One last stats matchup to close out the year.
By now, most folks are familiar with Nevada’s strengths and weaknesses (and very familiar with Maryland’s). So as both teams travel to Boise this morning, here’s a good look at what everyone will be up against in Tuesday’s Humanitarian Bowl.
* Maryland rush offense vs. Nevada rush defense: The Terrapins rank 72nd in the country with 134.5 yards a game. The Wolf Pack ranks third nationally while yielding 74.5 yards a game.
This, to say the least, is a bit of a problem for Maryland. And when you consider the Terps averaged 103.1 yards rushing in conference play, it looks even more dramatic.
Make absolutely no mistake: When the Terps couldn’t run (with the exception of the Clemson game), they couldn’t win. It happened against Virginia Tech, Florida State and Boston College, and if they can’t crack 100 yards against the stingy Wolf Pack it will probably happen again.
* Maryland pass offense vs. Nevada pass defense: The Terrapins rank 65th in the country with 207.4 yards a game. The Wolf Pack ranks 119th —- dead last —- nationally while yielding 321.1 yards a game.
Here’s the path to victory for Maryland, at least offensively. Involve Darrius Heyward-Bey. Involve Torrey Smith. Involve Danny Oquendo, Ronnie Tyler, Isaiah Williams, Dan Gronkowski and anyone else who can catch the ball. Maybe this will be the best way to get Da’Rel Scott going.
It’s nice to say ‘Oh, Nevada played Missouri and Texas Tech, and that’s why its pass defense is so bad.’ Those games took place in the first three weeks; in the nine games since, Nevada yielded 312.4 passing yards a game.
The Terps need some semblance of a running game to keep things open for the pass. But even without it, there should still be some big gains out there for Chris Turner. Every major-college opponent threw for at least 250 yards against Nevada, and Maryland shouldn’t be an exception.
* Nevada rush offense vs. Maryland rush defense: The Wolf Pack ranks second in the country with 291.4 yards a game. The Terps rank 73rd while yielding 149.4 yards a game.
Another not-so-promising number for the Terps, who almost have to figure this will be like playing a team like Navy that will get 200 yards rushing on a bad day. Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua both ran for 1,000 yards this season, so odds are they’ll get their yardage one way or the other.
Maryland’s front seven had its moments this season, but was also stampeded at inopportune moments (think first half against Clemson, all night at Virginia Tech). If the Terps can somehow slow either Kaepernick or Taua down, they’ll be in good shape. But that’s a mighty big if.
* Nevada pass offense vs. Maryland pass defense: The Wolf Pack ranks 52nd nationally with 219.2 yards a game. The Terps rank 57th while yielding 205.6 yards a game.
It’s been written here plenty of times all season, but it’s worth repeating one last time. If you could somehow remove the fourth quarter of the California game —- garbage time when the Golden Bears threw for 239 yards and turned a 28-6 game into a 35-27 final —- Maryland’s pass defense would look a lot better.
As in, it would be yielding 185.7 yards a game. And that would rank 32nd nationally, which would be pretty good.
Meanwhile, five of the 11 major-college teams Nevada faced had pass defenses ranked in the bottom quarter of the country —- Texas Tech (91st), Utah State (98th), Idaho (106th), Louisiana Tech (116th) and Missouri (117th).
So Maryland’s pass defense is probably better than its numbers indicate. And Nevada’s passing game probably isn’t quite as good as its stats suggest, since it got to exploit some bad defenses along the way and is still middle of the road through the air.
Overall, it seems pretty clear that if the Terps can minimize Nevada’s advantages in the running game, they’ll have a decent chance to leave Boise with a victory. But if the Wolf Pack controls the line of scrimmage on both sides with their work on the ground, then it’s probably going to be a long flight home for Maryland.
—- Patrick Stevens