Saturday's matchup between Maryland and Rutgers offers a pair of Big Ten teams the opportunity to break a losing streak by picking up their first Big Ten win of the season. After starting the season with a 2-0 record, the Terrapins find themselves in the midst of a two-game losing streak. The 20-17 loss at Temple on Sept. 14 was a shocker, as Maryland found itself in a position to win the game but came up short in a dramatic goal-line stand vs. the Owls late in the game.
The home loss to Penn State on Sept. 27 is another story altogether. With a Friday night opportunity on FS1 to showcase the program, Maryland was routed 59-0. Maryland head coach Mike Locksley was very direct and to the point following the loss, stating, "I'm obviously disappointed. Disappointed in our effort, disappointed in the discipline we played with tonight. We were out-coached, we were outplayed, and that’s on me as the head coach and the leader of this football family, to have our guys prepared to go out and play the type of game we need to play. Our fans came out and created a hell of an environment for us today, and we went out and didn’t do our job as a team, and that's disappointing."
While Maryland is busy nursing its wounds after its second straight loss, Rutgers is probably in even more dire straits. Following a 52-0 shutout loss at Michigan, Rutgers decided to pull the plug on head coach Chris Ash and offensive coordinator John McNulty. Rutgers tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile was named interim head coach for the 1-3 Scarlet Knights, and a search by Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs for a permanent head coach has begun.
Maryland at Rutgers
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Maryland -13
When Maryland Has the Ball
An offense that began the 2019 season like a house on fire has suddenly become pedestrian over the last two games. Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson needs to regain the form of the first two games that saw him throw seven touchdowns versus one interception. Jackson's stats for the last two games? One touchdown, three interceptions and a completion percentage of 42.4. Look for Maryland to involve sophomore running back Anthony McFarland Jr. as much as possible. Against Syracuse (14 carries for 75 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 45 yards and another score) and at Temple (26 att., 132 yds., TD), McFarland was the focal point of the offense, and Maryland was succeeding as a result. Penn State bottled up McFarland (24 yards on nine carries, which played a big part in the final outcome.
The good news for the Terps is that the Scarlet Knights rank last in the Big Ten in rushing defense at nearly 200 yards per game allowed. The Scarlet Knights also have surrendered 11 rushing touchdowns already and for the season are giving up 33 points per game.
When Rutgers Has the Ball
The numbers against Michigan, or lack thereof, paint a grim picture for the Scarlet Knights. Sophomore quarterback Artur Sitkowski completed 17-of-24 passes for 106 yards with no touchdowns, averaging a mere 4.4 yards per completion. To his credit, he didn't throw an interception and has just two in three games after tossing 18 (compared to four TD passes) in 2018. But Rutgers also struggled to get anything going on the ground against the Wolverines, finishing with more carries (46) than yards (29). Interim head coach Nunzio Campanile may want to reach deep into the bag of tricks, if he has one, in this game. Sitkowski appears unlikely to play in this game after deciding to take a redshirt year for 2019. Johnny Langan is expected to start for Rutgers on Saturday. He's appeared in three contests but has attempted only one pass.
Maryland's defense has had its issues but for the most part, the Terrapins have done a decent job against the run. They are sixth in the Big Ten at 104.8 rushing yards allowed per game but that number is largely impacted by the 198 on the ground Penn State gained last week. The Nittany Lions also scored the first touchdown on the ground against Maryland (granted they finished with five such scores). On the flip side, Rutgers is averaging 67 rushing yards per game against FBS competition with nary a rushing touchdown in three such games.
Both teams are reeling, but Rutgers is in an even worse predicament than Maryland. With the firing of their head coach, and poor offensive results so far in 2019, it is difficult to see how interim Nunzio Campanile is going to be able to effectively motivate the Scarlet Knights, when it seems as though the administration has already signaled a willingness to write off the 2019 season.