Terrapin Tuesday: The Big Test

By John Langley @Langley486

The Maryland Terrapins are a nationally ranked team for the first time since the end of the 2010 season, and for the first time in the regular season since 2008. After a 4-0 start to the season, the Terps are riding high heading into their first ACC game against Florida State.

Not only will this be their first test in the ACC, this will be their biggest test of the season, going against one of the best teams in the country. Maryland has a lot to boast about right now, riding one of the better offenses, and stingiest defenses into this game, ranking 3rd in points given up per game. Even with the loss of their top two corners, Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson, haven’t slowed this defense down. McDougle was off to a great start in his 2013 season, racking up three interceptions and playing tight coverage the entire time, but went down with a shoulder injury against UCONN in week three.

The replacements for the two are senior Isaac Goins and true freshman Will Likely. Each have played extremely well in replacement for the two corners mentioned. The biggest name to step up since the injury to McDougle is AJ Hendy. Hendy picked off a pass from Ford Childress of West Virginia and took it for a touchdown, cementing his position in the nickel.

The true reason for the success on defense has been the emergence of the pass rush. Last season, the Terps didn’t get much pressure on the passer, leaving the secondary susceptible to the deep ball. This season, that has not been a problem. Senior Marcus Whitfield has emerged as a leader and a star player, racking up 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss. His backup is Yannick Kudjoe-Virgil, and how do you think he has performed this season? Equally as impressive. As a backup, he has three sacks already. The front seven lost several players from last season who made big impacts, including Demetrius Hartsfield, Darin Drakeford and Kenny Tate. This season, that front seven has been even better, making defending the pass for the secondary much easier.

Perhaps the biggest help to the defense has been the progression of the offense since last season. With the return of quarterback CJ Brown, the Terps offense has been tough to stop, scoring at a much better rate than last season. This has enabled the defense to get the rest it needs to remain stout throughout the entirety of a game. The running game has been much more productive behind Brandon Ross as well. Ross has carried the ball 66 times for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Brown has been a force running the ball as well, carrying it  45 times 283 yards and six touchdowns.

The passing game has been much more fluid as well, with Brown throwing for 1,043 yards with seven touchdowns to only one interception. All together, Brown as accounted for 13 touchdowns. Stefon Diggs has been the playmaker everyone thought he would be so far as well. He has 18 receptions for 400 yards and three touchdowns. The plan is to get him the ball in space and let him do what he does best, and that is make people miss. Deon Long has been a perfect complement to Diggs. Long is a big-bodied receiver with solid hands and great speed. Long has 21 receptions for 271 yards and a touchdown.  Levern Jacobs is the unknown of the group who has made an impact this season. Filling in for the injured Nigel King, Jacobs has eight receptions for 140 yards. The receptions may not be particularly high, but his production is. He has made big-time catches in situation where the Terps really need a big play.

The Terps are set to battle Florida State Saturday at noon on ABC, and this will be their biggest test this season. Freshman Jameis Winston has taken the country by storm with accurate passing and mobility, passing for 1,048 yards and 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions. The Florida State offense is a well-oiled machine, both passing and running. Devonta Freeman has rushed 32 times for 322 yards with Karlos Williams rushing 23 times for 215 yards. James Wilder has carried the ball 30 times for 174 yards. Between the three, they have eight touchdowns.

The leading receivers for the Seminoles are Kenny Shaw and Rashad Green. Shaw has 18 receptions for 370 yards and two touchdowns while green has 19 receptions for 299 yards and five touchdowns. To put it simply, the Seminoles are extremely tough to stop on offense.

This is a battle of two of the top four teams in the ACC, and will have implications heading forward in the season towards the championship. If the Terps can pull off the upset, it will validate the hype surrounding the program. This is by far the biggest test for the Terps this season, and possibly the most important game for them in the last five years.