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Sudfeld, Howard lead dynamic Indiana offense against Maryland

Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) warms up on the field before the start of an NCAA college football game in Bloomington, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) warms up on the field before the start of an NCAA college football game in Bloomington, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. (Doug McSchooler / Associated Press)

COLLEGE PARK — When Indiana visits Maryland on Saturday, the Hoosiers will bring one of the nation's best offenses into Byrd Stadium. Indiana stands near the top for many offensive categories in the Big Ten Conference, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard have posted eye-catching numbers this season.

The Terps defense has adopted a more aggressive playing style in recent weeks, bringing more pressure up front and leaving its cornerbacks in more isolated situations. That change has had some success, especially in last week's loss at No. 9 Michigan State.

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But Indiana presents a whole array of new challenges, mainly the Hoosiers running their offense at a fast tempo similar to that of Bowling Green and West Virginia, a pair of teams that handed Maryland humbling losses in September.

Indiana's 78.9 plays per game is the third-highest average faced by Maryland this season. Bowling Green runs 82.9 players per game, while West Virginia runs 80.5. Among Big Ten opponents, Indiana's average is seven plays more than the next-highest Terps foe, Michigan State (71.6 plays per game).

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"We know what type of offense they run: a very fast, tempo offense," cornerback Will Likely said. "We've just got to be prepared, get lined up and be ready to play each down. We know they're going to go fast, so we just got to match their intensity and do a great job of it."

The offense starts with Sudfeld and Howard, who lead the Big Ten in passing yards per game (272.1) and rushing yards per game (149.9), respectively. Sudfeld is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and has thrown 16 touchdowns, while Howard has scored nine times on the ground.

When Maryland beat Indiana, 37-15, in its first Big Ten game ever last season, the Terps sacked Sudfeld three times and pressured him constantly. He finished 14 of 37 for 126 yards and an interception. His two worst games this season were when he completed 10 of 21 passes for 134 yards in a loss to Ohio State and when he was 16 of 37 for 180 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a loss to Iowa.

"He throws the ball really accurate, has great touch and accuracy on his deep ball," interim coach Mike Locksley said. "What we've got to try to do is get him moving out of the pocket. That's one of the things we've been able to do against the last few passers is get them off their spot to where he's got to move and put pressure on him from inside the pocket and allow our defensive ends to make contact and get them down on the ground. He's one of the better passers we'll face."

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But in that loss to the undefeated Hawkeyes, the Hoosiers still pushed them to the brink. Howard, a transfer from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, rushed 22 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

Despite missing two games this season with injuries, Howard is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and has 1,199 yards this season. He's been a key cog in an offense that's rushed for 534 yards in its past two games against Iowa and Michigan, two of the Big Ten's toughest defenses.

"I see a good running game, a really balanced attack, a good quarterback," safety A.J. Hendy said. "They have a really good offense, but I'm not concerned about anything. Just preparing as I would prepare for any other week, but it's definitely going to be a challenge, just like any other game."

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