These are the games that make or break seasons.
After consecutive 5-7 campaigns, Indiana needs to find a way to get over the hump.
Now in his third season at IU, head coach Tom Allen needs to find a way to get over the hump.
The Hoosiers need just two more wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2016, but then, they have been down this road before.
A 3-2 start in 2017, and a 4-1 start in 2018 both ended in the same place — seasons that ended one win short of bowl eligibility.
IU can take a break from worrying about beating the big boys in the conference this weekend. Teams like Maryland are their equivalent right now, and there isn’t enough room for both of them to be successful in a crowded Big Ten East.
To get the win over the Terrapins on Saturday the Hoosiers will have to overcome another recent obstacle. The Hoosiers will look to snap a four game road losing streak when they travel to College Park.
INDIANA (4-2, 1-2) at MARYLAND (3-3, 1-2)
- Kickoff: 3:30 Eastern Time
- Location: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (51,802), College Park, Maryland
- Television: BTN
- Series: IU leads the series 5-2.
- Odds: Indiana is a 5.5 point favorite
- Weather at kickoff: 64 degrees, wind 3 mph, 0% chance of precipitation.
Tom Allen is 14-17 and now in his third full season as the head coach at Indiana.
Michael Locksley was named Maryland’s 37th head football coach in Dec. 2018. The Washington, D.C., native brings over 20 years of coaching experience, including two separate stints with the Terps, totaling 10 years.
- Tom Allen previews the game.
- Michael Penix previews the game.
- Maryland first of six major tests for bowl eligibility.
TALE OF THE TAPE
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BTN GAME PREVIEW
WHEN MARYLAND HAS THE FOOTBALL
The story of Maryland’s offense is as much about who is not playing as who will be on the field on Saturday.
The Terrapins will once again start junior Tyrrell Pigrome at quarterback as Josh Jackson continues to recover from a high ankle sprain he sustained two weeks ago.
Pigrome struggled last weekend at Purdue, completing just 54% of his passes and throwing two interceptions. For his career Pigrome has completed just 56% (121-of-216) of his throws and has seven touchdowns and six interceptions.
Indiana faced Pigrome last year in Bloomington. He went 10-for-13 passing with 146 yards and a touchdown after replacing injured starter Kasim Hill.
Pigrome is perhaps best known for his legs, and he ran for more than 100 yards and a score this past weekend against Purdue. Indiana will likely assign a spy to contain him on the ground.
Wide receiver Dontay Demus is by far Maryland’s biggest threat in the passing game, catching 23 balls for 384 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo has also been productive with 11 catches for 121 yards and a score.
Maryland’s injury issues are worse in the running game.
After a 1,034 yard redshirt freshman season in 2018, Anthony McFarland Jr. has struggled in recent weeks with a high ankle sprain and is day-to-day for Saturday’s game. All signs are pointing to McFarland not playing.
With two other Maryland running backs already out with season-ending knee injuries, that leaves just two healthy running backs on the roster — Javon Leake and Tayon Fleet-Davis.
Despite the injuries in its backfield, the running game is the strength of the Maryland offense. The Terrapins are No. 31 in the country on the ground, and they will no doubt try to wear down IU with their rushing attack, and do their best to possess the football and keep IU’s offense off the field.
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
The Hoosiers were able to establish some momentum with the running game against lowly Rutgers last weekend after a sluggish start to the season. And after Purdue produced a season-high 127 yards rushing against the Terrapins last weekend, the Hoosiers will hope that Stevie Scott can build on his 12-carry, 165-yard performance against the Scarlet Knights.
Maryland has been respectable against the run overall, coming in at No. 31 in rushing yards allowed.
Yet another key Terrapin injury might lead Indiana to opt more for the passing game on Saturday.
Maryland ranks last in the Big Ten with 279.7 yards per game allowed in the air, and most of that damage came before star cornerback Tino Ellis was lost for the season.
With Michael Penix off to a hot start (91-of-131, 1091 yards, 9 touchdowns, 3 interceptions), the redshirt freshman and his veteran group of receivers would appear on paper to have a huge advantage in this one. IU’s passing offense is up to No. 16 in the country with over 300 yards per contest.
The Terrapins have produced nearly three sacks per game in 2019, and their ability to get pressure on Penix is likely to be a major story in this one. Penix has shown repeatedly that if he has time he can pick defenses apart.
One team’s season is going to take a very optimistic turn on Saturday. For the other, it will feel like a season on the brink.
Indiana’s defense appears to be improving, and the offense is on another level with Penix healthy again.
Maryland, on the other hand, is struggling with injuries and appears to be headed in the wrong direction after a very disappointing loss at Purdue last weekend.
It won’t be easy, but the Hoosiers will move to within one game of bowl eligibility with a Big Ten road win.
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