…or merely the mock?
First of all, the Terps dumped former head coach Randy Edsall a couple of weeks ago after losing big to Michigan and Ohio State, then they made The Bottom Ten. Then they installed offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to coach the program. Between the Ohio State game and now, they’ve had a bye week to think about things and regroup. So, no one knows just where the hell they are.
On the other end of the deal, we don’t know which Penn State team will show up, or how much of an effort they’ll make if they actually do show up. After all, a Toilet.com Bowl might be at stake, and Kohler, Wisconsin is such a warm, welcoming place in December. How can they not be enthused about that? One thing we do know is that a healthy Saquon Barkley can provide a whole bunch of offense on his own, even if the rest of the offense suuuuuuuuuuuucks. At least that will be the case until opposing coaches figure out how to stop him, but no worries about Maryland doing that. We just have to hope that this Nittany Lions offense does not shoot itself in the foot as usual when Saquon sets it up to score.
Whither Mike Locksley
Here’s what you need to know about Mike Locksley. He was a defensive back at Towson State way back when, so he is a Maryland homey. He was a defensive assistant at the U.S. Naval Prep School, followed by a year at the University of the Pacific, after which the football program there was shut down. LOL. But you can’t keep a good man down. He coached offense at Army for a year and then repatriated himself to Maryland to work under Ron Vanderlinden as running backs coach in 1997. After Ron got the axe, Mike and his buddy James Franklin remained with the Terps through the transition to Ralph “Fridge” Friedgen. He hung around until 2003, when he took a job working for Ron Zook at Florida, and then stayed with Zook when he got canned and took over the Illinois program. Locksley was OC there from 2005-2008. Then he became head coach at New Mexico for a couple of years before Edsall brought him back to Maryland in 2012.
New Mexico was a debacle. With a 2-26 record, Locksley was shitcanned in 2011 after starting 0-4 that year. The Lobos finished 113th and 116th in scoring in his two full seasons, both 1-11. Off the field Locksley was accused of sexual discrimination by a former administrative assistant. The lawsuit was settled out of court. He was suspended for a game because of a fight with an assistant coach. His last game at UNM was a 48-45 loss to FCS Sam Houston State, played before an announced crowd of 16,313, the smallest in almost 20 years for New Mexico.
So, you figure there must be some damn good reason to name Locksley as interim head coach, right? Maybe it was the path of least resistance. Maybe Walt was right — Maryland is mainly interested in picking up a Big Ten paycheck without working too hard. Whatever it is, Locksley was a curious choice for a team so lacking in offensive cohesiveness. Your offense is screwed up so dump the head coach and elevate your offensive coordinator, yeah? Uh huh.
The Terps suck on offense. Just about everything is triple-digit rankings bad. They rank 122nd in raw quarterback rating, 114th in yards per game, 115th in third-down conversion rate (don’t laugh too hard — Penn State is an abysmal 125th in that category, just below 0-7 UCF), and dead last in interceptions. Maryland has dicked around with three quarterbacks this year with little promise from any of them. Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe, and Daxx Garman have combined for 83 completions in 188 attempts for 982 yards with 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. (Compare that with Christian Hackenberg’s 94-177 for 1206 yds with 8 TDs and 2 INTs).
All that having been said, Locksley has gotten some decent results in his past at Illinois and Florida, especially in the running game. Recall that the Illiniweks got to the Rose Bowl in 2007 under Locksley’s offensive coordinatorhood with Rashard Mendenhall leading the charge.
Run for their lives!
If Locksley is an effective molder of running men, he doesn’t have much to show for it on this Maryland team, but I suppose he can blame Edsall for a while. In rushing offense, Maryland ranks 56th nationally, averaging 177.7 yards per game. Once again, before you laugh too much, consider that Penn State ranks 76th in this category with an average of 162.7 yards per game. Obviously, we’re counting on our offense’s bright, shining hope, Saquon Barkley, to stay healthy and raise that average through the remainder of the season, but I digress.
The turtles’ leading rusher is 5’10” 210 lb senior Brandon Ross, who for the year thus far has 80 carries for 431 yards and two touchdowns. In the Ohio State game, Ross had only seven attempts for 29 yards, and was overshadowed by 6’3″ 210 lb junior Yinzer quarterback Perry Hills, who ran the ball 25 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Hills is now the second leading rusher on the team this year.
I would expect to see a lot more of Hills in the Penn State game, especially if Locksley happened to take a critical look at how the PSU defense didn’t handle J.T. Barrett in the Ohio State game. Between tOSU and Army, this vaunted Nittany Lions defense can give up some long runs out of an option offense. Fix it! Jeez!
