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Michigan Wolverines vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Prediction

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh

The Michigan Wolverines find themselves in recent unfamiliar territory after the first few weeks of the college football season. Despite being one of the most storied programs, the Wolverines are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 2, 2013. After shutting out BYU 31-0 last Saturday, Michigan is ranked No. 22 in this week’s poll

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Unlike Michigan, the Maryland Terrapins are coming off of an embarrassing 45-6 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers. Reportedly after a 2-2 start, the Terrapins called a players-only meeting on Tuesday to cut out any negativity around the team.

Last season, Maryland rallied past Michigan 23-16 behind a Wes Brown one-yard touchdown run with 5:59 remaining in the game that broke a 16-16 tie. 

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Michigan at Maryland

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Start time moved from 8 p.m. ET due to Hurricane Joaquin)

Network: Big Ten Network

Spread: Michigan -16

Three Things to Watch For

1. Maryland’s quarterback situation

After a lackluster performance against West Virginia, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said he is sticking with redshirt junior Caleb Rowe as his starting quarterback. The Mountaineers defense held Rowe to 10 completions on 27 attempts last weekend while intercepting him four times.

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Daxx Garman wasn’t much better in relief of Rowe as he was 4-for-9 for 86 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Whoever is under center for Maryland, they will be against one of the best passing defenses in the country.

In four games, Michigan has given up an average of 121.8 passing yards per game, which is the fifth-best in the FBS. If Maryland is going to pull off the upset on the road, they will have to protect the ball, something they obviously didn’t do last weekend.

2. Michigan’s running game

Ever since their 24-17 loss against Utah on the opening weekend of the season, the Wolverines have been one of the better rushing teams in the country. Michigan ran for 225 yards against Oregon State and 254 yards against UNLV and BYU in back-to-back weeks.

The Maryland defense has given up an average of 200.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 100th in the nation. Unless the Terrapins can shorten the game and force the Wolverines into some turnovers, Michigan should be successful running the football.

3. William Likely

Since Maryland has a struggling offense, they will need to find other ways to generate points. Likely is one of the nation’s best punt returners and he could potentially be an x-factor for Maryland on Saturday.

On 12 returns, Likely has averaged 28.1 yards per punt return, which is the best in the FBS. The Belle Glade native also has two return touchdowns this season.

Michigan punter Blake O’Neill will need to punt away from Likely throughout the game. If he gives Likely a chance to return a punt, the Wolverines could regret it.

Final Analysis

After shutting out a solid BYU team last week, Michigan appears to be ready to contend in the Big Ten. Before they can do that, they have to defeat a Maryland team who on paper they are better than.

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The only way Maryland can win this game is to shorten the game by running the football and forcing turnovers. The Terrapins also can’t throw five interceptions last they did last week against West Virginia.

Maryland has one of the nation’s worst defenses, so there’s no reason the Michigan offense shouldn’t be able to take advantage of that.

Prediction:Michigan 34, Maryland 10

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.