Indiana begins one of the most important seasons in the history of its football program on Sept. 4. The Hoosiers are coming off a 6-2 campaign and an Outback Bowl berth in 2020 and are expected to be a preseason Top 25 team. We are profiling each of the 12 teams Indiana will face this season as they try to build on that momentum
Date/Time/TV: Oct. 30, noon. Television TBA
Location: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, College Park, Md.
2020 record/bowl result: 2-3 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten, no bowl game.
Returning Starters, Offense (8): Taulia Tagavailoa, WR Brian Cobbs, WR Dontay Demus Jr., WR Rakim Jarrett, WR Jeshaun Jones, LT Jaelyn Duncan, LG Johari Branch, RT Spencer Anderson.
Staters Lost, Offense (3): RB Jake Funk, C Johnny Jordan, RG Marcus Minor.
Offensive Outlook: Maryland got hit so hard by COVID-19 in 2020 that the Terps barely had a season, playing a Big Ten-low five games all year. However, in that time, they finished thrd in the conference in yards pr game and they learned that they have a potentially productive quarterback in Taulia Tagavailoa, an Alabama transfer and the brother of the former All-American and current Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagavailoa. Taulia threw for 1,011 yards in just four games last season, including 394 and three touchdowns in a 45-44 win over Minnesota in the season’s second game. The Terps lose tailback Jake Funk to the NFL after he rushed for 516 yards on just 60 carries in four games, but the entire wide receiving corps is back including Dontay Demus Jr., who led the group with 24 receptions for 365 yards and four touchdowns. The Terps have some holes to fill on the offensive line, but most of what theyhad in 2020 is back and they can get a sense of what it can do in a full season.
Returning Starters, Defense (9): DE Lawtez Rogers, DT Ami Finau, DT Mosiah Nasili-Kite, JACK Sam Okuayinonu, WLB Fa’ Najae Gotay, CB Deonte Banks, CB Tarheeb Still, S Nick Cross, S Jordan Mosley
Starters Lost, Defense (2): MLB Chance Campbell, CB Erwin Byrd.
Defensive Outlook: In Chance Campbell, the Terps lose the third leading tackler in the conference, which makes an already bad run defense worse. Maryland was 13th of 14 Big Ten teams in run defense last year, allowing 230 yards per game. Only Illinois (230.1) was worse. However, they do return four of the five members of a secondary that finished third in the conference against the pass, allowing a respectable 200 yards per game through the air. In Mosiah Nasili-Kite, they return last year’s Big Ten leader in sacks per game. In just five games, he recorded four sacks.
Special Teams Returners (1): K Joseph Petrino, P Anthony Pecorella/Colton Spangler.
Special Teams Loss (1): LS James Rosenberry Jr.
Special Teams Outlook: Maryland’s specialists didn’t have a ton of opportunities last season, but Petrino is back after hitting four of seven field goals including a 51-yarder, and Pecorella and Spangler combined to average 40.79 yards per punt. Rosenberry transferred to Florida State, which means the Terps have to find a new long snapper. They also need to improve in the return game, as they averaged just 15.7 yards per kickoff return, which put them 13th in the Big Ten. They only returned two punts all season and got a total of 5 yards on those two returns.
Overall outlook: Again, because of its COVID-19 problems in 2020, which included a program suspension in November, Maryland is one of the hardest teams in the Big Ten to figure out heading into 2021. The Terps were a 3-9 football team in 2019, but considering their two wins last season were against Minnesota and Penn State, it seems likely that in a hypothetical, normal 2020 season they would have improved on that. Against Indiana, they at least proved pesky, holding Michael Penix Jr. to just six completions on 19 passing attempts before he tore his ACL late in the game. The return of Tagavailoa at least should give them a puncher’s chance in most games and on the road in Maryland, the Hoosiers can’t take anything as a given.
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