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Penn State game has special significance for Maryland

Randy Edsall hopes to start chipping into Penn State's 35-1-1 series record against the Terps.
Randy Edsall hopes to start chipping into Penn State's 35-1-1 series record against the Terps. (Jeff Hanisch, USA Today Sports)

COLLEGE PARK — Inside Gossett Team House, Maryland football coach Randy Edsall emphasized to his players that there is something different about Saturday's game at Penn State.

"He has brought up how important it is for us and how important it is for the state," Terps center Sal Conaboy said. "Everyone just wants to get it for each other, for the program, for the state. It's a big one."

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There are other implications, too.

The Terps (5-3 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) want to get back on track after losing, 52-7, to Wisconsin last week. The result of this game could factor into the decision-making for recruits considering both Maryland and Penn State. And this is an opportunity for the Terps to show they are on par with by far the most storied program in the region and a team that is 35-1-1 all-time against Maryland.

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"I think it's great to be able to be in the same conference with them in a bordering state," Edsall said. "It's something that as we continue to play Penn State, we can turn it into a rivalry, and we are looking forward to going up there to play in front of that hostile environment of 100,000 people."

Much has changed since the last time Maryland and Penn State played in 1993.

Penn State (4-3, 1-3) dealt with the fallout stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal and is attempting to work its way back to being a perennial power. The Nittany Lions do so under first-year coach James Franklin, who was tabbed as the Terps' coach-in-waiting before leaving for Vanderbilt in 2011.

Maryland, meanwhile, is in its fourth season under Edsall and its first as a member of the Big Ten, where the Terps compete the same East Division as the Nittany Lions.

One of Edsall's motivational tactics throughout the week was reminding his players of that all-time record of 1-35-1 against Penn State and how one-sided this matchup has been since the schools first played in 1917.

In their previous three games against the Nittany Lions, the Terps were outscored by a combined margin of 166-27, including 70-7 in 1993.

"Most of our guys weren't even born yet the last time [the teams played]," Edsall said. "It's just one of those things that we will get the chance to play them now on a yearly basis, and what we have to do is continue to get better. If you are ever going to make a series a rivalry, there has to be wins on our side to be able to make that happen."

One of the primary question marks heading into Saturday's game at Beaver Stadium is offensive line play for both sides.

The Terps' offensive line allowed two sacks and numerous pressures during last week's loss to Wisconsin. That Maryland line was largely to blame for the Terps picking up just 17 yards on their first 23 carries, and it will be facing a Nittany Lions defense that is ranked third nationally against the run.

Penn State's offensive line is allowing more sacks per game (3.57) than all but five teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Nittany Lions average just 2.5 yards per carry, and Maryland's defensive front has been solid when healthy.

The Terps limited Wisconsin star running back Melvin Gordon to 73 yards on his first 19 carries last week and are tied for third in the Big Ten with 21 sacks.

How well each offensive line holds up will likely be a big factor in which team wins Saturday.

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"They're very similar to Wisconsin," Maryland left tackle Michael Dunn said. "Penn State, they're also a really heavy pressure team. They try pressuring as much as they can, so they're not that different from Wisconsin."

The Terps likely also need quarterback C.J. Brown to make some plays against a Penn State pass defense that is ranked a respectable 28th nationally, but has proven to be more vulnerable than the Nittany Lions' rush defense.

Maryland will also look to limit a Nittany Lions offense that is ranked third-worst in the conference in both scoring offense and total offense.

While Penn State took then-No. 13 Ohio State to double overtime last week before falling, 31-24, issues on offense have contributed to the Nittany Lions losing three straight after starting 4-0.

"The [Wisconsin] game is over," Brown said. "That wasn't us on film. Sad to say we put that on record, obviously, because we don't think that team was 45 points better than us. But at the same time, we have another great opportunity this week, so we're looking forward to that."

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