he Bowling Green Falcons are heading to College Park to face the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday. Hustle Belt spoke with Dave Tucker (@TestudoDave), co-manager at SB Nation site TestudoTimes.com. Dave gives us his insight into another MAC vs. Big Ten match-up this weekend.
Hustle Belt: So what has life in the Big Ten been like so far and what do you think it will it do for the Terrapin program long term?
Testudo Times: So far, Maryland has held their own. They did fairly well last season in their inaugural Big Ten campaign, including wins at Michigan and at Penn State. Long term, the move should and already is providing Maryland with the financial resources to build their football program. The biggest component of that is the new indoor football facility they're working on, which will turn Cole Field House into one of the nation's best college football facilities.
The old adage is that the biggest improvement for a football team comes between the first and second games. What was the consensus on how the opener went against Richmond last weekend?
Maryland did a lot of things well last week, most notably running the ball. They ran for 341 yards on 45 cares and scored 3 touchdowns. The Terps' return game was also something that went extremely well for Maryland as junior Will Likely racked up 296 return yards and scored a TD. Quarterback Perry Hills struggled at QB going 12/21 for 138 yards. He did throw two touchdowns but also tossed an interception.
Bowling Green has a very young defense and last week Tennessee ran all over them. Do the Terrapins have the offensive line and running backs to pound on the Falcons defense?
Maryland has placed an emphasis on building both their offensive and defensive lines to compete with the big boys in the B1G. This season, they're finally starting to see the fruits of their labor on the offensive line, despite five-star tackle Damian Prince not starting, mostly due to injury. But even without Prince, Maryland still did a great job running the ball last week against Richmond. Three different rushers ran for at least 70 yards last week, including Brandon Ross, who compiled 150 yards on just 18 carries while scoring a TD. Maryland has three solid backs that they can rotate in and out throughout a game, keeping each of them fresh. They could pose a big problem for a Bowling Green team that struggled against Tennessee.
The Falcons offense put up 30 on Tennessee and probably left another 14 points or so on the field that they should have scored. What do you expect from the Maryland defense against a Falcon team that likes to play fast?
I watched a lot of film from their game last week against Tennessee and was amazed at the number of times they took shots of 20+ yards down the field. They've got solid play makers at QB, WR and RB and should be able to make some plays against Maryland. The Terps are transitioning over from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. They recorded four sacks last week against Richmond as their defensive line did a good job getting to the Spiders' QB. Maryland has a pretty solid secondary, but Bowling Green's ability to run that zone read and couple it with a play action pass deep could cause the Terps some headaches on Saturday.
William Likely had a day returning punts last week for the Terrapins, and Bowling Green couldn't cover a punt to save their lives against Tennessee. What do you expect there and do you see any reason why the Falcons would give Likely a chance to return one this week?
Last week, everyone kept waiting for Richmond to stop kicking the ball to Likely but they never did and he made them pay for it. I'd expect Bowling Green to try some directional punting to keep the ball out of his hands. If he does get the ball, he's always a threat to score.
Finally, if this game comes down to a field goal, we have two pretty kickers going against each other. The Falcon's Tyler Tate is already the school's all-time leader in field goals made and is on the Lou Groza Award watch list. The Terrapins' Brad Craddock won that award last year. How good is he?
Craddock is really, really good. As you mentioned, he won the Lou Groza award last year, given to the nation's best kicker. He's gotten so good that when he actually missed a field goal and extra point against Richmond, I think most fans were just astonished. He's worked closely with former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover to perfect his kicking and it really paid off last season. Despite his early struggles, I'd expect more of the same from him this year.