Some how this game has crept up on me…Maryland. That is weird. I still don’t have a great handle on what they are doing here in the B1G. Looking at this team, I don’t know what to think either. Their numbers are not good. Their defense has been giving up yards in bunches, and haven’t been much better than Iowa on offense, at least in terms of yardage. But they sit at 4-2 with losses to West Virginia and Ohio State and are favored over Iowa.
Run the Ball - Build on Last Week
Iowa finally hit the 200 yard rushing mark for the first time this season. That was against a bad Indiana defense. Good news though…Maryland’s defense is just as bad. Maryland is giving up 212 rushing yards a game, good for 104th in the nation. The bad news is that they are tied with Iowa State, a defense that Iowa wasn’t all that successful running against.
But I think Iowa has made strides since the ISU game. Jonathon Parker has brought another dimension to the run game and Mark Weisman’s numbers have been improving. I think the C.J. Beathard read/option package could also be effective.
Avoid the Deep Pass
Maryland has been able to put up points this year by cashing in on a few long pass plays each game. In Maryland’s 4 wins, they’ve had a bunch of long TDs: against Indiana, Maryland had passing TDs of 29, 30, and 36 yards…against Syracuse, 25 and 90…against USF, 44…and against James Madison, 41. On the year, Maryland’s two QBs are averaging 13 yards per completion (Iowa’s is just 10.4).
Maryland’s rushing attack has not been as potent. They are actually averaging less yards a game on the ground than Iowa (140 to 151). Quarterback C.J. Brown is the team leader in rushing yards with 263. Running backs Brandon Ross and Wes Brown have pretty much split carries evenly (43 and 45 respectively) and both are about the same…mediocre. Ross has 216 yards and Brown 190.
Giving up those small chunks of yards on the ground will be acceptable tomorrow and bringing back a more bend-don’t-break philosophy could be a pretty good match against this Maryland offense.
Don’t Get Beat on Special Teams
Maryland can, and has, beat teams with its special teams play. It was a blocked a punt in the endzone against USF for the go-ahead score in the 4th quarter. They have one of the best punt returners in the nation in William Likely, who is averaging 22 yards a return on 8 tries and has one he took back for a TD. Then there is the kicker, Brad Craddock, who is 11 for 11 on FGs this year, including making 7 from 40+ yards out (and a 57-yarder!!).
So yeah…they have dangerous special teams.
Dillon Kidd hasn’t been the best this year on yardage, but has done a decent job of getting enough hang-time that there haven’t been too many returns (just 6 this year). Kick coverage I’m not too worried about as long as Marshall Koehn continues to kick touchbacks. What would be great is if Iowa would have a game-changing return. Parker has been good on kick returns and definitely provided a spark against Purdue. But punt returns have been almost non-existent (9 for 42 yards).
Continue Red Zone Success
I think I’ve written about scoring in the red zone and going for it on 4th down almost every week. It has just been so un-Ferentzian. But really why it matters this week, is because of Maryland’s red zone defense.
So, how has Maryland won 4 games this year with a defense that is giving up 450 yards a game? Red zone defense. Teams are only scoring on 62.5% of drives that reach the Maryland red zone (3rd in the country) and only have 11 TDs on 24 trips.
Iowa’s red zone numbers, don’t actually come out very good, scoring on just 73% of trips. Part of that is all the missed FGs early in the season. The other part is the couple of failed fourth down tries against Purdue. 16 TDs on 26 trips isn’t too bad though and Weisman has been money in the red zone and on fourth downs.
On paper, Maryland doesn't look much better than Indiana. But they also beat the Hoosiers by 22. So much for paper. I still think Iowa should be able to keep growing on offense against Maryland's D and have another solid outing. I don't expect another explosion like the 1st quarter last Saturday, but a couple long plays and a couple long drives feels about right.
On the other side of the ball, Maryland doesn't have the type of threat that has damaged Iowa's D this year...a good running back. There will be a different challenge against the Terrapin WR, but I think the corners are up to the task. Stop the big plays and stop Maryland.
Final Score: Iowa 31 - Maryland 23