Friday, November 02, 2007

Terps face pivitol game

Tomorrow's game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill will probably decide the bowl fate of the Terrapins. If Maryland loses its third game in a row and drops to 4-5 on the season it is highly unlikely that ,with a game against ACC leading Boston College and a road date at Florida State still to go, Maryland would be able to muster the required two wins to be bowl eligible. Given Maryland has gotten blown out by Boston College the last two seasons and they have never won at Doak Campbell stadium you would have to assume that the remaining games against North Carolina and NC State are essential if Maryland is going to qualify for a bowl. Maryland has had some success in Chapel Hill recently having won the last two games, including a 33-30 overtime thriller in 2005.

Ralph Friedgen is being his normal cagey self about the quarterback situation. He says that Turner is still the starter for the game tomorrow but that he could change his mind depending on what happens. When asked about Turner's performance Friedgen classified it as "okay" which isn't a ringing endorsement. I don't think Steffy is a good matchup against the Tarheels but if Friedgen gets in his no-turnover mindset he may think Steffy gives him the best chance to escape with a 13-10 kind of win. If he does that Maryland is almost assured a loss.

North Carolina is ranked ahead of Maryland in both total defense and offense, yet they are 2-6. In those six losses UNC lost four games to teams in the top 25 and one game to Coastal Division leader Virginia. Their losses to Virginia Tech, Virginia and South Carolina were all competitive and they put up 33 points in defeating Miami. This is a team that is better than their record and a much more even opponent than you would think, which is why UNC is actually favored by 2.5 points. If Carolina had played another couple of games versus Florida International and Middle Tennessee then they might be at 4-4 along with Maryland. Notice that both teams are sitting at 1-3 in ACC games.

Maryland's pass defense will be in for a tough challenge against the Tarheels who are second in the ACC in pass efficiency and fifth in pass offense. While they can move the ball fairly well UNC has trouble scoring as they are 10th in the ACC in scoring offense and have scored fewer touchdowns than any team in the conference except Florida State. Much of that is probably attributable to their poor running game which is also 10th in the league. Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster are a dangerous trio with almost 1300 yards and 8 touchdowns between the three of them. Maryland has struggled to generate a pass rush and the secondary isn't great in coverage. It could lead to a big day through the air for QB T.J. Yates who is just under 2,000 yards passing for the season.

North Carolina's defense is vulnerable to the both the run and the pass. If you examined only the gross yardage then it would appear that they defend the pass better than the run. When you look deeper you see that Carolina is second worst in the ACC behind only Duke in pass efficiency and is surrendering a modest 3.5 yards per carry (Maryland is 4.4 ypc) in the running game. My guess is that Ralph will continue his uber conservative playcalling instead of coming out with Chris Turner and attacking the UNC secondary like he should. Tight end Joey Haynos has been MIA in an offense that could use his ability to move the chains in short yardage situations. The play action pass to a tight end has also been missing from the offense. With Haynos and one of the better slot receivers in the ACC in Danny Oquendo the Terps should have no trouble moving the chains and getting rid of the ball before the quarterback is under pressure.

North Carolina's offense struggles to score points, even though they can move the ball well, and that will probably keep the game close. They also are among the worst teams in turnover differential. If the defense can hold them to field goals (Maryland has the worst red zone defense in the ACC) and create turnovers then they have a chance to win the game. If it is a close game UNC probably has an edge with kicker Connor Barth who missed a field goal in overtime to give Maryland the win in 2005. This game is close to a must win for the Terrapins if they are to salvage this season.

News & Notes

Maryland ranks last in ACC games in the following categories: Total defense, rush defense, sacks, red zone defense and opponents 3rd down conversion.

Maryland ranks 11th in ACC games in the following categories: Pass efficiency defense, 1st downs (offense and defense), and pass offense.

Ralph Fridgen's career record: 54-28
Butch Davis' career record: 53-26

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