When: Sat., Nov. 7; 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: College Park, MD; Byrd Stadium
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Wisconsin 52-7 (2014)
Line: Wisconsin -12.5
On a weekend full of cross-division Big Ten games, this is one that may not resonate with many fans. Wisconsin and Maryland are heading in completely opposite directions, as the Badgers have won four in a row after opening conference play with a loss to Iowa, and the Terrapins are on a five-game losing streak. Plus Wisconsin blew away Maryland in 2014 as shown above.
However, just when it seems like teams are figured out, they usually go and surprise us. It’s college football, after all. Let’s count to five and preview this battle that spans across the width of the new conference footprint.
1 Burning Question: Can Maryland get anything done against this Wisconsin defense?
Wisconsin has struggled to blow out games this season because the offense has been dealing with a significant number of injuries to important players like Rob Wheelwright and Corey Clement, among others. However, scoring 25 to 30 points a week has been more than enough thanks to one of the best defenses in the country. Wisconsin leads the NCAA in scoring defense at 11.0 points per game, and this team ranks third nationally in total defense with 267.1 yards per game.
This past weekend, Wisconsin broke past 30 points for only the second time all season thanks to the healthy returns of Joel Stave and Corey Clement against Rutgers. Maryland has a comparable defense, which means the Terrapins will likely need to score some big points to keep up in this game. But that will be easier said than done.
Unlike Rutgers, which struggled without WR Leonte Caroo in the rain of Madison, Maryland has struggled to find much rhythm and consistency on offense. Part of that has been the lack of solid quarterback play, but Perry Hills has been better for this team since taking over against Ohio State a few weeks ago. Hills does make mistakes, however, and Wisconsin will look to take advantage to add to his already 10 interceptions on the season.
There’s no question Wisconsin will score some points in this game. But it is highly unclear if Maryland will do the same.
2 Key Stats
— +2 and -16. That is the turnover margin on the season for Wisconsin and Maryland, respectively. When previewing Maryland’s game against Iowa last weekend, the turnover margin was one of the key stats. It turned out to be critical in that game as Iowa pushed Maryland even farther into the basement of the conference rankings in this. The Terrapins have thrown an incredible 23 interceptions in eight games, and that has helped many games snowball against the overmatched Terrapins. If that trend continues, Wisconsin will not be challenged.
— 25.1 and 19.1 yards. That’s the kickoff return average and the punt return average for Maryland. If there is anything that can keep Maryland in the game, it is special teams and specifically, Will Likely. Likely has generated three touchdowns in the return game, and this is the type of game where such a play could make a difference in keeping it close. As long is Likely is not worn out from playing some offensive snaps and all defensive snaps, and he was not last week on a 4th quarter touchdown return, this is someone Wisconsin should never kick towards, just for the sake of playing conservative.
3 Key Players
Corey Clement, Wisconsin RB — Heading into last weekend, the best running back on Wisconsin’s roster had 16 rushing yards on the season thanks to an injury aggravated during the opener against Alabama. In his first action back, he averaged 10.5 yards per rush in the blowout of Rutgers, earning an easy 115 yards to work back in the groove. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin’s newly discovered balance on offense led to about twice as many points.
Vince Biegel, Wisconsin LB — Biegel’s hair (mullets and otherwise) is a thing of absolute beauty, even if you cannot see it normally underneath his helmet. While Joe Schobert has received many accolades for leading this defense in sacks and tackles for loss, his linebacker mate Biegel has also put up great numbers on the season with 5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. With offenses paying special attention to Schobert, look for Biegel to take advantage and make some big plays against the Maryland offense this week.
Will Likely, Maryland KR/PR/CB — Anytime Maryland is on the television, you always have to look for Likely, even on offense where he is taking some snaps now at receiver. Regardless of who the coach has been, this staff has understood that the best thing that can happen on this team is getting the ball to Likely in open space and letting him make some magic. There are other players who could cause some issues for Wisconsin, but none come close to the threat Likely presents.
4 Bold Prognostications
Corey Clement goes for 100 yards again but doesn’t play more than 2.5 quarters: Wisconsin is still working Clement up to speed, and there’s no reason to risk his health in games that should not challenge the Badgers. Accordingly, I predict the Badgers will race out to a quick start and a big lead in the first half, including a couple big runs by Clement to get him over 100 yards for a second-straight game. That will allow Wisconsin to stop playing Clement at halftime or sometime in the third quarter, which is a good move heading into the closing stretch.
Vince Biegel generates a couple of sacks against Perry Hills: With the prediction for a fast start for Wisconsin, that will force Maryland to try and throw the ball to get back into the game. Not only will that likely lead to a couple of interceptions, this will also provide a great opportunity for the linebackers of Wisconsin to rush the quarterback and make some big plays. Schobert has been the dominant force, but this week feels like a good time for Biegel to break out and have the best game against the Terrapins.
Wisconsin rushes for more yards than it passes: Joel Stave has led a dynamic passing attack thanks to the struggles keeping running backs healthy in 2015. That has led to a unique situation for this football program where the offense has passed for an average of 100 yards more per game than the rushing yards accumulated. But with the running backs becoming more healthy now and one starting receiver Rob Wheelwright out due to injury, this is the week Wisconsin returns to normal Wisconsin run-first football.
Will Likely is shut out of the end zone: Wisconsin has watched plenty of tape on Likely, including the 4th quarter touchdown return last week against Iowa. The Badgers have one of the better kick coverage units, but I expect the strategy to change to avoid defending any returns in this game. Meanwhile, Wisconsin also should not make any big mistakes like a pick-six, which means Likely will not reach the end zone for any game-changing plays.
