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Iowa Football: Five Questions on the Maryland Terrapins

We talk Iowa and Maryland with a Terp ahead of Friday’s showdown.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Maryland
We’re learning about Maryland from a Terp.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The #5 Iowa Hawkeyes are set to travel to College Park, Maryland for some Friday night lights as they face off with the Maryland Terrapins on Friday night. The showdown will be just the fourth ever meeting between the Hawkeyes and Terps and the first since 2018.

To help get some insights on what to expect from the 4-0 Terrapins on Friday, we went behind enemy lines with Ahmed Ghafir of Inside Black and Gold. Ahmed was very insightful and has loads of knowledge on all things Terps.

Here are our five questions on the Maryland Terrapins.

BHGP: It’s been a few years since Iowa and Maryland have marched up and there are clearly plenty of new faces in College Park. What he been Mike Locksley’s approach to building the Maryland program and what schemes can we expect to see on each side of the ball?

It’s been a complete overhaul on both sides of the ball. Locksley has taken a methodical approach to overturning the roster to clense and rebuild the program’s culture and in year three, fans are starting to see the fruits of the staff’s work as the team is showing they’re mentally tougher than in years past. Offensively, Maryland is a pass-first team that has ample talent along the perimeter. Receiver Dontay Demus now has seven 100-yard receiving games while second-year receiver Rakim Jarrett has quietly put together a sound sophomore campaign. Tayon Fleet-Davis is the veteran running back who does well catching out of the backfield, but as long as quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is on like he’s been through four games, expect Maryland to test Iowa’s secondary.

Defensively, the Terps have rebuilt the defensive line and turned it from a weakness into a strength with Mosiah Nasili-Kite, Ami Finau and Sam Okuyainonu rounding out the starting group. Former walk-on Greg Rose was awarded a scholarship prior to the start of the season and has entrenched himself into the defensive rotation, but behind him is where there’s a concern. Maryland is expected to have MIKE Ruben Hyppolite available on Friday, but true freshman Branden Jennings is not expected to be available. Jennings was already replacing veteran Fa’Najae Gotay, who could be out for the season, so the Terps’ linebackers are thin heading into Friday’s matchup. The 3-4 defense has worked for first-year co-defensive coordinators Brian Williams and Brian Stewart, and the confidence along the backend helps with the defense’s progression. But the cornerback room took a hit when starter Deonte Banks missed the Illinois game with a shoulder injury and is expected to miss time. Terps like to play man in the secondary and the defense has done well to throw both Kent St QB Dustin Crum and Illinois QB Brandon Peters off thanks to Maryland’s 16 sacks through four games.

BHGP: The Terps are off to a hit start at 4-0 with solid wins over West Virginia, Illinois and the same Kent State team Iowa faced in week three. A few of those, Kent State and Howard, have been easy wins for the Terps while WVU and Illinois were closer affairs. What went right in those blowouts and what kept the other matchups tighter?

When Maryland’s offense is on, watch out. But fans have seen glimpses of empty possessions, like the second and third quarters against both West Virginia and Illinois. Though Maryland oozes talent in their receiver room, drops among the receivers have become an issue as four first-half drops against Kent State was the biggest concern last weekend. Defensively, Maryland has been as expected though the secondary saw their biggest test last weekend. In regards to the West Virginia game, Maryland’s special teams were not close to prepared and allowed the Mountaineers to cash in on a pair of long returns that set the offense up with clear scoring opportunities. We’ve seen steady improvement from Maryland in the third phase of the game, but far from perfect.

BHGP: Taulia Tagovailoa has been highly accurate so far this season, completing nearly 76% of passes for 1,340 yards and 10 TDs. The Terrapin run game has been effective as well, averaging 166 yards per game on the ground. How do you expect Maryland to attack what has been a stout Iowa defense and who are the names Hawkeye fans should know on the Terp offense?

Iowa will need to confuse Tagovailoa with their defensive coverages. It’s how the Illini found success against Maryland’s offense three weeks ago and that’s what Iowa will need to do. Maryland has enough weapons at receiver to isolate Iowa’s cornerbacks and attack the one-on-one matchup, but keep in mind that Tagovailoa only has eight starts under his belt. Why I think Tagovailoa is harder to stop this season compared to last is we’ve seen his decision-making and accuracy drastically improve. He’s able to get the ball out an in front of his receivers, but he’s also shown the ability to roll out of the pocket and make a crisp throw along the perimeter. Taulia should also be considered a dual-threat quarterback, but the type that uses his mobility to extend plays while picking up yards when available. I’ve been really impressed in year two of Taulia Tagovailoa, but Friday night might be his toughest test as a Terp.

BHGP: On the other side of the ball, Maryland’s defense has gotten after the QB with 16 sacks already - a concern for Iowa fans given some inexperience on the offensive line. However, the Terps are giving up 112 yards per game on the ground. Hawkeye fans know Iowa’s magic number is 100 rushing yards. How do you see this Maryland defense approaching Friday’s contest and who are the names we should know on that side of the ball?

Maryland’s defensive line might find success against the Hawkeyes, who have allowed nine sacks in four games. Sam Okuyainonu returned for a ‘super senior’ season and has made the most of it with four sacks through the first four games, but defensive line coach Brian Williams has adjusted the mechanics of his unit’s get off to help them use more speed off the snap. Ruben Hyppolite is another name to know as the MIKE, or quarterback of the defense, while outside linebackers Deshawn Holt and Durell Nchami, and Demeioun Robinson flash off the edge. True freshman Demeioun Robinson has also made the most of his reps as a situational pass-rusher, giving credence to why Maryland has been efficient at stopping the run.

BHGP: Ok, prediction time. Vegas has Iowa favored by 3.5 in this one with an over/under set at 48. Can the Terps pull off the upset? How do you see this one going and what’s your final score prediction?

I never like taking unders, but my gut tells me the under hits this weekend. What sticks out to me about the Hawkeyes is in the last 26 games, the defense hasn’t allowed more than 25 points. Do I think Maryland is capable of scoring at least 25? Absolutely—they’ve done so three times already this season. But I see Iowa looking to win the time of possession to keep the ball out of Maryland’s hand and I’ll predict the under hits.

As for a winner, I’ve gone back and forth but I’m going with Maryland. To me, there’s nothing about Iowa’s offense that makes me believe Maryland’s defense won’t win the battle over 60 minutes. It’s all about Maryland’s offense against Iowa’s defense and while I see the Hawkeyes winning the turnover battle, I think three Maryland touchdowns will be enough to pull it out. 24-20 Maryland and their first win over a top ten team since 2007.

That’s not the result Hawkeye fans are hoping for, but really insightful stuff nonetheless. Thanks again to Ahmed for reaching out and taking the time help us learn more about the Terrapins. You can follow Ahmed on Twitter @ghafirtheturtle and follow his site, Inside the Black and Gold, @Insideblackgold. There’s some really good coverage there on Mike Locksley’s media availability this week and the Iowa matchup on Friday so be sure to check it out.