The one place where Maryland shines is in the play of little, tiny punt returner William Likely, a 5’7″, 175 lb junior speedster from lovely Belle Glade, Florida (I say that facetiously — it’s a pit). Likely ranks second in the nation in punt returns with 17 returns for 374 yards, two of which were returned for touchdowns. His average return is 22 yards. Penn State is allowing a paltry 5.32 yards on punt returns, but that’s probably because they’re either blooped so short that they’re essentially fair caught or they’re shanked right the hell out of bounds. I’m thinking Likely along with State’s incompetent punting game will create short-field opportunities for Maryland, and possibly will contribute a touchdown.
Just look at a single stat — scoring defense. Maryland is allowing 34.7 points per game. That basically blows. Their best defensive performance was in a 35-17 win over 3-3 AAC USF; their worst, in their most recent game, a 49-28 loss to #1 tOSU.
Maryland’s red zone defense also suuuuuuuuuuucks. They rank 78th, allowing an 85.7% success rate inside the 20. (But before you laugh too hard, consider that Penn State ranks 118th, allowing 94.1%. Fix it! Jeez!) Against Penn State’s new-found success in the red zone (ranked 35th, 88%), you’d think the Terps’ incompetence could help make things happen for the Nittany Lions.
So, what the hell are they going to do to get back on track?
None of us knows. We’ll just have to watch the game and find out.
Penn State’s Five Keys to Victory
- Score some points, damnit! Maryland sucks. They score only 24.6 points per game. Unfortunately, Penn State scores only 23.0. Our vaunted Penn State defense can probably hold these guys to 17 or 20 points, maybe, perhaps, so the offense will need to at least do that well. Think they can?
- I’ll keep beating on third down conversions until they do something about it. Do something about it, guys. Otherwise, I’m beating a dead horse. Sustain some drives so the defense doesn’t get gassed early.
- Lord knows if Penn State has to punt, the ball could go anywhere, but not very far. Our only consolation is that Maryland is slightly worse in this department, averaging 35.24 to the Nittany Lions 35.91. So, learn how to punt, especially when your coverage team sucks and you’re facing a guy who will Likely beat you for a couple of big ones. (Get it?)
- Don’t miss extra points! High school girls can kick extra points. Joey “Big Toe” Julius has missed two this year — in one game. Even crappy Maryland has missed only one.
- Take care of defensive business. No lapses, guys. If the offense gives you some time off the field (no bets on this actually happening), you’ve got what it takes to shut these turtles down completely. How about making the schmucks lay a goose egg? No red zone screwups!
Yeah, I know. I’m not smooth and insightful like Bobby “Flatfish” Flounders. On the other hand, there are five fingers…
Distinguished Alumnus Does His Schtick
This week’s distinguished Maryland alumnus is Larry David (BA, 1969), famous for creating Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. According to Artificially Sweetened, his schtick never changes. View some of his signature rants has he plays Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in this Saturday Night Live opening, which cracked me up.
I thought you could use a little humor because there won’t be much to laugh at in this sorry-ass game!
The weather man says it’s going to be a perfect football day in B-Mo Town, with a high of 62°F and a low of 52°F, with sun and some clouds. Izgoood!
Official Turkey Poop Prediction
You’d think that with all the comments about Maryland’s suckage and with the upheaval in the head coach position, the sports books would be taking huge unbalanced action on Penn State’s side of the ledger, but nooooooooooooooooo. The Nittany Lions opened as a 7½ point favorite and at mid-week, have fallen to 6½. There really isn’t much money going either way.
Why isn’t PSU favored by more, though? Bettors obviously don’t want to get burned by the vagaries of this squad. No offense, but this lack of offense is offensive. If I ever had any faith in them, I’ve certainly lost it. Saquon Barkley is our only hope as offensive line woes persist and Christian Hackenberg’s struggles continue. Whether it is coaching, leadership, or whatever isn’t important when push comes to shove in the gambling world. It is only matters who wins and by how much. This turkey does care about those things, though, which makes these weekly predictions all the more painful.
The over/under is at 47½. The combination of those gambling lines suggests that Penn State might win by a score of 27-20.
Since we don’t have a lot to go on with regard to the present situation at College Park, here is my convoluted logic for this week’s prediction. The worst Big Ten defense Penn State has played against this year was Indiana, which yielded 29 points. Maryland is only a little better on D. I will therefore ass-ume that the Nittany Lions can score almost as many points against the turtles as they did against the Hoosiers, assuming that they’ll shoot themselves in the foot half the time, even if Saquon has a good day. And because I believe in my maxim that you don’t go broke taking the spread against Penn State, I’m going to posit that they beat Maryland, but not by enough to cover. Penn State 27, Maryland 22. Take the over. (I feel kind of queasy about the “over”.)
I’ll be back after the game with my inimitable Turkey Wrap. Enjoy the game, mah good peeps!