Michigan State’s season has been seemingly one embarrassment after another so far, getting pulverized in Seattle, and then utterly demolished at home by a solid Minnesota team. Maryland took a loss this past weekend as well, their first of the year, but the tenor was entirely different; they played closely in Ann Arbor with a very good Michigan team, and many believe they should have received the “Texas treatment” and gotten ranked for their valiant effort in the close road loss. Both teams are looking to bounce back and get a “b1g” conference win, so let’s take a look at the odds and make some predictions.
Michigan State Vs. Maryland Odds
Maryland are favored by around a touchdown on most books, and the exact number you’re able to get them at is going to be key; -6.5, -7, and -7.5 are all drastically different from one another. The points total is set at 60, relatively high for a Big Ten matchup but understandable given the current states of each team’s offense and defense.
Michigan State Vs. Maryland Prediction & Pick
Both EPA and PFF rating agree that Maryland’s offense has been very good, and both agree that it has been largely due to the strong play of Taulia Tagovailoa. The two sources disagree on the Terps defense, which is a valid disparity considering the unit’s up and down play. Both sources also agree that Michigan State’s defense is horrible, but while EPA sees the Spartan offense as similarly terrible, PFF sees it as borderline elite. This could be due in large part to the fact that while a lot of elements of the MSU attack has looked good, QB Payton Thorne has held the unit back as he has seemingly regressed in season 2 at the helm. Thorne has been nothing short of depressing so far, throwing 7 touchdowns against 6 picks. He is once again allowing 20% of pressures to become sacks, putting him on the wrong side of the national average in this category.
It truly has been a tale of two quarterbacks, however, because Taulia Tagovailoa has finally been lighting it up, in what has become a real banner year for his family of signal callers. As mentioned earlier, he has truly excelled; PFF has him as the second-best passer in the nation, and the Terps’ air attack as the fifth-best. He has been extremely strong in sack avoidance, contrary to Thorne’s struggles, and is second among qualified passers in adjusted completion percentage. He did, however, pick up a knock in the Michigan game that leaves his status for Saturday’s game as questionable. Top wideout Rakim Jarrett is also no guarantee to play against the Spartans- both players are considered to be “game day decisions,” but “progressing nicely” according to head coach Mike Locksley. Nevertheless, I’m taking the Terps to cover, and limit MSU enough to keep the points total under. Sparty has been a total dumpster fire this season, and the Terps have been playing well as a unit- it hasn’t been all Tagovailoa and Jarrett. They’ll pick up the home win, and do it comfortably.
Michigan State Vs. Maryland Key Matchups
Can this Michigan State pass rush get to Taulia Tagovailoa quarterback? How will the Michigan State secondary slow down this Maryland recieving corps? Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Michigan St vs Maryland below.
Michigan State Pass Rush Vs. Maryland O-Line
Taulia Tagovailoa is dealing with a rib injury, which can be stable but extremely painful. Even if he plays this weekend, he will be in some discomfort, leaving the Spartans with a clear path to make life harder for him; make sure the pass rush gets home. It will of course be vital for the Terps to stop this from happening, a task that arguably only becomes more valuable if Tagovailoa sits out- tons of pass rush pressure usually isn’t a great formula for a backup QB to settle in and succeed.
Maryland has the country’s 37th best pass blocking o-line, according to PFF. Right tackle Delmar Glaze has excelled, as have both guards. However, the play of left tackle (protecting Taulia’s blindside) Jaelyn Duncan and center Johari Branch have left the Terrapins somewhat vulnerable to pressure.
So far, MSU has been the MSU 62nd best pass rush unit in the nation, not bad but not elite. This attack has been headlined by edge rusher Jacoby Windmon, who has racked up 6 sacks off of his 14 pressures thus far. He has lined up on both sides of the line for the Spartans, so he could be used to go after Duncan. State’s interior d-line play has been less inspiring; getting more production out of some of those players could make it a long day for Branch and thus Tagovailoa, but as of now, it seems that the Terps’ strong guard duo will be capable of all but negating that threat.
Michigan State Secondary Vs. Maryland Pass Catchers
Similarly, Maryland has had a top-30 pass catching group so far, while MSU’s secondary ranks just inside the top 90. If Jarrett is in fact out or limited on Sunday, it will be absolutely vital for the Spartans to clamp down and not let the Terps’ secondary options beat them. The next best couple of options so far have been wideout Jacob Copeland, and tight end Corey Dyches. Halfback Roman Hemby has also caught all 10 of his targets thus far, and second Tight End CJ Dippre is also right there, snagging 10/11 passes thrown his way.
They’ll be squaring off against an MSU defense that has yet to intercept a single pass in over 150 coverage snaps. They’re led by safety Kendell Brooks and cornerback Chester Kimbrough, who have provided passable defense at multiple levels of the secondary, but nobody else is really pulling their weight at all. Ameer Speed, a transfer from Georgia, was supposed to be a huge add and has played more coverage snaps than any other MSU corner, but has been absolutely dreadful and is allowing a completion percentage of 77.8%. Whether or not Tagovailoa or Jarrett plays, or is at his best, Speed is going to have to do much, much more to limit the Terps’ air attack and keep his team in the game.
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