What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Dave from Testudo Times, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Maryland.
1) Maryland has really run the ball very well the last two weeks since turning the offense over to Perry Hills. What's been the biggest change in that part of the game? Is it just letting Hills, a bigger run threat at QB, run the show? Or have there been other factors that are contributing to Maryland's very successful ground game?
DAVE: Hills is probably the biggest factor in their increased run game production. He's racked up 294 rushing yards in the past two games, which accounts for a lot of that increased production. Hills has shown some more confidence throwing the ball down field which has helped Maryland's ground game too, as teams have been unable to stack the box as much.
2) As good as Maryland has been on the ground this year (especially lately), they have been an absolute nightmare in the air, especially in the turnover department (Terrapin QBs have already thrown 20 interceptions). What's been the biggest problem there and is there much hope that it will get fixed this year?
DAVE: Maryland began the year, somewhat surprisingly, with Hills as the starter. He struggled with throwing the ball down field, so they made Caleb Rowe the starter after a few games. Most people, myself included, thought Rowe would be the starter when Maryland began the season, as he'd shown some potential in previous opportunities. But Rowe really tried forcing the ball down the field too much. He made too many bad decisions and wasn't nearly as mobile in the pocket as Hills. After Rowe threw four interceptions against West Virginia, Randy Edsall put senior transfer Daxx Garman into the game, who got Maryland on the board with a touchdown, but the following week, Rowe remained the starter against Michigan.Rowe again was replaced by Garman in the middle of the game, but this time Garman too struggled, completing just 2 of 9 passes for 29 yards as Maryland was shutout 28-0. Then Maryland decided to once again go back to Hills at quarterback. And after Edsall was fired, interim head coach Mike Locksley moved Shane Cockerille, a 3-star quarterback who had switched to fullback, back to quarterback, listing him on the depth chart as a co-backup to Hills.
Maryland's inconsistent quarterback play and inability to successfully develop a quarterback is a major reason why Randy Edsall is no longer in College Park.
3) Maryland ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in most defensive categories this season -- and they also had several defensive problems a season ago. What's been the root of their problems on that side of the ball? Lack of talent? Poor schemes? Injuries? Players being played out of position? All of the above?
DAVE: Last year, Maryland was running a 3-4 scheme that I think wasn't the best option in a conference like the Big Ten, where you typically have so much size on your offensive line. As a result, Maryland switched to a 4-3 this season but they're still adjusting. They've suffered some injuries, too. But their secondary has really struggled, especially against the big play. On successful passing plays run by opposing offenses, Maryland is giving up 1.76 points per play, which ranks 121st nationally. That problem was on full display against Penn State last week, when PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg completed just 13 of 29 pass attempts, but still threw for 315 yards while tossing three touchdowns.
Maryland's defense has also been on the field a lot because Maryland's offense has been so anemic this year. You really saw that against Ohio State, when the defense was forcing stops against the Buckeyes, until the offense was unable to sustain drives and forced the defense back on the field a lot in the 2nd half.
4) What are the odds Mike Locksley is able to retain the Maryland head coaching job? Would he have a chance to do so even if the Terps won out? Is there any particular candidate that Maryland fans are really gravitating to right now?
DAVE: I think Maryland has to get to a bowl game for Locksley to keep the job. He's come out and said he's not expecting to keep it, but whoever Maryland hires would be extremely wise to keep Locksley on staff at Maryland due to his recruiting ability, especially locally.
The delusional dream of Maryland fans is Chip Kelly, but that's not going to happen. Tom Herman, currently the head coach at the University of Houston and former Ohio State offensive coordinator, is probably at the top of list for many, but again, how realistic that is remains to be seen.
5) There seemed to be a sense in the preseason coverage that Maryland football might backslide a bit this year, given some of the talent that was being lost from the 2014 team -- results seem to have borne that out. Is there a sense that this is a one-year blip and that there is talent in the pipeline to get Maryland back in bowl contention in the near future? Or are this year's struggles a possibly ominous sign for the future?
DAVE: I think people expected a step back this year, but not nearly this bad. When Maryland lost at home to Bowling Green, that is what really raised a lot of eyebrows about the trajectory of this season. I was expecting maybe five wins, possibly six, but I don't think anyone expected this. Maryland has been building a lot of talent on their offensive line, landing two local stud lineman over the past two years and has one of the nation's top quarterbacks committed for next season. I'd expect a bounce back season next year and then the potential to be even better in 2017, assuming they hire the right coach.
6) Almost two years in, how well do you think Terrapin football is acclimating to life in the Big Ten?
DAVE: If you asked me that before this season, I'd say pretty well. Maryland should have been 8-4 last year during their inaugural B1G campaign, but blew a huge lead to Rutgers in the finally that dropped them to 7-5 and eventually 7-6 after a blowout loss to Stanford. This year, I think Maryland saw just how hard their schedule can be when Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State are all good, and that's just in their division! People talk a lot about the B1G East, but the West isn't a cake walk either. Teams like Iowa and Wisconsin are always going to be good, so I think Maryland realizes now that they'd can't afford to take a step back because it's not going to be easy to get back up.
7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
DAVE: I honestly think Maryland will play better, but still think they lose by at least 20. I'll say Iowa 37, Maryland 17.
Thanks for being a good sport, Dave, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow. You can check out the TT crew at Testudo Times. You can also follow Dave on Twitter at @TestudoDave and TT at @testudotimes. The Iowa-Maryland game is in Iowa City, IA on Saturday, October 31, and is scheduled to start at approximately 2:30 pm CT, with TV coverage from ABC or ESPN2 (check coverage map here).