5 Staff Predictions: (overall season record; record against the spread)
Andy: Wisconsin 45-10 (68-17 overall; 37-47 ATS)
Dave: Wisconsin 31-7 (69-16 overall; 44-39 ATS)
Greg: Wisconsin 37-13 (62-23 overall; 47-36 ATS)
Matt: Wisconsin 38-17 (68-17 overall; 50-33 ATS)
Phil: Wisconsin 31-10 (23-9 overall; 11-18 ATS) *joined in Week 5
10 Things to know about Wisconsin vs. Maryland
Let’s take a look at the 10 things to know about the Wisconsin-Maryland matchup for Week 8.
Saturday marks the second half of the college football season for both the Wisconsin Badgers and Maryland Terrapins. UW comes in with an undefeated record, while the Terps are still searching for their first Big Ten victory of the season.
With this game in Madison, do the Badgers have a distinct advantage? What do the numbers tell us about Wisconsin’s chances of remaining undefeated after Saturday’s contest? Can the Terps get a Big Ten era-defining win on the road?
We break it all down in our weekly look behind the numbers. Here are 10 thing to know about the matchup between the Badgers and Terps.
1: That is Wisconsin’s rank in red zone touchdown conversion by opponents
UW is leading the country in fewest opponent red zone opportunities ending in touchdowns, as just 5 of 19 red zone possessions by Badgers opponents have ended in six points. That’s 26.3 percent, and UW leads TCU by nearly five percentage points. Only Penn State’s four touchdowns against are better than TCU and Wisconsin’s five so far on the year. The Badgers are also sixth nationally in total red zone scores by opponents at just 63.1 percent.
2: That is the number of Maryland players in the national top 25 of the all-purpose yards rankings
The Terps have two of the most dangerous offensive players in the country heading in to this game, as running back Ty Johnson and wide receiver D.J. Moore both rank inside the top 25 for all-purpose yards nationally. Johnson ranks seventh nationally with 166.7 all-purpose yards/g, while Moore ranks 22nd (135.0/g). Wisconsin counters with only one player in the top 25 nationally, as running back Jonathan Taylor sits sixth with an average of 167.2 yards per game.
3: That is the number of games it has been since Maryland last threw an interception.
While the Terps may have already gone through three starters at quarterback, third-stringer Max Bortenschlager has at least been smart with the football as a starter. Maryland hasn’t thrown an INT in three games and that is the longest such streak by a Terps quarterback since 2009. Bortenschlager is also coming up on an impressive streak of attempts without an interception, having gone 83 attempts since his last INT against UCF. Wisconsin comes in to the game as one of the best defenses against quarterbacks in the Big Ten. UW has nine interceptions, tied with Penn State at the top of the B1G.
4: That is the number of times an opponent has scored on 11 turnovers by the Badgers
Wisconsin’s defensive prowess is well-known by now. However, here’s an example of just how salty UW’s defense has been. Just 4 of 11 turnovers in “sudden change” situations have resulted in any points at all so far this season. The Badgers defense has allowed just two touchdowns and two field goals to date — a total of 20 points — on the season. It’s been a huge help in swinging momentum right back in the Badgers’ favor.
5: That is the number of turnovers Maryland has given up this season
Not only have the Terps done well to protect the ball, they’ve been aggressive in taking the ball away. Maryland has given up just five turnovers and taken the ball away 10 times already this season, giving them a +5 turnover margin. That mark is tied for third in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the Badgers have coughed up the ball a ridiculous 11 times on the season. So, this is an area to watch if you’re Wisconsin.
6: That is the number of tackles for loss last weekend against Northwestern
One of the strong points of D.J. Durkin-led defenses leading up to his appointment as Maryland head coach was the ability to attack opposing offenses in their backfields. It hasn’t been easy this season for the Terps, but they showed promise last weekend with 6.0 tackles for loss. It was the most since 9.0 against Towson earlier this season. Coming in to this game, Maryland sits eighth in the Big Ten, averaging just 5.8 tackles for loss this season.
7: Wisconsin enters this game with a seven-game win streak
Yes, the Badgers are 6-0 on the season, but they have won seven-straight including the Cotton Bowl victory last season. It is the longest active win streak in the Big Ten, and also ties Alabama for the fourth-longest streak in the country. Only South Florida (11), Miami (10) and Georgia (8) have longer active streaks.
8: Maryland has played the 8th toughest schedule in the country to date
Few teams in the country have had to deal with the gauntlet that Maryland has to date. So far the six opponents faced are a combined 21-10 (.680). Should things hold out, Maryland could end up with the toughest schedule in the country by season’s end.
9: That is Wisconsin’s defensive rank in passer efficiency on the national level
A lot has been made about an efficient season at quarterback for the Badgers, but defensively they’ve been equally impressive. UW has held opponents to a passer efficiency rating of just 104.4, good for ninth in the country. Wisconsin sits just fourth in the Big Ten in that mark though, as Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State all lead the Badgers.
10: Jonathan Taylor needs 14 yards on 10 carries or fewer to break the Badgers freshman fastest to 1,000 yards mark
Wisconsin’s freshman sensation ended last week just 14 yards short of becoming the only true freshman in the history of college football to rush for 1,000 yards in just six games. Instead, he has a good chance to break James White’s freshman record at Wisconsin. He just needs to get 14 yards on 10 carries or less and he’ll break White’s record of 1,000 yards on 138 carries as a redshirt freshman. Should Taylor get that mark, he’d also join former Badgers running back P.J. Hill as the fastest true freshmen to 1,000 yards (along with Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, Adrian Peterson and Jamario Thomas) in terms of games, at seven.