After taking Ohio State into overtime last week, Maryland hits the road to wrap up the regular season against Penn State. The Terrapins are looking to keep their offensive mojo going against a Nittany Lions team that has been playing some better defense down the stretch of this season.
While Maryland was going up and down the field against Ohio State last week, Penn State’s offense was once again rough around the edges in a 20-7 victory at Rutgers. Maryland has already taken down Texas and nearly sent Ohio State home with a loss. Can The Terps stroll into Beaver Stadium and leave with a bowl-eligibility-clinching victory to cap a season that could easily have been written off?
Maryland at Penn State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Penn State -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Does Maryland have any offense left over?
It’s impossible to look at this week’s matchup with Penn State and not ask whether or not Maryland has anything left in the tank on offense after last week. The Terrapins gashed Ohio State on the ground early and often and took the Buckeyes into overtime in a dizzying 52-51 shootout. As impressive as that was, that was the second straight game Maryland had over 500 yards of offense, and a few weeks prior, Maryland had 712 yards of offense against Illinois.
Penn State’s defense has been playing some good football the last few weeks, but the Lions should have their hands full with a Maryland offense that has started to open things up with the running game. Freshman Anthony McFarland has gone off for over 200 yards in each of the past two games, including 298 yards and two long touchdown runs against the Buckeyes last week.
2. A bowl berth on the line for Maryland
For all of the headlines following the Maryland football program this season, the Terps enter this weekend needing just one win to become bowl-eligible for the third time since joining the Big Ten. Getting Maryland to a bowl game this season could be beneficial to interim head coach Matt Canada as well, as it would help his case for remaining Maryland’s head coach beyond this season.
The Nittany Lions are already prepared to make their bowl plans once they know their destination, but the Lions need a win in order to keep the possibility of a third-straight 10-win season in play for the first time since 1980-82. A win would keep Penn State on the radar for a possible New Year's Six bowl spot for a third straight year as well.
3. Trace McSorley’s curtain call in Beaver Stadium
This season has not gone exactly according to plan for Penn State’s senior quarterback. Trace McSorley has been playing hurt for a few games now, and he has seen his passes fly off the mark all season long, especially lately as he is showing signs of being impacted by injury. But there will be no stopping him from taking the field in what will be his final home game in a Penn State uniform. Already Penn State’s record holder for most wins as a QB after last week, McSorley deserves the chance to start one more game and get a well-deserved curtain call for all he has done for the program the last few years.
With the way Maryland’s offense has been playing over the last month, Penn State cannot afford another sluggish start on offense, which has been a problem all season. But at this point, Penn State should probably brace for the inevitable with the offense and ask the defense to keep things under control. It is worth noting that Maryland’s offensive explosions in recent games have come against the Big Ten’s ninth- (Ohio State), 11th- (Indiana) and 14th- (Illinois) ranked defenses, and Penn State owns the conference’s fifth-ranked defense.
Prediction: Penn State 34, Maryland 26
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.