PHOTO: USA Today Sports
Maryland Terrapins (7-5) vs Marshall Thundering Herd (9-4)
Friday, Dec 27th @ 2:30 pm (ESPN)
Line: Marshall by 2.5
How Marshall got here: The Thundering Herd started out 4-3 with their 3 losses coming by an average of 4.3 ppg. With the exception of the two-point loss at Middle Tennessee, the Herd cruised in conference play winning 7 of 8. In the C-USA Championship Game, they lost at Rice in a game where they got behind early and couldn't rebound. At home they went 6-0, but were only 3-4 on the road.
How Maryland got here: The Terrapins have improved every year under Randy Edsall and they finished 7-5 this season with a 4-0 out of conference record that included victories over FIU, Old Dominion, UConn and West Virginia. After starting 4-0, the Terrapins struggled in conference play going 3-5 but they did win two of their last three including an OT victory over Virginia Tech.
For Marshall to win: Marshall has an explosive offense averaging 43 ppg but in their losses they average 17 less points than in their wins. For the Herd, they need to get out to a quick start so they can get some confidence back after their loss to Rice. In their wins, the Marshall defense is creating 2.3 turnovers per game, in losses it's creating just 1 per game. They need to take advantage of a Maryland team that was last in the ACC in turnover margin.
For Maryland to win: In wins, Maryland is averaging 200 yards per game on the ground. In losses, they are averaging just 67. For Maryland, they can't get behind early and they need to establish their running game in the first quarter. As mentioned above, it also wouldn't hurt to hold onto the football. When Marshall has the ball, they will move it on this Terps defense. The key for the Terps is to bend but not break. During the year the Terps allowed opponents to score on 89.58% of red zone trips (12th in the ACC). Lowering that percentage as well as keeping the Terps out of the end zone will be key.
Key Player (Marshall): Rakeem Cato, QB. Cato has won the Conference USA player of the year the last two years. He threw 36 TD against 9 INT this season and added 6 rushing TDs. Cato needs to find his rhythm early and make sure that he gets all of his weapons involved from the get go.
Key Player (Maryland): C.J. Brown, QB. With Stefon Diggs and Deon Long on the shelf with injuries, this game will come down to Brown and sometimes he will need to do it himself. In wins he has 11 TD against 3 INT and in losses he has 5 TD against 6 INT. On the ground, he's averaging 90.5 ypg with 11 total TDs in wins and in losses he has 1 TD and is averaging negative rushing yards.
Key Stat: In wins this season, Marshall is averaging 48 points per game. Maryland has yet to score 48 points in a game this season.