Maryland opened its season with a stunning win at Texas, but a rash of quarterback injuries have kept Maryland from remaining consistent. The Terps stand at 3-2 and 1-1 in the Big Ten, but there are major question marks from the team that looked so impressive in Week 1.
1. Maryland could be down to its fourth starting quarterback
Maryland started the season with Tyrrell Pigrome at quarterback. He tore his ACL in the third quarter against Texas and was relieved by true freshman Kasim Hill. Hill, an electrifying athlete, looked really good. Then he tore his ACL early on against Central Florida. Maryland then lost that game comfortably, only to bounce back on the road against Minnesota with third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager.
But unfortunately, Bortenschlager took a nasty hit against Ohio State and could be out for the Northwestern game with a head injury and general “That really, really hurt” Syndrome. Bortenschlager wasn’t spectacular, but he was competent, and his absence would be yet another crushing blow for Maryland. He can make all necessary throws and has good control of the offense. If Bortenschlager isn’t cleared to play, the Terps would be left with Caleb Henderson, their last scholarship quarterback. He has also spent much of the past year recuperating from injury. It’ll be very tough for Maryland to adjust to another quarterback for the third time this season.
UPDATE (10:12 a.m. CST): Word on the street says that Bortenschlager suit up against Northwestern.
2. The offense can be very explosive.
Obviously, the caveat is that we have no idea what the offense will look like if Maryland starts yet another quarterback. Maryland only had 66 yards against Ohio State, although that can be excused, kinda. Maryland still ranks 17th in the country in explosiveness, according to Bill Connelly’s stat profile. While some of that is buoyed by Hill and Pigrome’s work in the first three games, Maryland still has the skill position talent to make its offense work. D.J. Moore has totaled 414 yards and 5 touchdowns to start the year and could have a field day against Northwestern’s secondary. Running back Ty Johnson is averaging 8.1 yards per carry. Johnson also had a kickoff return touchdown against Ohio State. Northwestern’s defense won’t getting much of a rest after limiting Saquon Barkley for much of the game last Saturday.
3. The defense needs some work.
Maryland’s defense ranks 114th in the country in points allowed (33.8 per game). This is not the best defensive stat ever, but it shows that Maryland’s defense needs some work. The Terps are currently 128th in passing downs sack rate, which will be music to Northwestern fans’ ears. While their standard down sack rate is better and there is talent on the front seven (Brett Kulka comes to mind), Maryland’s run defense has been mostly mediocre against quality offenses (250 rushing yards allowed to UCF and 281 allowed to Ohio State).
Maryland also lost Jesse Aniebonam, its No. 1 pass rusher, for the season in the Texas game, which almost seems like a Pyrrhic victory given the number of injuries. For once, Northwestern’s offense will go up against a defense that does not have the capability to take advantage of the Wildcats’ weak points for four quarters. That’s encouraging, I guess.