For the fourth consecutive game to start the 2022 season, the Michigan Wolverines are playing at the friendly confines of the Big House. Tomorrow, they welcome in their first Big Ten opponent of the year — the Maryland Terrapins.
Both teams enter this game undefeated at 3-0. Neither team has truly been tested, but Maryland did have to play a tougher opponent last week in the SMU Mustangs, narrowly winning by a touchdown. The Wolverines have not played any opponent worth gloating about up until this point, so we will see if they are for real or not tomorrow afternoon.
Some staff members here at Maize n Brew got together once again to answer some questions leading up to the start of the conference season, including the key to slowing down Maryland’s offense, bold predictions and more.
Michigan gets its first real test this weekend against Maryland. What are you hoping to learn the most about the Wolverines?
Von Lauzon: I am hoping to learn if someone will step up along the defensive line. Jesse Minter spoke to the media earlier this week and said he is not worried about the lack of production from a pass rush standpoint. He may not be, but I am after the Wolverines only sacked the quarterback once over the last two weeks. Getting pressure on Baby Tua will be critical for the Wolverines tomorrow afternoon.
David Woelkers: I think the biggest question for me is can the Michigan defense bend but not break when they face a team they can’t just bully the ball. So far, the Wolverines have been able to do whatever they feel like — with the notable exception of the pass rush — so when a team like Maryland comes in that can dictate the pace of the game, how do they react and adapt to that?
Andrew Bailey: Same as every week: improvement. Granted, the Maryland defense isn’t up to par, but the Terrapins’ offense will present the first real challenge of the season. The Maryland passing attack is potent and efficient with an experienced starter behind center. Michigan’s secondary will need to prove their discipline otherwise they risk giving up the big play.
Dan Plocher: I need to see more from this pass rush. Tagovailoa is going to be dropping back, a lot, and this pass rush has one sack since having seven against Colorado State. In my eyes, it’s the biggest remaining question mark on this team. Seeing a strong performance in the first game of conference play will be helpful.
Zach Breininger: How well will the pass defense hold up against real competition? Michigan would not have won against Ohio State if it weren’t for an outstanding outing from the secondary, and the Wolverines will probably need an even better performance out of that group to win in Columbus.
Maryland has a very potent offensive attack led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. What is going to be the key to stopping their offense?
Von Lauzon: I know above I said the pass rush is going to be important, but the secondary may be just as important in this one just because of the offense Maryland runs. Tagovailoa can sling it, and he has a plethora of receivers to throw the ball to. Gemon Green, DJ Turner and company will have to be ready for whatever Tagovailoa brings them tomorrow. Five different players have contributed to their seven receiving touchdowns in 2022, so the secondary is going to have to step it up a notch.
David Woelkers: The front line is gonna need to step up. They’re not going to get the help from corner and safety blitzes they’ve had in the past couple games, so someone in the pass rush needs to have a break out performance. If they don’t, Tagovailoa and the Maryland receiving corps will make them pay for it.
Andrew Bailey: Discomfort and confusion. Michigan’s front will need to keep steady pressure on him via pass rush and mixing in blitz packages to force Turtle to make decisions before he is ready. The back end will need to play disciplined and show multiple looks to avoid the Don Brown predictability corollary. We will learn a lot about defensive coordinator Jesse Minter on Saturday.
Dan Plocher: Getting pressure on him. Tagovailoa has been really good under pressure this season, but his consistency last season is what kept the Terps at bay. This Michigan secondary should be able to keep up with Maryland’s receivers. It will all be about making the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket.
Zach Breininger: Forcing mistakes will be key. Tagovailoa is prone to throw interceptions, so getting the ball out of his hands quickly will allow Michigan’s offense to get to work on Maryland’s subpar defense.
Michigan wins if…
Maryland wins if…
Von Lauzon: Michigan wins if it is able to limit mistakes (mainly turnovers) and keep Maryland’s defense on its heels thanks to JJ’s running ability. Maryland will win if it
David Woelkers: Michigan wins if it can dictate the pace of play and keep Maryland’s offense off the field. Maryland wins if the Michigan pass rush unit can’t unsettle Tagovailoa’s rhythm.
Andrew Bailey: The Wolverines win if they dictate both lines of scrimmage. While this could be said for almost any game, it’s especially true against finesse-based teams like Maryland. They need to remain true to who they are and not try to win the game on one big play (on either side of the play). A steady dose of Corum plays keeps the upsets away.
Maryland wins if it can use Michigan’s aggression against them and jump on the Wolverines early. Force Michigan to play from behind and make them feel the pressure. Defensively, over-commit to shutting down the run and trying to confuse JJ McCarthy. If the game is within one score in the fourth, anything can happen.
Dan Plocher: The Wolverines win if they play to their potential. They are the much better team on both sides of the ball and blew out a very similar Maryland squad last season. If Michigan is truly in contention to repeat as Big Ten champs, this should be a statement game at home.
Maryland wins if its defense is opportunistic and forces turnovers against JJ McCarthy. That’s the main reason the Terps beat SMU last week — an interception before halftime and two turnovers swung the momentum in pivotal moments. Michigan must take care of the football, because it should win this game by a wide margin based on talent.
Zach Breininger: Michigan wins if it prevents big plays. Maryland wins if it can turn the game into a track meet.
Share at least one bold prediction you have for the game.
Von Lauzon: DJ Turner will force multiple turnovers in this one. Tagovailoa is a bit of a turnover-prone quarterback, so I am willing to be Turner gets at least one interception, if not more. He had a pick-six against the Terps last season, so he can definitely do that again.
David Woelkers: Smash the over on this game. The final score ends up combining for 75 points or more.
Andrew Bailey: McCarthy throws for more than 300 yards. This is a statement game for Michigan and an opportunity to send a message to the Big Ten. (In my happiest Gilmore voice), “Uh oh, Michigan learned how to pass.”
Dan Plocher: JJ McCarthy throws for more than 350 passing yards and three touchdowns. This Maryland defense just gave up 520 yards to SMU. Michigan should at least match that, and the Wolverines will likely want McCarthy to get more snaps in his first Big Ten start.
Zach Breininger: Maryland turns the ball over four times.
Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan has never lost against Maryland and has always covered the Vegas spread. The current spread is at 17 points. Do you think the Wolverines pull off both? And what will the final score be?
Von Lauzon: Michigan will win and will cover the spread. I got in the action on DraftKings when it was at 16.5 points. I did not hesitate, so hopefully we are all able to cash in and watch the Wolverines win comfortably this weekend. Final score: Michigan 42, Maryland 17.
David Woelkers: I hate the spread in this game, but as I said above I am loving the over/under line of 64.5. It’s gonna be a shootout, and I have the final score hovering around 45-31 in favor of Michigan.
Andrew Bailey: Yes to both. Maryland appears to have taken a half step back from their seven-win team last year and I think Michigan is prepared for what the Terrapins bring. Plus, it’s in the Big House. Give me the good guys, 49-10.
Dan Plocher: Michigan covers pretty easily and wins, 45-21, at home. The Terps came on late, but it’s not nearly enough to compete with the firepower of this McCarthy-led offense.
Zach Breininger: Yes, Maize and Blue are simply the better team. Michigan wins 56-28.