College Park, MD (SportsNetwork.com) - Meeting for the first time in more than 60 years, the Michigan State Spartans and Maryland Terrapins get together for a Big Ten Conference clash on Saturday night.
The 12th-ranked Spartans are smarting a bit after they suffered a 49-37 loss to visiting Ohio State in last week's Big Ten East Division showdown. The setback was only the second of the season for MSU, which saw its six-game win streak come to an end. Mark Dantonio's club has only three games remaining in the regular season, as the Spartans will host the league's other newest member Rutgers next Saturday, before visiting Penn State to close things out on Nov. 29.
Maryland has made a decent showing in its first campaign in the Big Ten, going 6-3 overall and 3-2 in conference. The Terrapins were idle last weekend, getting a little extra time to revel in their 20-19 home win over Penn State on Nov. 1 and prepare for this contest. UM has won two of its last three games, and has two games left after this one as well -- Nov. 22 at Michigan, at home versus Rutgers on Nov. 29.
Michigan State owns a 4-1 lead in the all-time series, but the last meeting between the two teams took place way back in 1950.
The Spartans trail Ohio State by a full game in the East Division standings, but the news is even worse when you consider the Buckeyes own the tie-breaker following last week's bout in East Lansing.
In that contest, MSU racked up 536 total yards, 358 of which came through the air. as QB Connor Cook completed 25-of-45 passes with a pair of TDs and no INTs. Three receivers (Macgarrett Kings, Josiah Price, Tony Lippett) each tallied five catches, combining for 215 yards, with Price catching a scoring strike. Keith Mumphrey added 72 yards and a TD on only three grabs. The MSU rushing attack was led by Jeremy Langford, who rumbled his way to 137 yards and three scores. The Spartans certainly didn't help themselves. as they were flagged 11 times for a loss of 105 yards.
Ohio State racked up 568 yards of total offense last week, which was nearly 300 more than the Spartans were allowing coming into the contest. OSU QB JT Barrett had a hand in five TDs (three passing, two rushing), as guys like RJ Williamson (11 tackles) and Kurtis Drummond (11 tackles) did their best to keep tabs on Buckeye ball-carriers. MSU was credited with only two sacks, and it pounced on a pair of fumbles.
While obviously disappointed with the outcome, Dantonio didn't make excuses following the setback.
"I thought it was a great game. But at the end of the day we got beat and that's what life is. So we regroup, we move forward, and that's what we have always done."
For the season, Michigan State is scoring 44.6 ppg in averaging a Big Ten-best 517.6 ypg. The Spartans are the league's top passing team, averaging 271.2 ypg, and Cook has hit the mark on nearly 60 percent of his throws for 2,226 yards, 19 TDs and only five INTs. Lippett continues to get open, as he has a club-best 47 receptions for 953 yards and nine TDs, while Langford is closing in on 1,000 yards, having logged 978 yards and 13 TDs, all while averaging 5.5 ypc and 108.7 ypg.
Foes are producing 311.4 ypg, which includes splits of 114.6 ypg rushing and 196.9 ypg passing. They are scoring 23.4 ppg, and converting only 32 percent of their third-down opportunities. The Spartans lead the league in both sacks for (30) and against (six), while also sporting the top turnover margin (+14). Drummond paces the unit with 50 tackles, and he has a pair of picks as well. Both Ed Davis and Shilique Calhoun have double-digit TFL, combining for 12.5 sacks.
Maryland doesn't possess an overly explosive offense, but the team has done enough in the right situations to get the job done. The Terps are averaging 30.3 points and 353.9 yards per game, almost in spite of the lackluster effort of QB C.J. Brown, who is completing 53.8 percent of his passes for only 1,477 yards, nine TDs and six INTs. Stefon Diggs has done what he can to keep the team moving in the right direction, as he has caught 52 balls for 654 yards and five scores, while the Maryland run game has accounted for only 1,133 yards (3.6 ypc), with Brown pacing the effort with 380 yards and five TDs.
Defensively, Maryland has underperformed compared to the bulk of teams calling the Big Ten home, as it permits 28.1 points and 431.8 yards per contest. The Terps rank near the bottom of the conference both against the run (193.4 ypg) and the pass (238.3 ypg), but there are certainly some guys on that side of the ball doing all they can to reverse those trends, notably Sean Davis (86 tackles, seven PBU), Cole Farrand (73 tackles), L.A. Goree (72 tackles), William Likely (five INTs), Andre Monroe (10 TFL, 7.5 sacks) and Yannick Ngakoue (12.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks).
In Maryland's narrow win over Penn State a couple of weeks ago, neither team could run the football, combining for only 75 net rushing yards. Turnovers played an important role in the outcome, as the Nittany Lions coughed it up four times. The teams also combined for 11 sacks, with Brown being taken down behind the line of scrimmage six times. He finished the afternoon 18-of-38 for 161 yards with a TD, and the UM offense converted just one of its 14 third- down chances.
Davis paced the defense with 11 stops, 10 of which were unassisted, and he also broke up three passes. In addition to their five sacks, the Terps were credited with nine TFL.