Preview: Maryland at 10/10 Rutgers

It has been two weeks since Rutgers' last game, and now it's finally time to get back to the gridiron. For the second time in history, RU is ranked in the top 10, grabbing the No. 10 slot in both polls. The Scarlet Knights try to extend their home winning streak to 11 games as they host Maryland, this Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

The Rutgers-Maryland contest is part of three Big East vs. ACC match-ups this week, as Louisville travels to N.C. State and Pittsburgh visits Virginia.

Maryland (2-2, 0-1 ACC) is coming off a devastating 31-24 overtime loss to Wake Forest while Rutgers (3-0, 0-0 Big East) is off a bye week after crushing Norfolk State 59-0.

SCOUTING MARYLAND
The Terps suffered a tough 31-24 overtime loss to Wake Forest last week after seemingly having the game in hand. Maryland led 24-3 in the third quarter and was driving in the red zone to put the game away, but the wheels fell off in a hurry. Junior quarterback Jordan Steffy threw an interception that went the other way for a touchdown and Wake Forest rallied with two more unanswered touchdowns -- one with three seconds remaining in regulation -- to force overtime.

That was the second consecutive loss for Maryland, which put together unimpressive wins against Villanova and Florida International to start the season. The Terrapins have been outscored 48-14 in the second half this season, including 38-7 in the last two games.

OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE SCHEMES
It looked like Maryland finally developed a potent offensive attack last week in the first half against Wake Forest, but everything fell apart as the Terrapins blew a 21-point lead. Steffy has been erratic in his first year under center and the Terps rank 108th in Division I-A passing (now called the Football Bowl Subdivision by the NCAA). Many sets are similar to Rutgers', with a fullback and tailback look, and Maryland has the most success running between the tackles.

Defense is why the Terps stay in games. Maryland employs many different sets and is not afraid to confuse the offense with a variety of defensive looks. The Terps also walk linebackers up to stuff the box, which causes troubles for the run but may open intermediate passes. Linebacker Erin Henderson is probably the best player for Maryland on either side of the ball, and he has the speed and ability to change games.

Statistically, the Terps look impressive defensively, as they allow less than 300 total yards per game. But keep in mind that Maryland was shredded by West Virginia's and Wake Forest's attacks in the past two weeks and allowed a total of 845 yards and 62 points in two losses.

SPECIAL TEAMS
True senior Rutgers place-kicker Jeremy Ito is 4-for-6 on field goal attempts this year and is a perfect 18-for-18 on PATs. He was responsible for 11 points against Norfolk State in the third game of the season. His punting game is ugly, but it has been effective to date. If neither Ito nor any other punter can come up with an effective punting style, Rutgers may be exposed later in the season.

Kick coverage for Rutgers has been adequate if unspectacular. The Scarlet Knights still don't have a blocked kick this year, though they came close against Navy and Norfolk State.

Maryland kicker Obi Egekeze has made three out of four field goals, including a long of 42 yards. He also has hit on all 12 of his extra point attempts. The only miss for Egekeze this year came from 52 yards at FIU in Week 2.

Maryland's return game is almost non-existent through the first four games of the season. The Terrapins are averaging less than 20 yards per return on kickoffs and fewer than eight yards on punts.

KEY MATCHUPS
1. RU's DL vs. Maryland's rushing offense
It's speed against power in this matchup, as the Scarlet Knights yield an average of nearly 60 pounds in the trenches. Maryland's beefy O-line goes at about 320 pounds that paves the way for a rushing attack that averages 161.2 yards per game and has scored 11 touchdowns. The Scarlet Knights hold the opposition to just 111.3 yards rushing per game and allow only nine points per game.

2. RU's passing attack vs. Maryland's pass defense
Rutgers signal caller Mike Teel is the top-rated quarterback in the nation and has averaged 287.67 yards per game while tossing eight touchdowns to just one interception. RU's offensive line is the only unit in the nation that has not allowed a sack. Maryland boasts the ninth best pass defense in college football, and the Terrapins picked off Wake Forest's Riley Skinner three times last week. Something has to give in this contest.

3. RU's pass rush vs. Jordan Steffy
Steffy imploded against Wake Forest and has looked very shaky when pressured. He has thrown four picks to just one touchdown (that came during garbage time in a 31-14 loss to West Virginia. His 100-yard interception return for a touchdown changed the fortunes for Maryland last week and sparked Wake Forest's comeback. He has been sacked 11 times in the past two weeks.

