giving up more than 600 yards of total offense last week to Indiana, including a whopping 414 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. With games against Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska in the next three weeks, this season could take a turn for the worst very quickly.
Both teams have plenty at stake this Saturday as the Terps travel to Ann Arbor for just the fifth time in school history.
Maryland at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Michigan -31
Three Things to Watch
1. Former Employer
We all change jobs in our daily lives, but how often do you get a chance to face off against a former employer? Maryland head coach DJ Durkin gets that chance on Saturday after spending last season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh. Durkin was an integral part of Michigan’s revival on defense last year, helping the Wolverines improve to fourth in the nation in total defense. Because of his defensive prowess and reputation as a top-flight recruiter, Durkin was quickly hired this past offseason to help rebuild a stagnant football program at Maryland that needed a boost in order to compete with the Michigan and Ohio States of the world. Unfortunately for Durkin this week, he gets to go up against a defense that is playing even better this season than the one he coached last year as the Wolverines are No. 1 in the country, allowing just 231 total yards per game.
2. Rebound Performance
Despite the much-needed victory over Michigan State, the Wolverines would probably be the first to admit that they did not play up to expectation. Michigan fell all the way down to 15th in the country when it comes to defending the run after allowing Spartans sophomore LJ Scott to rush for 139 yards – a season high for an opposing running back against the Wolverines. Obviously, film review that next day didn’t sit particularly well with most of the Michigan defenders and they want to ensure this was just a one-time occurrence. "We didn't play the way we should and we know that we can't let it happen again," said senior middle linebacker Ben Gedeon to the Detroit Free Press earlier this week. "Especially down the stretch, in the fourth quarter of the season."
3. Rejuvenated Rushing Attack
Coming into the year, it was expected that senior Wes Brown would handle the majority of the workload in the Terrapins’ backfield, but that has been far from the case. With Brown in and out of the lineup this season due to a variety of reasons, Maryland turned to a pair of underclassmen that have revitalized what was a stagnant rushing attack to begin the year. Freshman Lorenzo Harrison and sophomore Ty Johnson have carried the Maryland offense the previous two weeks with a combined 435 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Both bring unique skill sets to the offense with Harrison being more of a scat-back type that is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, while Johnson has shown immense big-play ability as he is averaging more than 10 yards per carry on the season. Tough sledding this week against the No. 15 rush defense in the country, but as shown last week, the Wolverines are not impenetrable against the run.
Jim Harbaugh is saying all the right things this week about DJ Durkin, his friend and former coordinator, but you know deep down inside those competitive juices are flowing and he will run up the score if given the chance. And he may get that chance as Maryland is coming into Ann Arbor playing some of its worst football of the season, losing three out of the last four games. For the Terrapins to keep this competitive, the defense has to have a better showing than it gave against Indiana, and quarterback Perry Hills must play mistake-free football. Even so, this is an uphill challenge for a young team that doesn’t have an advantage in any facet against a Michigan team of this caliber.
Prediction: Michigan 41, Maryland 14
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. For more College Fantasy Football insight, Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.