bt Adam Gotkin
Finally, after a year full of questions and surprises, Maryland Football is back. To start this season the Terps will be heading to Northwestern’s Ryan Field for the first time in school history. It’s the second time the teams have played, with Northwestern taking the first game back in 2017, 37-21.
Last season, Northwestern had their worst year so far under Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s 14 year head coaching tenure, going 3-9 (the same record as Maryland). The Wildcats had one of the worst offenses in all of college football, where they ranked 126th in the country in points per game, at just over 16. The team brought in Mike Bajakian as offensive coordinator from Boston College to give them a much needed offensive boost.
Bajakian will rely on running back Isaiah Bowser to recapture his freshman year magic for the Wildcats to be able to move the ball successfully on offense. Bowser being successful is the key to Northwestern winning, as every time he ran over 100 yards in his career, the team has won. Outside of Bowser, the Wildcats bring in graduate transfer Peyton Ramsey to lead the team at quarterback. Ramsey started the past two seasons at Indiana, getting honorable mention All Big-Ten honors last season Ramsey will be accompanied by fellow incoming transfer, tight end John Raine, who
was at FAU last season and is expected to become a star in Northwestern’s offense.
Northwestern also needs some improvements from their wide receiver corps who will be led by senior Riley Lees. Outside of Lees, there isn’t much at the position and it will be interesting to see who the coaching staff decides to throw out there. Yet even with the struggles of Northwestern’s offense last season, Isaiah Bower should be able to wreak havoc on the Terps defensive line, the weakness of their team. This will be amplified by Northwestern’s strong offensive line, which returns three starters and adds top recruit Peter Skoronski. This game is a case of bad matchups for
the Terrapins, as they’re built strongly in the secondary but struggle up front. If the defense can hang with the Wildcats, and keep them from occupying the ball all game long, the Terps may have a chance to win.
Over on the other side of the ball is where the Wildcats win their games.
Northwestern has the 18th best defensive efficiency since 2015 in all of college football, and have allowed the 17th least amount of touchdowns in that time. The defense is lead by star linebacker Paddy Fisher who is returning for his senior season. Fisher was named to the Walter Camp preseason All-American list and is a potential first round draft pick. Alongside Fisher, seniors Blake Gallagher, who was named a member of the
preseason all Big Ten team, and Chris Bergin both return at linebacker. The star power on the Wildcats defense doesn’t stop there. Cornerback Greg Newsome has tremendous skill and will be complimented by Cameron Ruiz, who has shown tons of promise to be a star. The team did lose starting safety Travis Whillock who opted out on October 16th which leaves a small hole, however returning starter JR Pace and Junior Bryce Jackson should be able to fill that hole. Finally, for the Wildcats their defensive line did lose their best player this past offseason, in school all time sacks leader Joe
Gazino, and Samdup Miller, who was expected to start, also opted out on the 16th. Earnest Brown IV will have to step up this season and become Northwestern’s top rusher and will need Eku Leota and Jason Gold Jr to help supplement the losses the team had.
The Northwestern defense is one that matches up well against almost any team in the country and they should give the Terps some problems on offense, especially with a new quarterback starting. The starting quarterback for Maryland is still unknown as it could be either Lance LeGendre or Tauila Tagovaiola. Tagovaiola is the expected starter, however the team has not made any announcements on who will be under
center. For the offense to succeed this week, the offensive line needs to prove themselves. Northwestern are 11 point favorites coming into the game, and are given a 89.7% chance to win by ESPN’s Football Power Index matchup predictor. But don’t rule the Terps out. There is a lot that is unpredictable about the team. We don’t know how good the starting QB will be, and there are some guys like Rakim Jarret who, like Stefon Diggs, could have an immediate impact. if everything goes smoothly and they can avoid any big turnovers or mental mistakes, then I see Maryland staying in the game and keeping it close. It should be a low scoring affair, and if the Terp’s defense can keep up with Northwestern’s defense, an upset is definitely a big possibility
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