4. RU' passing attack vs. Maryland's pass defense
RU QB Mike Teel has an astounding 224.75 passer efficiency rating through two games and has thrown five touchdowns to just one interception while completing 30 of 42 attempts this season. Four different receivers have touchdowns, including RB Ray Rice. One has to consider the offensive options for Rutgers and which poison Maryland will elect to guard against most.

PLAYERS TO WATCH (MARYLAND)
LB Erin Henderson -- The junior has speed and a nose for the football and could wreak havoc on Rutgers' offense. Henderson, the younger brother of former Maryland standout E.J. Henderson, already has 44 tackles this year and is 10th in the NCAA in tackles (11 per game). He has come on in the last two games, totaling 12 tackles versus Wake Forest last week and 11 against West Virginia two weeks ago.

QB Jordan Steffy -- Steffy has looked shaky this season and has trouble holding onto the ball under pressure. Just when he seemed to have it all together versus Wake Forest, he threw a pick that was a harbinger for Maryland's eventual doom. However, Steffy can move with ease and can be slippery, causing fits for defenses when he's at the top of his game. Which Steffy will show up: the one who led Maryland to a 24-3 lead last week, or the one who averages 151 yards passing per game?

RB Keon Lattimore -- Along with Lance Ball, Lattimore paces a rushing attack that is strong between the tackles. The junior is averaging nearly five yards per carry and has found the end zone seven times this year. However, only two of those scores have occurred against quality competition the last two weeks. He lost an early fumble against Wake Forest last week that led to a Demon Deacons score.

PLAYERS TO WATCH (RUTGERS)
This one focuses more on the defense, since we all know that the Rutgers offense has been firing on all cylinders to date (especially that third quarter two weeks ago).

RB Ray Rice -- Rice carried the ball just 12 times versus Norfolk State, netting 72 yards and three touchdowns. He now has 431 yards rushing (143.67 yards per game) and eight touchdowns on the ground and is averaging nearly six yards per carry. Rice needs one rushing touchdown to tie JJ Jennings on the all-time rushing TD list at Rutgers. Rice has 32 and Jennings finished his career on the Banks with 33.

DT Peter Tverdov -- The true junior is expected to make his first start this year, coming back from an ankle injury. A standout at Union High School, Tverdov showed signs of promise last year and was named the starter at tackle next to senior Eric Foster before he was hampered by injury. Tverdov is not yet 100 percent.

DE George Johnson -- The true sophomore has made a name for himself early this season with his ability to rush the passer as well as the skill set to drop back in pass coverage. With Maryland allowing 16 sacks this season, Johnson is poised to have a good game in the pass rush.

HEAD TO HEAD
Maryland leads the all-time series 5-3, though the schools have not met on the gridiron since 1942. Maryland won that meeting 27-13. The last time these teams met in New Jersey, Rutgers emerged with a 20-0 home victory in 1941.

TRENDS/NOTES
Rutgers is playing on Saturday during the last weekend of September for the first time since 2004. The Scarlet Knights beat Pittsburgh and USF in back-to-back Friday night games to end September the last two seasons. The Scarlet Knights are 2-2 on ABC and have won their last two on the network (at home versus Michigan State in 2004 and at North Carolina last season).

There are 15 players on the Maryland roster from New Jersey. Maryland is 6-6 in its last 12 road games, including 1-1 this season. This is the Terrapins' first game against a Big East squad not named West Virginia since 2000.

PERSONNEL
True sophomore LB Ryan D'Imperio, who was sidelined during spring practice with a broken leg, returned to the field late in the game against Norfolk State. He should see more action this week. True sophomore RB Kordell Young was lost for the season with a hip injury suffered against Norfolk State. Young should qualify for a medical redshirt under NCAA rules. True sophomore safety Zaire Kitchen made his return to the lineup against Norfolk State.

WEATHER
The weather report is calling for increasing amounts of sunshine thoughout Saturday, with a slight breeze. Temperatures should be in the low to mid-70s.

TIME/TV
The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. EDT kickoff and will be broadcast in the New Jersey area on ABC. It is also available out of market on ESPN GamePlan (channel 463 on Dish Network and channel 778 on DirecTV). Terry Gannon, David Norrie and Quint Kessenich form the broadcast team. This marks the 27th consecutive televised games for Rutgers. The national coverage map, courtesy of Scarlet Knights.com, is available [in PDF format] by clicking here.


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