Previewing Maryland-Indiana football with a Hoosiers beat reporter
By The Baltimore Sun
Sep 26, 2014 at 9:00 AM
Back for a second season, we'll be previewing each of Maryland's football games by conducting a Q&A with a reporter who covers the Terps' next opponent.
This week, we traded emails with Mike Miller, a former Baltimore Sun intern who now covers Indiana football and basketball for The Herald-Times of Bloomington. Be sure to check out more of his coverage at The Hoosier Scoop blog before the teams kick off their Big Ten opener Saturday at 1:30.
TRACKING THE TERPS: So, the big day is finally here. Maryland is going to be playing a conference game within the Big Ten. What are Terps fans going to learn about this conference over the next few weeks?
Mike Miller: If Terps fans haven't learned this already, it seems that every team in the league is beatable this season. No doubt, the Big Ten is down this year, but it could make for some fun and unexpected outcomes as we approach the conference season. Having grown up in the Baltimore suburbs, I remember what a bore ACC football season could be. I realize that October matchups with teams like Minnesota don't sound very appetizing, but I never thought those same October games with Boston College were much better. Have fun with it, Maryland fans. Go on the road, enjoy great college towns like Ann Arbor, Madison and Bloomington. Also, don't forget to bundle up (and recruit those kinds of big, burly linemen who populate Big Ten rosters all over the league).
For all the talk about the Big Ten's struggles, Indiana just beat a ranked team from the SEC, on the road. Was that a fluke, or are the Hoosiers a contender within the conference?
I can't say Indiana is a contender. Not yet, and probably not this season. Realistically, signs point to next season as being the year everything comes together for the Hoosiers. Indiana focused hard on bringing in more talented defenders in last year's recruiting class, and many of the key players on that side of the ball will be sophomores and juniors in the fall of 2015. This year, given Indiana's slow, but steady rise toward a winning season under Kevin Wilson, fans want a bowl appearance. After narrowly missing out on six wins last year, it's not out of the question – especially if IU manages to pick up a key win against Maryland. But this is still a team that has holes and questions on defense. This is arguably the most athletic and talented team Indiana has had in recent memory, but the bulk of that talent is found in the freshman and sophomore classes. We figured IU would win a game it shouldn't (Missouri) and lose one it probably shouldn't (Bowling Green). I think I predicted 6-6 at the start of the season and, even after the Mizzou win, I'm sticking with it.
Both these teams have been scoring plenty of points – and giving up their fair share, too. What does Indiana need to do defensively to stop Maryland?
Indiana needs better, more consistent play from its defensive backfield. That's IU's weakest area on the team, much less the defense. The Hoosiers have been much-maligned for their inability to make stops, wasting an offense that seems to do more than its fair share of the work. Here's a stat: IU is 9-0 over its past nine games when it holds the opposition under 40 points. If the Hoosiers can keep guys like Stefon Diggs, Marcus Leak and Deon Long in front of them, they'll have a good shot. The problem for Indiana is that it doesn't have a proven, impact player on its defense. The Hoosiers have to be aggressive and occasionally gamble to make things happen on that side of the ball. They get burned for big plays quite often, so limiting those instances – as they did last week at Missouri – is major area of emphasis for this IU defense.
Can you give us an Indiana player we should keep an eye on Saturday?
Running back Tevin Coleman, the nation's leading rusher at 189.7 yards per game, is the easy answer, but how about someone else? On offense, freshman receiver J-Shun Harris has caught both of quarterback Nate Sudfeld's two passing touchdowns this season. He's an explosive slot receiver, whom the Hoosiers are relying upon this season. His arrival pushed top playmaking receiver Shane Wynn, who's similar in stature at 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, from the slot to the outside where he's still working through a bit of a learning curve. On the other side of the ball, freshman linebacker Tegray Scales has folks in Bloomington encouraged about the future of IU's defense. He has only played in three games, but Scales already looks like a college veteran. He's very quick, too, and his ability to bring pressure up the middle could help rejuvenate the Indiana pass rush this fall.
I've been going back and forth on this all week. I think if Maryland consistently attacks IU's defense over the top, the Hoosiers will be in trouble. Then again, Indiana can match points with just about any team in the nation, and the rush-pass combo of Tevin Coleman and Nate Sudfeld can be overwhelming at times. This is a big game for the Hoosiers, who could take back-to-back wins against Missouri and Maryland and spin them into serious momentum entering the heart of the season. But the story of IU football is littered with disappointment – the Hoosiers haven't won their next game after defeating a ranked opponent since 1987 – so history tells us this game will belong to the Terps. I'll go with Maryland, 45-42.