It has been a rough start for Maryland in its second year in the Big Ten. Not only are the Terrapins in search of their first win, the program big adieu to head coach Randy Edsall after an embarrassing lost to Ohio State a few weeks back. In Maryland’s four Big Ten losses this season, three of them came against ranked opponents losing by an average of 21.6 points a game.
Wisconsin isn’t currently ranked in the top 25 but certainly played like one last weekend by thoroughly taking care of business against Rutgers. Despite Maryland’s 2-6 record, and Wisconsin beating the Terrapins 52-7 last year, head coach Paul Chryst made a note of it during his weekly Monday press conference that the Badgers will need to be ready for Maryland.
The rankings for the Front Seven are determined based on performance from last week, expectations this coming week and need. Here are our seven players most important in helping the Badgers to a road win over Maryland.
Last Week’s Rankings in Parentheses
1, Joel Stave QB (4): Stave will be looking for his 10th career road win on Saturday and will have plenty of opportunities for success against a Maryland defense giving up 257.9 passing yards a game. Stave has registered seven games this year of at least 200 yards passing, not to mention two 300-yard passing games. Despite only completing passes to three different wide receivers against Rutgers, Stave has been able to take what has been given to him each week and, for the most part, hasn’t forced many throws. Stave still needs to be careful of interceptions, as five of his seven interceptions have come during Big Ten play and resulted in great field position for the opposition. Maryland has only registered five picks on the year, but at times Stave has made it too easy for opposing defenses. If Stave makes his proper reads, he should be able to come out of the game clean and get UW off to a good start.
2, Joe Schobert OLB (1): Schobert tied a season-low with three tackles with three but was responsible for recovering a fumble inside the Rutgers five and used his helmet – literally – to set up an interception. Although Schobert has only registered 3.5 sacks in Big Ten play, his presence has helped set his teammates up for success. Schobert could break through against a Maryland offensive line that has given up 17 sacks this season, which ranks 12th in the Big Ten. Schobert’s ability to supply consistent pressure on quarterback Perry Hills (10 interceptions on the season) will be important, not only do disrupt his passing rhythm but contain him in the pocket. Hills is second on the team in rushing yards (517) and averages 103.4 yards a contest. If Schobert can find his way into the backfield, he should be able to help limit any big plays that Hills can make with his feet.
3, Alex Erickson WR (2): Erickson registered six of the eight receptions made by a wide receiver in the win over Rutgers, as it has become obvious that he is the likely target in passing situations. Regardless, Erickson continues to find ways of making a play and helping move the ball down the field. Over the last four games, Erickson has registered a minimum of six receptions and has 35 receptions in Big Ten play. Having developed a consistent rhythm with the quarterbacks, and with Rob Wheelwright still sidelined with a leg injury, Erickson has been able to consistently beat his man off the line of scrimmage and creating throwing lanes. Maryland’s secondary is allowing 13.7 yards a catch and 88 passing first downs, so there will be opportunities for Erickson to be able to continue to help move the football down the field.
4, Corey Clement RB (NR): Clement’s return to the field was one to remember when he rushed for 115 yards on 11 carries and three touchdowns. The return of Clement also signified what the Badgers’ offense could look like when it gets fully healthy, as Clement helps take pressure off of Stave and make defenses respect the run game. Clement might see an increase in carries this coming week, and he will have a chance to another successful day with Maryland allowing 167.4 yards on the ground. Clement’s patience and vision paid off as he was able to consistently find the correct hole and helped Wisconsin find the success it has been waiting for in the running game.
5, Vince Biegel OLB (NR): Biegel had a monster game against the Scarlet Knights with five tackles, two for loss, two sacks and one quarterback hurry. Having that second pass rusher is important to balance out the defense and help contain mobile quarterbacks from getting out of the pocket. Hills will likely make a few plays on his own by picking up a fresh set of downs but the key will be to limit that number. If the combination of Biegel and Schobert can consistently pressure him and put the offense into long-distance situations, it will be a win for Wisconsin’s defense as Maryland ranks 13th in passing offense in the Big Ten.
6, Michael Caputo S (5): Caputo continues to be a steady presence for Wisconsin’s secondary. Although Hills and running back Brandon Ross have combined for 1,037 yards, Wisconsin’s rush defense has been too strong to run, only allow 95.7 yards a game on the ground. Assuming Wisconsin can consistently contain the run, it will be up to Caputo and the rest of the secondary to make sure Hills can’t find success in the passing game. Hills is averaging 147.6 yards a game through the air while completing 52.3 percent of his passes. If the pass rush can be there for Wisconsin, the secondary, and Caputo, could have a field day.
7, Tyler Marz LT (NR): Marz and the rest of the offensive line played a good game against Rutgers, helping make sure Stave stood upright in the pocket and helped the ground game rush for 215 yards. Marz will receive a challenge with the Terrapins ranking second in the Big Ten in sacks (3.5 per game). The main culprit is defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who has registered 10.5 sacks on the season. Marz will need to consistently get the better push in order to help Wisconsin strike the same balance it did against Rutgers. With Maryland ranking 13th in the Big Ten in rushing defense (167.4 yards), the Badgers should be able to run the football. Of course when the Badgers played Purdue, who had the worst rush defense in the conference, UW was held under 100 yards.
Others to Note
Jack Cichy MLB: It still is to be seen whether or not Chris Orr returns to the lineup, but UW should be excited by Cichy’s eight-tackle performance a week ago after moving from outside linebacker. Regardless if Orr plays or not, Cichy will still see plenty of snaps on defense and he will be counted on to help slow Maryland’s offense down.
Troy Fumagalli TE: Fumagalli has started to become a nice and reliable option for Stave in the passing game since Big Ten play started. In five Big Ten games, Fumagalli has registered 21 catches for 234 yards. With injuries to Austin Traylor and Wheelwright, his ability to make key catches has taken some pressure off of Erickson in the passing game.
Drew Meyer P: Meyer continues to string together solid performances, a trend that will need to continue with Maryland having a solid returner in William Likely. Likely has returned two punts and one kickoff for a touchdown this season, and Meyer will need to consistently make sure that Maryland doesn’t start with good field position.
Dare Ogunbowale RB: Ogunbowale will likely see his number of carries dip going forward but still will be an asset in pass protection and on third down as a receiver out of the backfield. Ogunbowale continues to make people miss and will have a chance of continuing to help put Wisconsin in favorable situations on different downs.