The Maryland Terrapins will visit Atlanta this weekend for an ACC clash with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who continue to sport one of the country's most powerful offenses and are off to their best start in nearly two decades.
Earning a 28-3 win over FCS opponent Towson last weekend, the Terps now embark on an arduous three game stretch against three ranked ACC opponents. The defensive performance was stellar against Towson, as Maryland held an opponent to just three points in the lowest output since 2008, but the caliber of offense will rise this weekend behind Georgia Tech's highly explosive run game. Following this weekend's matchup in Atlanta, Maryland will face Clemson and Florida State in successive weeks. Maryland played just four ranked opponents between the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
"This week we have a different type of challenge in front of us with Georgia Tech. They are a team who runs the triple-option very well," said Maryland head coach Randy Edsall. "We are going to have a couple of days to get prepared for it. We are looking forward to the challenge of heading down there. They are ranked first in the nation in rushing offense and second in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense. It will be a tremendous challenge."
Georgia Tech is rolling after last weekend's ACC win over NC State. The Yellow Jackets need just one win to become bowl eligible for the 15th consecutive year, although it has set its sights on a higher prize. The road will only get tougher for head coach Paul Johnson's team, who will play out its schedule with six teams with winning records at the moment, and one (Miami) is playing .500 football. Georgia Tech, along with Clemson, are the only two unbeaten clubs remaining in the ACC. Johnson is focused on Maryland this week, who he believes is every bit capable of pulling a surprise in Atlanta this weekend.
"Maryland comes in undefeated in the league as well and hopefully we can play a little better than we did a week ago. We were happy that we won on the road, but felt like we could have executed and played a little better than we did last week at NC State," said Johnson. " It'll be a big challenge this week at practice. We need to have a better week of practice than we did a week ago and see if we can get ready to play better on Saturday. We'll need to."
Georgia Tech leads the all-time series 13-6, and this will mark the first meeting between these two teams since 2007.
Maryland is scoring 24.5 points per game so far in 2011, all the while averaging 387.7 yards of total offense. After posting 32 and 31 point games against Miami and West Virginia respectively, Temple held the Terps to just seven points and 240 yards of total offense. Danny O'Brien is completing 64 percent of his passes and averaging 228.2 passing yard per games, and has thrown for four touchdown passes. Maryland is currently ranked 64th nationally in rushing at 145.5 yards per contest, with Davin Meggett leading the way with 81.8 per. Kevin Dorsey is 29th in the country in receptions per game (6.5) and averages 77 yards per game as O'Brien's top target.
"Their quarterback [Danny O'Brien] was the rookie of the year in the ACC a year ago and he's a very talented guy. They've got good running backs. They've played West Virginia, who is a very good team, and Temple, who is very underrated," said Johnson. "It's really hard to get a beat on where they are. I know this, I know they're 1-0 in the ACC and I know they beat Miami, which we struggled to do, so I expect that they'll be a high-caliber opponent when they come in here."
The Maryland defense began the year with a bang, holding Miami to just 195 yards of total offense. The unit has forced 12 turnovers through four games, and has a pair of productive linebackers in Kenny Tate and Demetrius Hartfield, the latter who has 31 tackles in the past two games. Maryland has played three quality offensive opponents to begin the seasons and is still a mediocre unit statistically; the Terps are 91st nationally in total defense (412.5 yards per game), 90th in rush defense (177.5) 77th in pass defense (235) and 64th in scoring defense (25.5 points per game.) The defensive line is one unit that has suffered significant injuries this season, as mainstays Andre Monroe, Isaiah Ross and Justin Anderson have all been lost at some point through the four games stretch. Maryland has played eight true freshman through four games this season.
Georgia Tech features the triple-option rushing attack, which ranks first in nation with 378.2 yards per game, as well as the nation's most efficient passing offense. Behind quarterback Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech is averaging total yards per game, and points per game. Washington's passing efficiency is 260.73. Orwin Smith leads the team in rushing with 84.6 yards per game, while David Smith is averaging 69.8 yards per game and Synjyn Days is posting 54.7 yards. Georgia Tech continued to run well in its win over North Carolina State last weekend, rushing for 296 yards as a team.
The Yellow Jackets defense are allowing 344.8 yards and 25.8 points per game, and are 60th nationally in rushing defense (144.4 yards per game). Georgia Tech allowed a modest 387 yards against NC State last weekend, and had one interception; the unit is tied for 24th nationally in turnover margin (.60) and 19th in sacks per game (2.8). Georgia Tech has recorded 25 tackles for loss, and is led by Jeremy Attachou, who has 29 tackles, five tackles for loss and four sacks.