Game Day: Nebraska vs. Maryland

Persistent playmakers

Some senior classes have their own stories and fade into the ether of names and numbers. But this senior class shares its story with a fan base — a whole state. In four or five years, these seniors have lived a full life.

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2-Minute Drill by Rich Kaipust

Nebraska rush offense vs. Maryland rush defense

The Huskers bounced back some last week with 157 yards vs. Minnesota, and again did some of their best work in the fourth quarter (81 yards on 14 attempts). I-back Terrell Newby hit some holes fast and looked good as he went for 85 yards. Nebraska likely had to think about limiting the quarterback run in its game plan this week because of Tommy Armstrong’s status, but Maryland is allowing 228.7 yards a game on the ground.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Maryland pass defense

It’s the final home game for NU senior receivers Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore, who have combined for 272 catches. The passes also will be coming from a senior, either Armstrong or Ryker Fyfe. Either way, the pass game should set up well if Nebraska can run the ball successfully, and Armstrong was a much-improved 19 of 27 with no interceptions a week ago. Maryland has intercepted just four passes all season.

Maryland rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

NU gave up a 31-yard run against Minnesota, but the Gophers averaged just 1.6 yards on their other 33 rushing attempts. That followed the Huskers allowing 223 yards to Wisconsin and 238 to Ohio State. Maryland will work the perimeter, and Ty Johnson is a dangerous back who is averaging 9.4 yards per carry in Big Ten games. The Terps rank third in the Big Ten at 213.7 yards per game and average 5.0 per carry.

Maryland pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Perry Hills has been good when healthy, but shoulder problems have not only plagued the senior but left him questionable this week. Nebraska ranks No. 24 nationally in pass efficiency defense and its secondary has accounted for 16 interceptions, and overall been pretty steady with the exception of the Ohio State game. Maryland also has been having problems protecting its quarterback.

Special teams

With its own troubles in the punting game, Nebraska better be careful against a Maryland unit that has blocked two kicks this season. The Terps also have been fairly consistent with their own punt team behind former Australian rules football player Wade Lees. Maryland lost a Lou Groza Award winner in Brad Craddock, but kicker Adam Greene has made 8 of 11 field goals as his replacement. The biggest edge in return games is NU on kickoffs.

Intangibles

After going minus-18 on turnover margin a year ago, Maryland is minus-6 this season. It also is going through a tough six-week stretch that has seen the Terps drop from 4-0 to 5-5. Nebraska will have a motivational edge as it gives a send-off to a big senior class and tries to stay in the Big Ten West hunt. The experience gap between the two head coaches also is quite large, with Mike Riley closing in on his 200th career game and D.J. Durkin finishing his first season.

Key matchup: Maryland offensive line vs. the Nebraska pass rush

You can bet that Nebraska defenders know about the Terrapins allowing 32 sacks through 10 games. The Maryland offensive line was replacing three starters this season, is fairly young and had to break in a new system. Either with blitzes or four-man rushes, look for the Huskers to consistently spend some time in the Terps’ backfield.

Our take

Nebraska got its wheels straightened out last week and now catches a Maryland team that went off the road once the competition stiffened. The Huskers also have that wear-down thing going for them this season, in case Maryland is hanging around in the second half. NU hasn’t been afraid to talk about shooting for a 10-win regular season, so it needs this one before heading to Iowa City.

Our prediction: Nebraska 34, Maryland 21

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