College Park, MD - - The Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0 B1G West) travel to Maryland (4-2, 1-1 B1G East) for the first time ever in this series, as the Terrapins have joined the Big Ten in 2014. The Hawkeyes are seeking to close out October undefeated, by raining on the Terrapins Homecoming today, in an 11 a.m. kickoff televised on ESPN2.
Iowa fans are traveling to Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium for the inagrual game between these two Big Ten programs. Iowa sold out their ticket allotment for the game.
The Terrapins are coming off a bye week, but have lost back to back home games this season. The Terrapins have lost four straight conference games, dating back to the last three ACC games plus the opening conference home loss to Ohio State prior the bye week.
How will the bye week help Maryland, as Iowa arrives for the Terrapins for their Homecoming Game?
"It was very refreshing," said Maryland six-year senior quarterback C.J. Brown reflecting on bye week ahead of Iowa game. "Especially to get away from the contact and just kind of rest your mind, even if it's for two or three days. It was very beneficially to the team and myself."
Maryland fourth-year head coach Randy Edsall reflected on his team's bye week, ahead of the game with Iowa in week 7 of the college football season. "Again, I thought the bye week came at a good time for us. We were able to get some rest for our guys and get some of those bumps and bruises taken care of. We were able to take a look at ourselves and our tendencies and see what we were doing and what people were seeing out of us. We were able to get out on the practice field and have the opportunity to get a jump-start on Iowa. I thought the bye week was productive for us in all those ways. Hopefully that will bear out on Saturday."
Could we see another high scoring game, evolving Iowa, after the Hawkeyes 45-29 win last Saturday in Iowa City?
This season, Maryland has posted at least 24 points in all six games played. It is the first time in program history a Terrapin offense has scored 24 or more points in its first six games. The Terps are averaging 34.7 points per contest, tied for the fourth-highest total in the Big Ten. In addition, Maryland has totaled 25 plays of 20 or more yards this season including eight against Indiana on Sept. 27. Of the 25 plays that have gone for 20 or more yards, 10 have been scoring plays.
Iowa has scored 24 points in the two road wins at Pittsburgh and in the Big Ten opener at Purdue. The Hawkeyes followed up those two wins with 45 points vs. Indiana, in Iowa's Homecoming victory in 2014. Now, back on the road in College Park, the Hawkeyes are simply looking for a way to win.
"They made a lot of big plays against Indiana, Edsall said. "They hit a post over the top, they got a pick six; they did a lot of good things. They got a big run by one of their freshman (Jonathan Parker) so again they have some big play capabilities there. They'll hit you with all kinds of different looks; they hit you with 21 personnel, 12 personnel, 22, 11. Again, they're well coached, they know what they want to do and they're going to do it. What you have to do is you've got to stop them."
Will big plays, explosive plays, make the biggest impact in today's Iowa at Maryland game? Of course, turnovers and special teams likely will figure into today's game, as well.
Generally, Iowa likes a grind out, establish the run, physical game, won in the trenches, as opposed to offensive dominated games that Maryland has enjoyed headlined quality receiving corp led by junior wide receiver Stefon Diggs with 36 catches and 450 receiving yards.
Edsall said, "tough game this week against a really good football team in Iowa. As you watch Iowa on tape, they are a team that is very sound in what they do scheme-wise. They are very well coached. You can tell that Kirk's [Ferentz] has been there for 16 years. He's got things going the way he wants and their team plays hard and physical. They are very good fundamentally and from a technique standpoint. They have good players. We are looking forward to the opportunity Saturday."
Defense is an important phase of the game today.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz called the Terrapins a "good defensive football team." Like Iowa, "They're a physical group. Their linebackers, they've got a bunch of them and they're all kind of the same size, but they're all strong, physical guys. They're disruptive up front. The one guy, the linebacker is really more of a defensive end, but he's made a lot of tackles for losses and sacks. So they're not I wouldn't call them overly fancy. They do some things on third down. They've got a good package. Their guys really know the package, and they play hard within the scheme, and that's what good defenses do. They know what they're doing, and they're pretty aggressive. They're a tough match up for us."
Maryland's run defense could play a big role today. Edsall reflected on the Maryland run defense ahead of today's Iowa game.
"Usually when you give up yards it's because people aren't executing, guys aren't fulfilling their responsibilities the way you need to. It might be a guy missing a gap here; it might be a guy missing a tackle there. It's a combination of everybody not doing the things that you need them to do. Those are the things that we've been working on, getting everybody to understand what their job is and getting them to continue to do their job. If you can get everybody doing their job and doing it to the best of their ability you have a lot more opportunities for success. Again, guys are working hard. Guys are really working hard. They want to be good, they want to do things the right way, and they don't like giving up the yards. But I think the one thing, other than the last game we played, we found a way to keep people out of the end zone. That's what we have to continue to do and we have to continue as a coaching staff to take a look at who we are and who we have and put together the best plan we can to take advantage of the skillset because we've had some guys out due to some injuries."
Will Iowa have to continue to rely on fourth down plays today? Iowa is nine of 12 on fourth downs, through the first half of the 2014 season. All nine first downs have led to points. Special teams has been completely revamped with new personnel in 2014.
Ferentz reflrected on the fourth down success, by saying, "some of it is by design, some of it is by feel. The guys are doing a good job, they really are. We're trying to be smart about when we calculate and pull the trigger and go ahead and go forward or try to take a field goal or whatever it may be. But the bottom line is our players are doing a good job of executing. I think if you combine that with third down, we're a little bit of mature numbers last year, but it feels a little better right now for sure."
Iowa is typically stout against the run, but in the season opener against Northern Iowa, the Panthers talented running back hurt Iowa's defense for over 200 yards receiving and explosive plays. The Iowa back 7 will be tested today, so the front 4 will have to play extremely well, which is the strength of the Iowa defense.
Of Maryland’s 12 touchdown passes this season, three have gone to running backs. Junior RB Brandon Ross has caught two including a 36-yarder against IU after catching a 90-yarder at Syracuse, the Terps’ longest play from scrimmage.
Iowa needs the defense to step up, if they are going to overcome the 4.5 point underdog role they face in College Park vs. Maryland. The Hawkeyes have been successful at 6-1 over the past season and a half, in true road games. Maryland has lost two straight this season, and five of last seven home games.
The formula for success is typically:
1. Establishing the line of scrimmage, so which team wins the game in the trenches? Iowa - Maryland will be a physical game.
2. Explosive plays - defenses will seek to hold them down, as offenses seek to attack, while staying ahead of the sticks on first and second down.
3. Turnovers are always an important aspect of any game, especially in conference play. This will be an important element today.
4. Special teams favors Maryland on experience, but Iowa can't afford to let down in this phase or any phase, if they are going to win their third straight road game, as well as third straight B1G game in 2014.
5. Coaching staff: Ferentz and Edsall have a lot of respect for one another, as each coach has ties to UConn. Ferentz's is an alumnus and former linebacker, while Edsall elevated the program from FCS to the FBS level, as a former head coach there.
Our Pick: Iowa 24, Maryland 18 - Iowa takes the big play away and establishes the line of scrimmage turning this one into a grind out, game in the trenches. An explosive game favors the home team.