Nittany Lions looking to make strong closing statement on the road against the Terrapins
Another season of Big Ten football will come to a close for Penn State and Maryland on Saturday. With Penn State heading to a bowl game and Maryland ready to continue its rebuild in the offseason, the Nittany Lions and Terrapins will play one final game in the regular season south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Penn State has traditionally dominated this regional rivalry, with the bulk of the games being played during Penn State's independent years, but the addition of Maryland to the Big Ten has led to a bit of a spirited rivalry between the two programs. Penn State once again looks to have the clear upper hand in this year's meeting, but Maryland will not be one to back down and let the Nittany Lions run all over them in their first true home game against Penn State since 1993. Penn State won that afternoon by a final score of 70-7. This year's game should be a tad closer, but Penn State is still a heavy favorite.
Penn State at Maryland
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 25 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -21.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Possible curtain call for Saquon Barkley
Barkley (above, right), a finalist for the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award this season (and possibly for the Heisman Trophy), has made it clear he intends to play in a bowl game, but this could very well be the final game he will play in the regular season. Expected to leave early for the NFL draft, Barkley has a chance to cement his legacy among Penn State running backs. Barkley already set the new school record for most career touchdowns and is now 304 yards away from the school's all-time career rushing record.
2. Penn State eying back-to-back 10-win regular seasons, potential New Year's Six bowl invite
The last time Penn State finished back-to-back seasons with 10 or more wins and top-10 finishes was in 2008 and '09. A win against Maryland would clinch a second straight 10-win season for the Nittany Lions (Penn State was 11-3 last year with the 11th win coming in the Big Ten Championship Game). A top-10 finish in the AP or College Football Playoff rankings will still require a win in a bowl game, most likely, but a win on Saturday will give Penn State an excellent chance to go to one of the New Year's Six bowl games as an at-large participant. A year after playing in the Rose Bowl, that would be quite a two-year stretch for the program.
3. Terrapins crawling across the finish line
After a promising and uplifting start to the 2017 college football season, Maryland has struggled to keep the momentum going after being hit by the injury bug and some suspensions. This is a program still building quality depth, but that also makes the Terrapins vulnerable this week. For the second straight week, Penn State should be able to gain an advantage with the running game; Maryland ranks 12th in the Big Ten against the run.
Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore will have a chance to hit the 1,000-yard mark and do some damage against a Penn State secondary that has shown its warts in the second half of the season at times, if Max Bortenschlager has time to make some throws. But Penn State's offense has too many guys to make plays with quarterback Trace McSorley and Mackey Award finalists Mike Gesicki to rely on in addition to Barkley. Maryland may hang around and force Penn State to make some plays, but the Nittany Lions will be more than capable of doing that.
Prediction: Penn State 42, Maryland 23
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. 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.