No. 11 Penn State Football is back in the winning column this week, after narrowly avoiding Indiana in a game that was closer than it should have been. A loss to IU would’ve been a crushing end to Penn State’s College Football Playoff hopes, but, thankfully the Nittany Lions buckled down in the second half to win the game.
Penn State has no room for error, left after losing to Ohio State. That much is certain. Another Big Ten road contest for PSU will be a tough matchup with the Terrapins who have a frisky squad this year.
Led by Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland is coming in at 5-3 after a 5-0 start and losing three straight in all of October. Maryland’s offense can score in bunches, and Penn State has to be ready for the deep ball all game.
Penn State Football is nearly double-digit favorites in this game, but they can’t take Maryland lightly.
James Franklin‘s team hasn’t played a clean game in three weeks now and that UMass blowout feels like a long time ago.
PSU has had too good of a start to the 2023 campaign to let it go to waste, righting the ship against Maryland is a good place to start.
Two reasons for optimism and one reason to worry for Penn State Football at Maryland.
Reason No. 1 to be Optimistic: PSU has the better OL and DL in the matchup
If Penn State is to win this game, it’s going to happen upfront on both sides of the ball.
Both the offensive and defensive lines for PSU are going to be a very tough challenge for Maryland to match their physicality, size, and pedigree.
Penn State should be able to run the ball this week and set the tone early. If they can establish their identity with the ground game in the 1st quarter, State’s offense will open up the play action for the rest of the game.
Quarterback Drew Allar is in total cruise control when he has the run game clicking with the pass game, both with quick hitters and getting guys open in space and longer developing routes.
On defense, Penn State may play a more conservative style due to Tagovailoa’s uncanny ability to grip it and rip it downfield quickly.
Taulia plays like his brother and often doesn’t give the defense enough time to even get to him before throwing the ball, he has a very quick release and the PSU cornerbacks have to stay on their toes all game. They should be able to win with man coverage matchups vs Maryland and as the game goes on look for a sack or QB hit lead to an immediate turnover.
Reason No. 1 to Worry: Maryland can light up the scoreboard and they are desperate for a win.
Maryland started off the season as red hot as they’d like.
The Terrapins didn’t score under 31 points once in September, including hitting over 40 twice and 38 points another two times. They have shown they can score in a variety of ways and they need this game to stop the bleeding from October.
Maryland beat Michigan State and IU by a combined 49 points before narrowly losing to Northwestern and Illinois by 9 points combined the last two weeks. Maryland’s season has already been a tale of two months going 4-0 in September, averaging nearly 40 PPG vs October where they went 0-3 and averaged just 23 PPG.
Which Maryland team is Penn State going to see this week? Expect somewhere in the middle of those two months’ statistics.
Reason No. 2 For Optimism: Cutting down mental mistakes and limting turnovers will be the priority in this game.
For the last two weeks, Penn State has played a sloppy brand of football.
That includes on all three sides of the ball, there’s no other way around it. Against both Ohio State and Indiana, PSU has had some significant untimely penalties occur on offense, defense, and special teams.
The Lions have had touchdowns, sacks and turnovers on defense, and first downs on offense all wiped away the last two weeks because of penalties. The last thing any Franklin-led squad wants to be known as is sloppy or undisciplined.
This team isn’t there yet, but if a third straight subpar performance filled with self-inflicted wounds happens, the question will only loom larger.
This is not in Penn State’s DNA to be so uncharacteristically lazy with the football or executing on important plays. They could have scored on a fumble recovery for a touchdown vs OSU had it not been for a hold on Marvin Harrison Jr., they muffed a punt vs IU, and they had big punt returns wiped away for unnecessary blocking flags after the returner took off.
This can’t keep happening again and I expect PSU to play a clean, turnover-free game this week to put this issue to bed.