Preview: Duke (3-3) v. Maryland (2-5)

Despite the shock to head coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils are favored this weekend against Maryland. Duke has been here before - coming off a big win in the conference. Now, however, it's time for the program to show that it can take two steps forward. TDD previews the match-up.

Duke (3-3) vs Maryland (2-5)
Durham, N.C. - Wallace Wade Stadium
TV: ESPN360 / Kick-off: 1:30 PM EST

Program Vitals
Conference:  ACC
Nickname:  Terrapins
Colors: Red & Black & White  
Head Coach:  Ralph Friedgen (9th season)
Career Record at Maryland: 66-41

The Blue Devils trail the all-time series between the two schools 30-18. Maryland has won the last five games in the series and nine of the last 10 meetings overall. Duke has not beaten the Terps since upsetting them 25-22 in 1999. The teams have not met since the 2004 season.

What To Watch For On Offense:
Maryland's offense has struggled throughout the season. Currently the Terps ranks 11th in the conference in rushing offense; 6th in passing offense; and just eighth in total offense. These struggles have resulted in the team not putting enough points on the board week in and week out. Currently Maryland ranks 11th in scoring offense at just 22.9 points per game. The one thing that has gone well for the offensive unit has been the efficiency in the red zone where Maryland is scoring 88 percent of the time once the ball gets inside the opponents' 20 yard line.

Under center the Terps have experience in the form of third year starter Chris Turner who has led the team to a pair of bowl appearances and a remarkable 5-2 record against ranked opponents. The senior ranks fifth on Maryland's career completion percentage list (59.1), third in career passing yards (6,125), third in total offense (5,960), second in comple- tions (508), second in career pass attempts (859) and fourth in TD passes (29). Turner needs 135 passing yards to move past Boomer Esiason (6,259/1981-83) and into second place on the Maryland career list. So far this season Turner has completed 58 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns.

Behind Turner is sophomore Davin Meggett, a 5'8 215 pound power back with the ability to change speed and break away. After accumulating 457 yards as a freshman in 2008, Meggett looked to be a solid backup to Da'Rel Scott in the preseason before Scott was injured and Meggett stepped into the starter's role over the last three games. In seven appearances he's rushed 61 times for 207 yards and one score. Senior fullback Cory Jackson figures more in pass blocking schemes than anywhere else having rushed just six times in seven games.

One area where Maryland faced questions was at the receiver spot after losing Darius Heyward-Bey to the NFL Draft last year. The heir apparent is sophomore Tony Smith who doesn't have Heyward-Bey's raw speed, but is a more complete player. So far Smith has been as good as advertised in both the passing and special teams game. He's returning kicks and has already taken one back for an 85 yard touchdown. In addition he's already logged 34 catches for 553 yards and four touchdowns. Not content to just terrorize defensive backs, Smith has also logged 64 yards on the ground on just eight attempts via the reverse play that seems to creep into the Maryland playbook once a week. Other receivers of note include 6'2 junior Adrian Cannon who has caught 26 balls for 245 yards with three scores and 5'11 sophomore Ronnie Taylor who has added 19 catches for 245 yards.

Most of Maryland's concerns of offense can be traced to the trenches where the program suffered the loss of five of the top seven from a season ago. Gone were three-year starting center Edwin Williams, two-year starting left guard Jaimie Thomas and two-year starting tackle Scott Burley. Jack Griffin and Dane Randolph also completed their eligibility. In all, those five players combined to start 115 games. The Terps do return LT Bruce Campbell and C Phil Costa in the starting lineup, but the remaining three spots and all the second team players lack the experience that is a hallmark of successful teams.

What To Watch For On Defense:
The defensive line has a trio of seniors in the form of Travis Ivey, Deege Galt, and Jarred Harrell. Ivey, the starting DT, provides size in the middle with his 6'4, 325lbs frame while the 6'4, 265 pound Galt has been able to apply pressure from the end position to the tune of 2.5 sacks so far this season. Second year nose tackle A.J. Francis is the second interior lineman at 6'4 and 315 pounds. The interior alone has accounted for just under 40 tackles and 2 combined sacks.

While the defensive line provides a solid push, the talent is really housed at the linebacker position where Maryland looks to the trio of Alex Wujciak, Demetrius Hartsfield, and Adrian Moten to provide pressure on the opponent's passer and running game. Who was going to step up was a concern in the preseason as Maryland lost Dave Philistin, Moise Fokou, Chase Bullock and Rick Costa who had combined to play in 144 games and make 54 starts.

The three rank 1-2-3 on the season's leading tackle list led by Wujciak who has averaged 11 tackles per contest and has a 30 stop lead over the closest competitor. In addition the outside backers, Moten and Hartsfield have combined to record 8.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss between them. It's all part of new defensive coordinator Don Brown's philosophy of bringing consistent and increased pressure via the blitz.

One area where Maryland's depth chart looked to be solid early on was the secondary. However, a number of injuries in recent games have left the Terps a bit more shaky than expected. CB Anthony Wiseman and FS Terrell Skinner were returning starters, but Nolan Carroll, Kenny Tate, Jamari McCollough and Antwine Perez each played a number of snaps in 2008. However, Carroll was lost for the season (broken tibia) in the James Madison game and McCollough missed the JMU and Middle Tennessee State contests. McCollough returned as a starter against Clemson and made his first pick of the season. All the injuries and lineup shuffling have robbed the Terps of defensive continuity, which has resulted in the unit ranking just 9th int he conference against the pass.

Fearless Prediction(s):
The bottom line is that Duke has much more riding on this game that just a second conference victory. Head coach David Cutcliffe has made it clear that he expects to win in Durham. A season ago Duke was 3-3 in the conference before fading down the stretch. If the Blue Devils are going to take another step forward, they simply must win against Maryland. For starters it's a make or break game for bowl eligibility. Second it'll prove to fans and players that progress is being made in Cutcliffe's second complete season. Everywhere you look Duke is favored and that's a position that is unfamiliar to the entire roster. What they do with that status and how they perform with something that is added pressure for a program that had sunk to where Duke was will be telling. Make no mistake this is a defining moment for the Blue Devil program. The table appears to be set with a confident bunch and, perhaps, the conference's top quarterback rounding into top form.

Predicted Final Score:

Duke - 29
Maryland - 25

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