Undefeated Maryland opens the home portion of its Big Ten Conference schedule Friday night with a matchup against No. 5 Iowa in arguably the biggest Maryland Stadium game of the Terrapins’ Big Ten tenure.
“We’re sitting here 4-0 with a great opportunity against one of our top teams in our league,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “We’ve earned this opportunity.”
The game is Maryland’s fourth all-time against the Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten), who enter College Park riding a 10-game win streak. Iowa is the highest-ranked team to visit Maryland Stadium since a fourth-ranked West Virginia team in September 2007.
It’s also Maryland’s second Friday night Big Ten game in three weeks following a Sept. 17 win at Illinois, something Locksley intimated indicates a bias against the “new kids on the block” Terrapins.
“At some point, maybe we’ll get full membership to where we may not have to do this,” Locksley said.
On the injury front, freshman linebacker Branden Jennings is a game-time decision to play Friday, according to Locksley. The four-star recruit left last Saturday’s win over Kent State in the first half with an apparent leg injury, but Locksley said he didn’t sustain any structural damage.
Sophomore linebacker Ruben Hyppolite, who also left the Kent State game early, should be able to play, Locksley said.
Maryland will need quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s conference-leading passing game to continue if it’s to upset the Hawkeyes, who boast the Big Ten’s stingiest defense, allowing only 11 points per game. Locksley also stressed that eliminating mistakes — like Maryland’s season-high nine penalties for 120 yards in the Kent State win — is an even bigger key for victory.
“When we eliminate the self-inflicted wounds, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good on offense,” Locksley said, “and we feel like we’ve got a quarterback that can lead us.”
Tagovailoa is one of Maryland’s many Big Ten statistical leaders, with 1,340 yards, 10 touchdowns, and a 75.5 percent completion percentage — all conference highs.
His top target, wide receiver Dontay Demus, is another conference leader with 446 total receiving yards which is tops in the Big Ten and 11th nationally.
Locksley will be counting on Maryland’s defensive front to continue its success in pressuring the quarterback. The Terrapins boast a Big Ten-best 16 sacks in their first four games, the fifth-most among all Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
They will need that pressure against Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras. The junior has been under center for the entirety of the Hawkeyes’ 10-game win streak, throwing for 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
A win would be Maryland’s first over a top-10 team since a 42-35 upset of No. 8 Boston College in November 2007. For that to happen again, Locksley is counting on the Terrapins faithful to give Maryland the edge.
“I have the expectation that our fans will be here, they’ll be loud, they’ll have an impact, and they’ll give us the necessary energy to go out and play well,” Locksley said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them do that.”