The Hawkeyes head to Maryland Saturday (11 a.m. CT, ESPN2) for their first-ever meeting with the Terrapins, one of the new members of the Big Ten.
Most Iowa fans are unfamiliar with these week's opponent from another time zone. To dig deep into what the former ACC member is all about, HI tacked down Keith Cavanaugh and Dave Lomonico from Terrapin Times, the Maryland site in our Scout.com network and the ultimate authority on that school's athletics.
Check out this informative Q&A:
Hawkeye Insider: Maryland is allowing about 450 yards per game, which is 13th in the Big Ten. What's the story there and how big of a concern is that moving forward?
TERRAPIN TIMES: Yes, it is a concern, as in the first few weeks of the season the unit was ravaged by injuries already.
The Terps most athletic defensive lineman, DE Quinton Jefferson, was lost to a season-ending knee injury versus West Virginia, and a week later corner Alvin Hill was lost for the season, also with a knee injury, at Syracuse.
Meanwhile, every starting linebacker has missed games so far due to injury, including senior outside 'backer Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, who missed the first three, and he was the one on national watch-lists heading in and Maryland's most feared edge rusher.
In the meantime, Maryland has at times had to go 3-4 deep at the linebacker spots, and the inexperience and rookie play has shown, especially in run fit and gap responsibility, allowing several teams to rack up massive yards on the ground. This week, the Terps hope to get senior outside 'backer Matt Robinson, out for the last three games with a shoulder injury, back against Iowa. Robinson is their best 'backer in coverage and a team leader.
HI: The Big Ten is filled with iconic football stadiums and environments. What type of home field advantage do the Terps enjoy and what is the atmosphere like at Byrd?
TT: Well, Maryland had its first home sellout in six years last game versus Ohio State. This week is not expected to be a sellout. Hopefully Terps fans, after some lean years, continue to return to the program over time.
Byrd Stadium is a cozy spot nestled in the middle of campus, which many away fans find attractive, a walk to most everything in and around campus. When Maryland is winning big it can be a loud place, led by the student section, but they can be fickle as well at times.
Hopefully for UMD's sake, things keep building as Maryland transitions to the Big Ten and more fans return to Byrd, which though small compared to many Big Ten venues, is a cozy spot indeed.
TT: Well, both got off to slow starts, and in part that was symptomatic of Maryland's struggling passing game, which has often been feast or famine under sixth-year senior starter C.J. Brown.
But both Diggs and Long had to improve as blockers, route runners, etc., and Randy Edsall said last month that they may have gotten caught up in too much of the hype, anointed the Big Ten's best receiver corps before playing a game. So it has been a process, but both began to break out, finally, at IU and again last game versus Ohio State.
Diggs is also a dangerous return man, and on reverses and sweeps, while Long is a tremendous athlete with great ability to high-point balls. But many believe they have just started to hit their season stride now after some early hiccups.
HI: In a question related to the previous one, C.J. Brown has enjoyed success in his career yet the senior is sitting on seven touchdown passes against four interceptions. Sometimes numbers can be misleading and the product of a bigger problem on offense. How has Brown played? How big of a threat is he with his legs?
TT: Brown has been a real mystery, as for a sixth-year senior starter he has been very inconsistent in the passing game, with extreme bouts of inaccuracy, while altogether, unless he is running the zone-read, his forte, he has looked uncomfortable in the pocket.
Edsall still believes he is their best bet, to be both a dual-threat as a weapon with his feet as well as getting the Terps into their right reads/plays, but in the passing game backup Caleb Rowe has been the one to make the Terps offense hum. Rowe took over for a struggling Brown in the second half versus Ohio State, and showed why he has the strongest arm, quickest delivery and is the Terps most decisive thrower.
But Edsall is sticking with Brown for now as the starter, though it would not be a shock to see Rowe inserted again if Brown struggles through the air.
HI: How much do you think the rough go against Ohio State shook the confidence of this team? Did the bye week come at a good time?
TT: It came at a good time as Maryland has 3-4 injured players hopefully returning this week, led by Robinson if he can make it back.
I did not see it as a major confidence shaker by any means. I think the Terps saw they could do some good things in that second half, and once they adjusted on defense they had a few good red zone stands. Maryland mostly has to get its quarterback situation resolved (heck, they are still fourth in the Big Ten in scoring nevertheless), while defense hopefully got a bit healthier this bye week.