Maryland (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) will look for back-to-back conference victories this weekend as the Terrapins travel to Piscataway, New Jersey to take on Rutgers (3-5, 2-3). Maryland snapped its three-game losing streak with a 42-39 win over Indiana last week. With upcoming games against Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State to close the season, the Terps absolutely need another victory this weekend if they want to have a realistic shot at playing in a bowl game.
Rutgers fought hard last week up in Ann Arbor, but ultimately fell 35-14 to Michigan. While the defense continues to play well, the Scarlet Knights need to generate some semblance of a passing attack in order to pick up a few more wins before the end of the season.
There is still an outside chance both of these teams can get bowl eligibility in 2017 so there is much on the line on Saturday.
Maryland at Rutgers
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Maryland -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Offensive outburst
After averaging 16 points per game during the team’s three-game losing streak, Maryland broke out with an offensive explosion against Indiana, scoring 42 points with 345 yards of total offense. It was a balanced attack for the Terps, gaining 171 yards through the air with 174 yards on the ground. Important to remember too that Maryland is doing all of this with their third-string quarterback, Max Bortenschlager, who now has seven passing touchdowns in the last three weeks. While Rutgers has improved dramatically on defense this season over past years, the Scarlet Knights still remain towards the middle of the FBS ranks in terms of scoring defense (25.0 ppg). Maryland should be able to find some success both through the air and on the ground on Saturday.
2. Drastic improvement
What a difference a year makes for the Rutgers defense. In no way are these Scarlet Knights the 1985 Chicago Bears, but after ranking 116th in the country in points allowed per game in 2016, they now find themselves towards the middle of the pack (56th to be exact) in this category, allowing just 25 points per game this season compared to more than 37 last year. What has been the catalyst? Doing better against the run looks to be the biggest area of improvement as Rutgers has shaved off nearly 80 yards in terms of rushing yards allowed per game since last year. It did not show last week, giving up 334 to the Wolverines, but the Scarlet Knights should find more success against Maryland, who has not had a 100-yard rusher since Week 4.
3. Leading the way
As mentioned above, Maryland has been playing much of 2017 with its third-string quarterback as the starter. And despite this, wide receiver D.J. Moore continues to put up big-time numbers. The junior wideout currently leads the Big Ten in touchdown catches (8) and receiving yards (745), and has caught at least one score in six out of the eight games played. You would think this touchdown machine is in the mold of Julio Jones with the way Moore finds the end zone correct? Nope, Moore stands just 5-foot-11 yet he still continues to make plays for his team time and time again.
Both teams desperately need to notch a victory this week if either is to have a chance at becoming bowl eligible in 2017. Both teams still have Michigan State and Penn State on the schedule with Maryland also having to face off with Michigan next week. Neither team can afford to let this game slip away. While this should be a competitive matchup, the Terrapins should be able to generate enough offense with wide receiver D.J. Moore making plays on the outside to secure a victory on the road.
Prediction: Maryland 27, Rutgers 20
— 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.