Penn State Preview: Maryland

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Each week throughout the 2019 season, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays. 

Game details: No. 12/11 Penn State @ Maryland, 8:00 p.m., broadcast on Fox Sports 1. 

Venue: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): Kick-off temperature of 73 degrees, mostly clear skies. 

The line: Penn State – 6.5 

Last week: Both teams enter this Week 5 matchup coming off a bye. 

All-time series: Penn State leads 39-2-1.  

Last meeting (2018): Penn State dominated Maryland, 38-3, on Senior Day a season ago. Trace McSorley opened the scoring on Penn State’s first possession of the game, running into the end zone from three yards out. McSorley capped off his home career for the Nittany Lions with 230 yards and a touchdown through the air, plus an additional 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. 

Throwback classic (1993): Since Penn State scored 79 points in its Week 1 win over Idaho, take a look back at another 70-point showing for the Nittany Lions in their 70-7 thrashing of Maryland in 1993. 

Overview: The Terrapins have come down to earth a bit after a scorching start to the season. Maryland opened with blowout wins over Howard and then-No. 21 Syracuse, which earned the Terrapins a spot in the Top-25. They then put up a dud in Week 3 at Temple, falling 20-17. Penn State, meanwhile, crushed Idaho in Week 1 and produced an excellent second half to down Buffalo 45-13. Week 3 saw the Nittany Lions hold off Pitt 17-10. Add all that up, and it’s really difficult to predict how Friday night’s matchup is going to unfold. Which version of each team will we see? 

Penn State wins if: The offensive line gives Sean Clifford time to throw downfield. Clifford was under duress a lot against Pitt, and turned in an uneven performance because of it (14-of-30 for 222 yards and zero touchdowns). He’s going to have to have a much better day connecting with the likes of KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth, who was held to just one catch against Pitt, if Penn State is going to get the road dub. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Maryland wins if: The Maryland rushing attack has a big day. The Terrapins want to run the football and run it often. Like Penn State, they have a rotation of running backs they like to use throughout the game. Anthony McFarland remains their bell cow and most explosive weapon out of the backfield despite the rotation. If he and the rest of the running backs get going, it will open up the passing game for Josh Jackson, and make life really difficult on the Penn State defense. 

Count On: A sea of white amidst the Maryland “blackout” in the stands. Penn State fans have been encouraged to wear white. With only about a four-hour drive separating the two campuses, and with plenty of Penn State alumni and fans in the Washington, D.C. area, there should be a heavy Nittany Lion presence throughout the stadium. 

Keep an eye on: Yetur Gross-Matos. Gross-Matos blew up the Maryland rushing attack in the 2018 matchup between the two teams, doing a great job of setting the edge on multiple occasions and getting into the backfield with 3.5 tackles-for-loss. Penn State is going to need him at his best in this year’s game, both in disrupting the ground game and getting after Josh Jackson. After being held without a sack or a tackle against Pitt, I expect Gross-Matos to bounce back and shine in Week 5. 

Trivia tidbit: Penn State hasn’t given up a touchdown to Maryland in the last two meetings, crushing the Terrapins 66-3 in 2017 and winning 38-3 a season ago. As good as the Nittany Lion defense is, I expect that to change Friday night. 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 38, Maryland 30 

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 27, Maryland 23

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