Minnesota Gophers @ Maryland Terrapins Preview, Stats & Keys to a Terps win.
WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR BOTH?
It’s the Big ten conference season opener for both. Expect a bloodbath between this two on Saturday September 22nd. No one wants to start their Big ten season 0-1. Game time is set for 12 pm ET on BTN (Big Ten Network)
The Gophers and the Terps have only met once in Football since the Terps became members of the Big ten conference few years back.
Last season, fresh from a home defeat in the hands of then Scott Frost led UCF Knights.
A hungry Maryland team went down to TCF Bank Stadium and ran all over a depleted Minnesota Gophers football team.
The Gophers were thin at many positions mainly on key spots on their defensive front 7 due to many scholarship players transferring out of the program after the coaching charge that brought Pj Fleck and all his boats over from Western Michigan University his previous coaching gig.
All Maryland did that afternoon was feed the ball to its running backs mainly then junior Ty Johnson and then sophomore Lorenzo Lolo Harrison.
Maryland had lost their second starting quarterback to season ending injury in then true freshmen Kasim Hill during the 2nd quarter of that UCF game.
Terps coaches knew they’ll have to rely heavily on their running game with a raw and inexperience Max Bortenschlager getting his very first collegiate start.
The game plan worked to almost perfection as the Gophers had no answers for the Terps new signal caller or Maryland’s running game.
As Max Bortenschlager threw for 154 yards and 2 passing touchdowns to go alone with another touchdown via his feet.
The kid did more than just held his own. Late in the fourth quarter of that game last season and with the score tie 24-24.
Then Maryland’s offensive coordinator Walt Bell choose to hand the ball to Ty Johnson on 2nd and short.
The result was a quick Ty Johnson bust right up the gut of the young Gophers defense for a game ceiling 24-yard touchdown run.
Terps won that one 31-24 and finished with 262 rushing yards. Ty Johnson had 130 rushing yards on just 18 carries.
That Gopher’s team was also off to a good start as this one and also had a walk on starter at quarterback as this one coming into College Park on Saturday afternoon.
Heading into his second season in Minneapolis, many Gopher fans had a pessimistic optimism about Pj Fleck and his program.
On the field however, things have been going quite well for the boat man and his bandits of rowers.
The gophers are off to an impressive 3-0 start to their season.
They’ll bring with them on Saturday the 95th best passing offense (193 passing yds/gm) and the 65th ranked rushing offense (181.7 rushing yds/gm).
Scoring over 30 (30.7) points per game on offense as well so they’re potent.
Maryland in comparison ranks 119th in passing 25th in rushing and tied for 77th with a few other teams in points per game given up with 26. Terps offensive is now averaging 30 points a game.
All those numbers were a lot better before that Temple embarrassment.
For instance, the Terps went into the Owl’s game ranked top 30 in points on defense but fell way down to now tie for 77th after allowing 35 points against Temple.
One bad showing is all it took for these numbers to be inflated.
No one knows just how good this Minnesota football team really is. However, they did beat and held a Fresno State Bulldogs football team to its season’s lows in offensive production.
All Fresno did the following week was walk into the Rose bowl and put a hurting on a lost UCLA football team this past weekend.
Just like last season’s match up, the Gophers are once again will be starting a walk on quarterback. True freshmen Zack Annexstad is now their signal caller.
Based on film he seems to have a much better arm strength than the one from last season’s game in.
His balls have a lot of zip on them.
So far this season, Minnesota just like Maryland have also relied heavily on handing the ball off to their numerous ball carriers though not nearly as explosive or productive as the Terps back field.
The Gophers are currently led by two set of freshmen backs in Bryce Williams and Maryland nation young Mohamed Mo Ibrahim (3rd leading rusher) a Good Counsel product.
Williams is their leading rushing at the moment with 159 yards on 67 carries a 3.9 per carry clip with a lone rushing touchdown.
With their returning star running back Rodney Smith out for the year with a significant knee injury. The young backs would have to carry the load for Minnesota from here on out.
Williams is more of downhill physically pounding type of running back while Ibrahim has proven so far to be very explosive in his few touches (101 rushing yards on just 9 carries).
Minnesota would rather not throw the ball on any given offensive drive so if the Terps allowed them to run the ball earlier on look for Pj Fleck to continue pounding it.
Fleck is known for calling the same play numerous times over the course of a game or even a drive.
So if the Terps don’t make better adjustments they’ll suffer once again.
Unlike the Temple game, Minnesota wouldn’t be coming down to College Park to try a bunch of trickery.
They don’t have to in order to beat Maryland. They’re a Big ten school for a reason.
They’re a downhill physical running in between the tackles then they do a great job of mixing in play actions to take deep shots down the field to their stud sophomore receiver Tyler Johnson #6 on their team.
That kid is a flat-out beast so Maryland would definitely have to key on him every time Minnesota drops back to pass.
Johnson leads the entire Big ten and ranks top 5 nationally in touchdown catches with 5 already.
Again, this kid is a baller and if Maryland loses Saturday its more than likely because they kept allowing this Johnson kid to hurt them.
