Breakdown & Prediction: Maryland

BadgerNation breaks down Wisconsin's matchup with Maryland, specifically the challenges facing Wisconsin's offensive line, at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday morning and offer our prediction.

Maryland (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) vs. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, October 25 at 11:01 a.m. CT

Stadium –Camp Randall Stadium (80,321/FieldTurf)

Television –Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler, Glen Mason, Lisa Byington)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series –First Meeting

Series Notes

After facing a new Big Ten opponent just three times in the last 60 years, the Badgers will take on a pair of league newcomers twice in the span of two weeks by hosting Maryland on Saturday and playing at Rutgers on Nov. 1.

Saturday’s matchup marks just the second time UW will face a Big Ten foe for the first time at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers scored a 48-17 win over Nebraska in the Cornhuskers’ conference debut in 2011. The other six instances in which UW hosted its first Big Ten matchup with an opponent occurred prior to the stadium’s opening in 1917.

Wisconsin is 10-1-1 in its first meeting against a Big Ten school.

The Badgers have three Maryland natives on their roster: freshman RB Taiwan Deal (Capitol Heights), freshman DL Ash Fonjungo (Lanham) and senior RT Rob Havenstein (Mt. Airy). Havenstein and Maryland RB Joe Riddle were on the same team at Linganore High School.

In 1995, Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart (tight ends) was on the same coaching staff at Northern Arizona as UW head coach Gary Andersen (defensive line/special teams) and safeties coach Bill Busch (secondary).

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin has won 8 of its last 10 Homecoming games, dating back to 2004.

Gordon is the nation’s active career leader in rushing average at 8.03 yards per carry and, with 420 carries, and is on pace to break the all-time FBS best (min. 415 rushes) of 7.32 set by USC’s Reggie Bush (the NCAA officially recognizes the mark of 7.16 set by Nebraska’s Mike Rozier as the FBS record).

Through the season’s first nine weeks, including Saturday’s matchup with Maryland, the Badgers will have played just one true road game (Oct. 4 at Northwestern). That is the fewest of any FBS team. Ohio State and Texas, both of which have also had just one road game to this point, play their second road contests of the season on Saturday.

The Badgers have averaged 6.8 tackles for loss per game, to rank in a tie for fourth in the Big Ten this season. Wisconsin ranked 11th in the Big Ten last year, averaging 1.9 TFLs per game.

Opponents have converted just 24 of their 82 third-down attempts vs. the Badgers this year. That third-down conversion rate of 29.3 percent ranks the Wisconsin defense No. 11 nationally and No. 3 in the Big Ten behind only Michigan State (25.3 percent) and Nebraska (27.7 percent). Clemson leads the nation in third down conversion defense at 23.6 percent.

Maryland Notes

The Terps are tied for third in the Big Ten with 14 takeaways this season. Maryland has seven interceptions and seven fumble recoveries and is on pace to total 24 takeaways this season. That would be the highest total for a Maryland defense since 2011 when it racked up 27.

With a victory in Madison, Maryland would extend its road winning streak to six. The Terps are one of two teams in the Big Ten that are undefeated this season on the road.

Maryland has totaled 30 plays of 20 or more yards this season including eight against Indiana on Sept. 27. Of the 30 plays that have gone for 20 or more yards, 12 have been scoring plays.

With a season-high 130 yards receiving against the Hawkeyes, wide receiver Stefon Diggs totaled his third 100-yard receiving effort of the season, a total which is tied for the second most in the Big Ten. Diggs posted three 100-yard receiving games in 2012. The single-season school record was set by Marcus Badgett in 1992 with five.

Diggs and defensive back Williams Likely lead the Big Ten in kick return and punt return average, respectively. Diggs is averaging 24.1 yards per return, while Likely is averaging 17.9 yards per punt return, which also ranks seventh nationally.

Breakdown

The seven-man, eight-man and nine-man fronts Wisconsin’s offensive line is dealing with this season is not a foreign concept or anything unexpected. When a program has talented running backs like the Badgers have year in and year out, Wisconsin expects to have defenses stack the box against them and an offensive line that is capable of clearing the debris.

“It’s Wisconsin; we pride ourselves on running the ball,” said senior right tackle Rob Havenstein. “That’s been a staple for us the last several years. Going back to when I was a true freshman here learning the game, that was a big emphasis here with guys like Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt. We try to run the ball effectively every single game that we play.”

Through six games in the 2014 season, Wisconsin has continued that tradition of being an effective running unit. As a team, Wisconsin leads the nation in rushing at 343.0 yards per game and rushing average of 7.38 yards per attempt.

Despite playing in one fewer game than FBS leader Army (16), UW ranks second nationally in runs of 30-plus yards (15). The Badgers also lead the country in runs of 40-plus (12) and 50-plus (8) yards. Wisconsin led the nation in 40-plus (14) and 50-plus (9) runs last season (13 games).

