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2018 MAC Football Preview: Maryland Terrapins @ Bowling Green Falcons

Bowling Green hopes Maryland strolls into town with hangover after a remarkable Week 1 victory.

Bowling Green v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Bowling Green and Maryland both entered their 2018 kickoff games as double-digit underdogs. Despite this status, the Falcons and the Terrapins managed to strike the iron in the opening minutes and jump out to promising leads.

In the Pacific Northwest, Bowling Green forced two three-and-outs on the Oregon offense and converted those stops into a 10-0 first quarter advantage. Meanwhile at FedExField, Maryland caught Texas sleepwalking through much of the first half, jumping out to a 24-7 lead before the Longhorns’ offense finally regrouped.

Despite Oregon and Texas comebacks, only one team would hang onto its lead. Maryland (1-0) defeated Texas 34-29 in Landover, MD, while Bowling Green (0-1) couldn’t match Oregon’s offensive prowess, falling 58-24.

Although technically coming off of a neutral site game, the Terrapins pack their bags for the first time this season for a non-conference matchup in Bowling Green, OH. The Falcons, desperate for wins in the Mike Jinks era, will serve as upset-hungry hosts.

Maryland is still operating under the rule of interim head coach Matt Canada. The former LSU offensive coordinator took over for D.J. Durkin in mid-August, after Durkin was placed on administrative leave following an investigation surrounding the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

In an emotional game for Terrapins’ faithful, Canada carved his first game as a win into the program record books. Maryland finished an abysmal 4-8 after a remarkable 2-0 start a year ago, but with highly-touted recruits and healthy quarterbacks on their side, a different story could be written about the 2018 team.


Players to Watch

Kasim Hill, QB, Maryland

Hill, along with Maryland’s other quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, suffered an early-season ACL tear in September 2017. Hill saw action in three games last year, completing 18-of-21 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Still labeled as a freshman, he has yet to commit a turnover during his time as a Terrapin. Hill played decently last Saturday, throwing a 65-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to provide a spark to Maryland’s offense.

Jeshaun Jones, WR, Maryland

It’s not really possible to start a college career in a better manner than true freshman Jeshaun Jones did versus Texas. Jones scored the first Maryland touchdown of the year on a 28-yard run. Then, he demonstrated his receiving abilities by leaving Longhorn defenders in the dust on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Hill. Finally, Jones completed a rare hat trick by throwing a touchdown pass to Taivon Jacobs on a trick play in the second quarter. The last player to accomplish this feat as a freshman was Marcus Mariota in 2012. Jones has already established himself as Maryland’s versatile weapon, and Bowling Green must always be cognizant of what the receiver’s role is on each play.

Antoine Brooks Jr., SS, Maryland

Brooks primarily lines up at safety, but he hits like a linebacker. The strong safety recorded 11 tackles in the upset over Texas with seven qualifying as solo hits. He’s a reliable open-field tackler and the aggressive playmaker has been quite the turnover forcer. Last season, he had two interceptions, one forced fumble, and returned a blocked kick for a touchdown in the opener, also against Texas.


Jarret Doege, QB, Bowling Green

It was a solid outing for Doege in Eugene. He threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns and was the leader of a 73-yard drive in the game’s early minutes. However, Doege, who usually avoids turnovers, was responsible for three on Week 1. While down 14-10, first half fumble shook things in Oregon’s direction as the Ducks recovered and scored a quick touchdown to lead by two possessions. Doege later threw two errant interceptions, including a pick-six on the opening drive of the second half.

Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green

Scott Miller was one of the conference’s top wideouts two years ago when finishing with 10 touchdowns on 968 yards. With inconsistent quarterback play in 2017 and added depth in the receiving corps, Miller’s production slightly fell off. But he returned to stardom on Week 1 with 166 receiving yards and two touchdowns on an incredible 13 receptions. The 5’10” scored on a 6-yard pass on the second possession and would later reach the end zone on a 63-yard connection with Doege. Texas found some success with the deep ball against Maryland, so that’s a potential strategy Mike Jinks’ offense could implement with Miller on Saturday.


Keys to the Game

Maryland wins if the Terrapins show up offensively for the second-straight week. The Terps lost eight games last year, mainly because of the inability to move the ball downfield. They were often playing with a third-string quarterback. Now that Hill is healthy and the offense gelled together against Texas, it seems as if the Terrapins are bound to maintain the promising season they wished to have after Week 1 last year. To avoid in upset on the road, Maryland can’t afford to let Doege’s air attack beat its cornerbacks. There was a stretch during the second and third quarters of the Texas game where Maryland struggled crossing the line of scrimmage and the Longhorns scored 22-straight as a result. That cannot happen for an extended period of time this Saturday.

Bowling Green wins if the offense is clicking on all cylinders. The Falcons are used to hot starts, but the offense must continue a scoring rampage that prolongs past the first quarter. Andrew Clair ran for 113 yards on 25 carries on Saturday, so another strong ground performance is a requirement — an aspect of the game Maryland’s defense crushed Texas on last week. Also, Doege deep balls are a must. This needs to be a high-risk, high-reward game for the Falcons in order to pull off the upset. Bowling Green defeated Maryland as recently as the Dino Babers era, but the Falcons have trended downward since while the Terps appear to be on the upswing.


Game Notes

Time and Date: Saturday, September 8, 6:00 p.m. EST

Network: ESPN+

Venue: Doyt Perry Stadium (24,000) — Bowling Green, OH

Spread: Maryland (-16)

ESPN FPI Predictor: Maryland has 88.1% chance to win

Series history: Bowling Green leads series, 1-0

There are still members on the Bowling Green roster that were part of Dino Babers’ squad that knocked off Maryland, 48-27. The contest took place in College Park, while this year’s rematch moves to the home of the Falcons. Quarterback Matt Johnson tore apart the Maryland defense for 491 passing yards and six touchdowns in the three-score victory. Wide receiver Roger Lewis also shined that morning with 200 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 15 receptions — a similar stat-line to Scott Miller’s Week 1 performance.

Doege must play the role of Johnson, and Miller must play the role of Lewis in order for the Falcons to claim a 2-0 lead against the Big Ten opponent.


Prediction

Similar to last Saturday evening, Bowling Green keeps the score interesting for a while before the favored Terrapins pull ahead. In the Mike Jinks era, Bowling Green has not beaten a single FBS team that has attained a winning record or qualified for bowl season. The Falcons often struggle when outmatched by their opponent, and Maryland’s offense should have no problem dropping above 40 on a defense that hasn’t seen much improvement over the course of the past three seasons. Maryland’s passing game will one-up Bowling Green’s, and the Terrapins will coast to 2-0 after a relatively easy road victory.

Prediction: Maryland 43, Bowling Green 28