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South Florida Bulls vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Prediction

Randy Edsall

Randy Edsall

Bowling Green, fueled by 42 second-half points, overcame a 13-6 halftime deficit to defeat the Maryland Terrapins 48-27 in College Park, Md., Saturday. The win was Bowling Green's first against a Power Five conference team on the road since 2008.

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Maryland, for the second consecutive week, failed to generate a productive passing attack and head coach Randy Edsall replaced starting quarterback Perry Hills with Caleb Rowe in the fourth quarter.  Hills finished Saturday’s contest 15-of-30 for 168 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Will Likely ripped off another punt return for a touchdown — this time an 85-yarder that tied a school record in that category — to put the Terrapins up 10-0 as the first quarter expired. But Maryland’s anemic, early-season offense couldn’t match scores with the high-powered Falcons from the MAC, giving the Terps their first loss of the season.

For a few brief moments last week,Florida State fans in Doak Campbell Stadium collectively held their breath as South Florida entered halftime tied 7-7 with the Seminoles. And although the Bulls failed to secure the upset, losing 34-14, Willie Taggert’s team showed that it is good enough to hang with and beat Power 5 conference member Maryland. In last year’s meeting between the two schools, Maryland overcame a seven-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win 24-17 in Tampa, Fla.

South Florida at Maryland

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

Television: ESPNU

Spread: Maryland -7

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Three Things to Watch

1. Musical Quarterbacks

This Tuesday, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall made the move most expected him to and demoted starting quarterback Perry Hills, who is 27-of-51 for 306 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. Caleb Rowe, who was the backup to the now-departed C.J. Brown one year ago, will make his fourth career start. In relief duty Saturday, Rowe threw two interceptions on three pass attempts. The Landrum, S.C., native has thrown for 1,785 yards and 12 touchdowns and interceptions since 2012. Rowe will be protected by a Maryland offensive lines that is just one of eight this season that has yet to yield a sack. Many expected Rowe to win the starting job prior to the start of the season.

2. Will Maryland’s Embattled Defense Recover?

Bowling Green's offense ran 105 plays Saturday and overwhelmed a fatigued Maryland defensive unit. Multiple Bowling Green offensive school records came close to falling as Falcon quarterback Matt Johnson’s six scoring passes tied a school record for most touchdown passes in a game, and his 491 passing yards ranked second all-time in the school’s history. And Bowling Green's 692 yards of total offense was 14 away from setting a school record in that category. Wide receivers Roger Lewis (200 yards) and Robbie Rhodes (108 yards) combined for 308 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Fred Coppet rushed 15 times for 109 yards. While USF isn’t the offensive juggernaut that Bowling Green is, one wonders if Maryland’s defense will be fully recovered from last Saturday’s track meet in time.

3. Will Likely

Will Likely, Maryland’s lethal punt return man and cornerback, attended Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Fla., and already has returned a NCAA-leading two punts for touchdowns this season and set a Big Ten record Week 1 against Richmond with 233 return yards on punts. He’s also been effective in the defensive backfield as he’s recorded four pass deflections, which ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth in the NCAA. Likely has been one of college football’s most exciting players and he could be the sparkplug the Terrapins need on defense to give them the win after a tough Week 2 loss.

Final Analysis

These teams know each other well and made for entertaining viewing last time out. Edsall gave Rowe the nod at quarterback to energize a sputtering passing offense, which Rowe should be able do. If he falters, Edsall will give Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman his opportunity to lead the Maryland offense. USF running back Marlon Mack rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in the Bulls’ season opener against Florida A&M, and for 83 yards against Florida State. As a freshman in 2014 he rushed for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. Mack and USF will make for a second straight challenge for the Terps, but Rowe and Maryland will ultimately edge them out in a close game.

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Prediction: Maryland 24, South Florida 21

— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.