Gophers do a great job of getting him the ball in one vs. one match ups and finding him in space. He reminds me a lot of a true freshmen Stefon Diggs.
Look for Maryland stack the box against the run heavy Minnesota offense and to slide their entire coverage towards this Tyler Johnson kid.
On defense, the Gophers are led by sophomore stud defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr.
The Gophers have been one of the better Big ten defenses so far ranking top 20 nationally in numerous defensive stats including number #7 ranking in the nation in points given up on defense with just 9 points/gm.
But they did also play the likes of New Mexico State and Miami of Ohio.
Two of the worst football teams in college football in two out of their three games so far this season.
The Gophers do a great job of stopping the run but again they really haven’t played anyone besides Fresno State.
Minnesota’s numbers may be skewed as a result so don’t read into them much besides the fact that like I said they did hold a very solid looking Fresno State offense to its worst outputs this season.
The Gophers also come in with a very solid kicking game.
Their kicker is perfect so far on extra points and making 5/6 of his field goal attempts with a long of 53.
Their punter also has a huge leg.
Kick/Punt Returner Antoine Winfield Jr has already returned a punt for a touchdown in their season open and has had a few other big ones as well. Terps must stay away from him.
The Terps special teams was a major concern against Temple so staying away from costly miscues should be the ultimate goal this week against this well coached Minnesota special teams and team as a whole.
The Gophers are one of the least penalized teams in the Country so far so they don’t hurt themselves and they don’t turn the ball over.
Ball protection would be paramount for a Maryland team that had 2 very cost late turnovers against the Temple Owls when the team was still trying to make a comeback.
Those turnovers all but ended all hopes. Terps must avoid a repeat.
KEYS FOR THE TERPS
Getting off to a much better start.
Terps cannot give this Minnesota team something to feel great about early in the game as they did last week against the Temple Owls, when they came out flat and got caught sleeping on a fake punt for passing touchdown.
It put them behind the 8 ball and the Temple never let them recovered.
Look for Minnesota to have a similar game plan as Temple.
Physical running game mixed in with a few shots down the field. Temple used that simply yet successful game plan to frustrates the Terps all afternoon on September 15th.
Maryland cannot let the Gophers run the ball. Everything Minnesota does on offense starts and ends with their running game.
When they cannot or are not able to run the ball successfully they then try their form of a Wild Cat offense when the ball gets directly snapped to a skill position player and he immediately took off running as a design sneak.
Maryland must pay attention every time Seth Green for the Gophers is in the game.
He’s basically only used as a wild cat so look for Maryland to blitz every time Minnesota comes out in that set or formation.
The Gophers is pretty straight forward they simply run it till you stop it then they go play action and 90% of that time they’ll look in Tyler Johnson direction during a pass play.
STOP that Johnson kid should be key #1 on the Maryland scouting report.
Maryland has the edge on both lines of scrimmages in terms of talent, experience or ability.
However, I said the same thing about Temple and all they did was smack the Terps around for a full 60 minutes.
Maryland cannot allow a repeat of that Temple debacle.
Look for Maryland to come out in a no huddle offensive from the jump and start fast.
Expect to see a lot running room for the Maryland collective backs this weekend.
News around College Park is both Damien Prince and Derwin Grey would be good to play come Saturday.
Without their huge star bookend offensive tackles last week, the Terps offensive line got man handled by the much undersized Temple Owls defensive line.
WHY MARYLAND WILL WIN?
The Terps are hungry again and after coming out flat last week and paying the ultimate price for it I look forward to seeing a much more focused and intense Maryland football squad on Saturday.
The Terps leaderships felt embarrassed by their performance against Temple.
Many team leaders spoke how that lose could be just the kicking they needed to be focus for the rest of season.
Some Terps even admitted maybe getting off to that 2-0 start including beating Texas might have got to their heads a bit.
Terps better learn their lessons soon.
This are the type of winnable games that would come back to hunt if Maryland somehow loses both.
If anything, else its Maryland’s Big ten opener and they’ll want to get that Owl’s taste out of their mouths.
However, one means much more to Maryland than the Temple game.
In the Big ten, winning the winnable ones are crucial to not just a bowl season but for longevity.
This Minnesota team while being at 3-0 have a lot of holes to their arsenal.
I could see Maryland exploiting their walk on quarterback situation.
I could see the Terps just simply double-teaming Tyler Johnson all game which would force someone else on that Gophers offense to beat us with explosive plays.
I just don’t see that happening.
Their roster just not that talented on the skill positions besides Johnson.
Maryland should be able to hit a few more of its deep passes. Terps should avoid kicking it to Antoine Winfield Jr at all cost.
Make someone else not name Tyler Johnson or Antoine Winfield Jr beats you.
Those two are Minnesota best players and the only two guys that can beat the Terps if they allowed them to have big games.
Minnesota is good young team but nothing special.
Like that Temple game was for Maryland this game will end of being the true barometer of just how good this Gophers team really is this season.
Let’s all hope Maryland can do to them what Temple did to us.
MARYLAND 31 MINNESOTA 21
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