During Wisconsin’s 38-28 win over Illinois, the Illini – one of the worst run defenses in the country - loaded up the box to try to make the Badgers’ inconsistent passing attack beat them. The results were the Badgers’ line clearing the way for both Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement to rush for over 160 yards and five combined touchdowns.

The Badgers have rushed for 2,058 yards in their first six games — 656 more than they had through six games in 2013, when they set the single-season school record of 3,689 yards.

“Whatever the defense gives us, we want to try to give Melvin and Corey room to run because they are such special players out there,” said Havenstein. “We would be doing the whole team a disservice if we couldn’t get them into open space. It doesn’t even need to be a big crack. Those guys can turn it into something special.”

Wisconsin has done an above average job this season picking up pressures and identifying the looks defenses are presenting. Those numbers would be backed up by the Badgers giving up only four sacks this season, tied for first in the conference. What the numbers don’t say is the Badgers offensive line has been its own worst enemy at times.

Wisconsin allowed only one sack in its 20-14 loss at Northwestern, but the Wildcats’ defensive line was consistently in the backfield pressuring quarterbacks Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave. McEvoy was hit as he threw on a third-down play on UW's first series that resulted in an end zone interception.

Stave's arm was hit as he threw after Havenstein got beat in pass protection that resulted in an interception at the UW 16. The Badgers were trailing, 10-7, and the play allowed the Wildcats to pad their lead to 17-7 on the next play.

“We’re overthinking things at times, myself included, thinking there is going to be pressure coming on every play,” said Havenstein. “It’s something Coach (T.J.) Woods has been harping on us.”

To use a baseball analogy, Wisconsin sometimes gets caught thinking too much at the plate, expecting an off speed pitch and watching the fastball go screaming by. According to Havenstein, Wisconsin is best when it plays “the fastball” first, coming off fast and low on the snap of the ball.

A big focus over the summer for Wisconsin’s offensive line was recognizing the pressures, looks and tells the defense shows pre snap. That’s led in some instances for Wisconsin line to have made a call based on a pressure they think is coming only to find out they’ve overthought themselves.

“I’m not surprised we’ve done that based on it being a point of emphasis over the summer,” said Havenstein.

The protection was better against the Illini, which don’t have a formidable pass rushing unit, but a game in which Wisconsin stuck better to its rules and executed the game plan.

“Speaking for me, every single rep I got in pass protection I really hammered down my fundamentals,” said Havenstein. “That’s what got me into a bad spot against Northwestern. I’m obviously not taking anything from Northwestern’s defensive ends, but I think my technique got me into a bad spot at times. I was really harping on myself to do everything technically right because that’s going to make me a better player.”

Watching Maryland’s defensive front during the bye week, Havenstein saw a group that out muscled a quality Iowa offensive line to register four sacks. Maryland’s defense also recorded three turnovers, including a pick-six that turned out to be the Hawkeyes undoing in a 38-31 loss in College Park.

Starting end Andre Monroe leads the team in sacks (5.5) and is second in tackles for loss (seven) behind outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue (9.5), who is also second in sacks (four). Starting nose guard Darius Kilgo has two sacks, six tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries, and end Roman Braglio has 2.5 sacks, helping Maryland be tied third in the Big Ten (with UW) in sacks with 19.

“You watch the film and you see the play, you know that they are no joke, especially that defensive front,” said Havenstein. “They are athletic, twitchy guys.”

This game has a little something special added to it for Havenstein. A native of Mount Airy, a little more than 30 miles west of Baltimore, Havenstein committed to Wisconsin over Maryland, never thinking he would see the Terrapins in the Big Ten.

“It’s pretty cool when I heard Maryland is joining the Big Ten,” said Havenstein. “The Big Ten is an awesome conference, and the addition of Maryland is going to be awesome for the conference. Being from Maryland, it means a little more. At the end of the day, we’re still playing a Big Ten team.”

Prediction

Wisconsin controls its fate to win the Big Ten West Division thanks to consecutive losses by Northwestern, but the road won’t be easy with trips to Rutgers and Iowa and a home meeting with Nebraska. That makes winning this home game against Maryland highly important, as the Badgers likely won’t make it to Indianapolis with two or more losses the rest of the way.

The Terps do a lot of things really well, but stopping the run isn’t one of them, as Maryland ranks 102nd in the country in rush defense (198.3 per game). If the Badgers stick to their strengths on offense and don’t turn the ball over, Wisconsin can put up a ton of points.

Combine that with an above average performance from the Badgers’ defense, Wisconsin covers the 11.5-point spread. I think UW learned its lesson against Aaron Bailey’s zone-read option attack two weeks ago that they’ll be prepared for Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown similar scheme.

Wisconsin 38, Maryland 24

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 5-1

Against the Spread: 2-3

Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!


Badger Nation Top Stories