So far, Michigan have spent the beginning of their season absolutely tearing through some completely underqualified and overmatched competition. This week, that ends as they open up their Big Ten schedule with a very competent Maryland team. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for the conference opener for both teams.
Maryland Vs. Michigan Odds
Michigan is favored by 17 points as of now, a reasonable total when a team that has been this dominant is playing at home against anything other than an elite opponent. Meanwhile, the points total is set at 65, which will be more interesting to pick than the first few games, as the Wolverines likely wouldn’t have to crack that number entirely on their own.
Maryland Vs. Michigan Prediction & Pick
After something of a bizarre offseason, Michigan is somehow following up their extremely impressive 2021 season with a similarly impressive start, albeit against some of the worst opponents in the country. Still, the Wolverines lead the nation in both scoring offense and total EPA/play, and are top-five in scoring defense, only allowing 5.7 points per game, as well as yardage defense, and defensive EPA/play. Perhaps most importantly, they have settled on a quarterback, with phenom JJ McCarthy rightfully pulling away with the job in recent weeks.
The Terrapins have also played well against pretty bad opponents, and have also been led by some strong QB play, with Taulia Tagovailoa, brother of Miami Dolphins star Tua, putting up some very efficient production under center. Maryland may not have the scoring production of the Wolverines, but they sit inside the top-30 in that category as well as offensive EPA, and are actually one spot ahead of Michigan on the offensive yardage leaderboard. Yes, Michigan have been pulling punches late in games which has deflated their total, but that’s still really strong output for the Terps
Maryland will, by a wide margin, be Michigan’s toughest opponent so far. While JJ McCarthy has been something of a revelation, the heart of the Wolverines’ attack is still on the ground through Blake Corum and friends. The Terps aren’t quite an elite run defense, but they are better-equipped to slow Michigan on the ground than anyone else so far as their rush yardage allowed average is just about in the top third of FBS teams. For this reason, and the fact that Maryland themselves are not going to necessarily light it up against the Michigan defense, I’m on the under in this game. Even so, The gap between these teams is enough that I’m comfortable with Michigan covering 17 in a relatively low-scoring affair in Ann Arbor.
Maryland vs Michigan Key Matchups
Is this Maryland O-Line strong enough to stave off Michigan’s pass rushers? Is Michigan’s secondary good enough to keep up with Maryland’s perimeter talent. Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Maryland vs Michigan below.
Maryland O-Line vs. Michigan Pass Rushers
As well as Taulia has been playing so far, and he has played well enough to lead all passers in adjusted completion (min. 90 dropbacks per PFF), it’s not going to matter if the Michigan defensive front is able to get to him at will. The Maryland O-Line is anchored by left tackle Jaelyn Duncan, who hopes to go in the first day or two of the NFL draft this year, and has accrued a PFF pass blocking grade of 83 so far; he hasn’t allowed Taulia to be hit yet.
He’ll be going to work against a very interesting Michigan pass rushing unit. Nobody has more than one sack so far, and the team’s highest-graded pass rushers by PFF are a linebacker, and a wide receiver turned cornerback. The team overall, again according to PFF, has the 38th-best pass rushing group in the country, solid to be sure but a little disappointing compared to the rest of the team, and given the level of competition so far. It will be interesting to see how effectively they’re able to hamper the Maryland passing game this week.
Maryland Pass Catchers vs. Michigan Secondary
By contrast to the relatively-middling Michigan pass rush, the Wolverine secondary has racked up PFF’s second-best coverage grade in FBS. Cornerbacks Gemon Green and DJ Turner have had a solid start, but also haven’t really been tested yet. However they’ll be going up against PFF’s 5th-highest graded passing attack in the Terps.
We’ve already discussed Tagovailoa’s impressive start, and his receivers have been playing well too- Rakim Jarrett, Jeshaun Jones, and Jacob Copeland are all working at a relatively low volume, as Maryland has been ahead pretty often, but they’re all ripping off huge gains per catch. They’re complemented by Tight End Corey Dyches, who has been a consistent shorter-yardage performer and leads the team in catches so far.