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: Alex from Testudo Times, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Maryland.
1) How's the acclimation process to the Big Ten going? So far, you're 1-1 with an easy win over Indiana (join the club!) and a blowout loss to Ohio State (been there, done that). Do you miss the ACC at all? Will it feel more like you're in the Big Ten after you've played games at Camp Randall and Happy Valley?
ALEX: Playing road games in some of the Big Ten's more classic venues - Camp Randall, the Big House, Beaver Stadium - definitely will bring a new element to the conference transition. Personally, I don't feel a huge stake in whichever conference Maryland's in, but I do think the Big Ten's a better, more equitable, more stable institution than the one the Terps left. The school and athletic department seem to have adjusted well to the switch, so there is no reason for dissatisfaction at this point.
2) There's been a lot of talk about Iowa's 2-QB approach over the last few weeks, but the Terps have also been using two quarterbacks quite a bit, CJ Brown and Caleb Rowe. It seems like that's been primarily the result of Brown's injuries, but what should Iowa fans expect to see on Saturday? Will Brown and Rowe both see action? Are they fairly similar quarterbacks or do they bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table?
ALEX: Brown's been inconsistent all year and has really only had two good passing games (against Syracuse and in one half against Indiana, when he got hurt). He's still the Terps' starter, though, and I don't see Rowe being involved unless Brown falters or gets hurt again - which are both possibilities. Brown doesn't have a good throwing arm for a power-conference quarterback, but he runs a nice zone-read and can do plenty of damage with his legs. Rowe is areasonably athletic himself, but he is more of a classic drop-back passer than Brown. If Rowe were the starter, I could envision some packages in the red zone or on short-yardage calls where Brown might get involved. As it happens, I think Brown will be under center all the way through.
3) Brown is also Maryland's leading rusher, despite missing time in a few games and with the majority of his rushing yards (161 of 263) coming in one game (versus West Virginia). Neither of Maryland's top two running backs (Brandon Ross and Wes Brown) are averaging over 10 carries per game -- what is Iowa likely to see out of the Maryland running game on Saturday?
ALEX: If recent history is any indicator, not much. Maryland runs for four yards per attempt, which is right next to Iowa near the bottom of the Big Ten. I think that's mostly a function of an offensive line that's been mediocre for the majority of the season. The Terps have four capable running backs and, as you mentioned, a good running quarterback. The line hasn't opened up holes, and Brown's problems throwing the ball down the field have probably made it easier for some Maryland opponents to zero in on the tailbacks.
4) Stefon Diggs and Deon Long appear to be two of Maryland's biggest playmakers on offense, as well as two of the better wide receivers in the Big Ten. How might Maryland look to get them involved in the game?
ALEX: Diggs, Long and No. 3 wideout Marcus Leak are all studs. They're the three best players on Maryland's offense and can do a lot of damage, no matter who's under center. Diggs and Long have had a few games each where they haven't gotten many touches, but Maryland continually insists that's a function of defenses mobilizing multiple defenders to take them out of the play. That can open up space for Leak, and he's done pretty well for himself. But when chances are there, Diggs and Long will get the ball a lot.
5) What sort of defensive approach will the Terps take against Iowa? Who are a few of the players on that side of the ball that Iowa fans should be aware of before Saturday?
ALEX: Look for 5-foot-7 cornerback Will Likely, who's hanging around at the top of the Big Ten leaderboards in everything from interceptions to passes defensed to punt return yardage. He's been beaten by a couple of stud receivers this year, but he's a lightning rod of a player. And I don't think Iowa has any receivers who will regularly beat him in coverage on Saturday. Closer to the line of scrimmage, defensive end Andre Monroe has five sacks this season and has generally been pretty effective at getting into the offensive backfield.
6) The Terps are 4-2, but the meaty part of the schedule is still to come -- what are the expectations for the rest of the season at this point? What would make this season a success? What would cause it to be deemed a failure?
ALEX: That depends on who you ask, but the breakeven point should be a 2-4 finish for a 6-6 final record and bowl appearance. Anything better than that, and it'll be a reasonably successful first Big Ten season. Anything less, and it's an unmitigated disappointment. I think Maryland does at least get to 6-6, because there's no reason not to squeeze two wins out of Iowa, Rutgers, Penn State and Michigan. Those last two opponents looked a lot tougher two months ago than they do now.
7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
ALEX: I'll go with the oddsmakers, who have Maryland winning by between a field goal and a touchdown. The Terps have looked vulnerable against option-heavy offenses and teams with over-the-top playmakers, and Iowa doesn't look from afar like either of those things. Behind what should be a decent homecoming crowd, Maryland wins, 27-23.
Thanks for being a good sport, Alex, although I still hope your team loses by 50 on Saturday. You can check out the TT crew at Testudo Times. You can also follow Alex on Twitter at @alex_kirshner and Testudo Times at @TestudoTimes. The Iowa-Maryland game is in College Park, MD on Saturday, October 18, and is scheduled to start at 11:00 am CT, with television coverage from ESPN2.