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Maryland-Michigan State Preview: 5 things you need to know

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Maryland-Michigan State Preview: 5 things you need to know

Maryland escaped the blizzard in the Mid-Atlantic and will face Michigan State on Saturday evening in East Lansing.

Here are five things you need to know.

1) A little different feel

All three of Maryland’s game against Michigan State were memorable last season and it is quickly becoming the marquee game of the conference season -- something to provide relief for those still longing for those ACC rivalries.

With the Spartans coming in on a three-game losing streak, though, this isn’t feeling much like a conference tournament championship game preview just yet. But I’m not going to be the first guy to step up to the plate and count out a Tom Izzo-coached team.

Road games in conference are tough. Trying to slam the brakes on a three-game skid is more than enough for the Spartans to get up for this game.

2) It all starts with Denzel

The Terrapins have faced talented players this season, but they have yet to face a player as versatile as Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine. After beginning the season on an unbelievable tear, he has battled injuries and missed time, but now he is here, back and in the National Player of the Year conversation again.

He is a triple-double threat every time he gets on the floor, averaging 18.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. Without him, the rest of the Michigan State machine doesn’t run with the same level of efficiency.

Lately, things have been more complicated. With Tum Tum Nairn out of the lineup, it makes the point guard situation murkier and the Spartans are less able to emphasize Valentine’s strength as a facilitator once the offense has been initiated.

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3) But that’s not all with Tum Tum

In addition to being Michigan State’s most reliable point guard, Nairn is the team’s best perimeter defender. Without him, like in this week’s lost to Nebraska, it is clear that defense becomes an issue for the Spartans.

Who guards Melo Trimble now? Yes, you’ll sarcastically tell me that Nairn himself could not do it, at least not on this broken-ankle-heard-round-the-world crossover and stepback three from Trimble with Nairn on him last season.

But he was their best bet. Now it becomes a continual shuffling of cards because then who guards Rasheed Sulaimon? Who guard Jake Layman? Maryland's depth of talent necessitates those questions.

4) That’s good news for Maryland

There is a common thread between the three teams that have beaten Michigan State during this Spartan skid -- Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska can all throw versatile lineups at you and they can all shoot from the outside from the one through four spots.

The result? A Michigan State team that hit 11 threes and shot 61 percent from deep against Nebraska while still losing the game.

Maryland can play the same way. Melo Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jake Layman, and even Robert Carter, Jr. and Diamond Stone will at the very least keep you honest -- or, on the other end of the spectrum, bury you -- from 15 feet and beyond. The more chasing Maryland can make Michigan State do on the defensive end of the floor, the better off they’ll be.

The second part of that is simply hitting the shots. Maryland had about as stark a contrast between two games as you’ll see from one team in college basketball. They posted 100 points in a blowout win over Ohio State, only to be ground to a halt in an overtime win over Northwestern.

5) Less interior worries, plus the bench

Michal Cekovsky is expected to be available for the Terrapins after sitting out Tuesday’s game vs. Northwestern with an illness. With Ceko out and Stone in foul trouble, Maryland encountered its first real frontcourt depth issues this season in that game.

But it should not be an issue against Michigan State. Talent-wise, this group should set the pace against Spartan bigs. The only question could be effort and toughness. Northwestern had far too many offensive rebounds on Tuesday -- many of which were just a result of going after the ball harder.

Defense and rebounding off the bench will be big, and some shot-making from Jared Nickens would be a nice added bonus.

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Not the homecoming former Terp D.J. Moore was hoping for against the Redskins

Not the homecoming former Terp D.J. Moore was hoping for against the Redskins

Former Maryland Terrapin D.J. Moore made his first trip to FedEx field as an NFL star. His Carolina Panthers traveled up to Landover, Md. for a Week 6 matchup with the Washington Redskins.

However, it was not the homecoming he and the Panthers were hoping for. 

The first-round draft pick had two fumbles in the first half against the Redskins. Both were punch-outs due to Moore not holding the ball tight enough.

The wide receiver's first came as he fielded the Redskins' first punt of the afternoon.

The second being a fumble coming off of his first reception, punched out by Josh Norman, who had his best game as a Redskin.

Both plays had enough effort, probably too much. Moore was clearly trying to make something out of nothing and both times it cost him and the Panthers two key possessions on the road. 

First two touches, two fumbles. Not a good look. 

But in other Maryland Terps news, Vernon Davis did haul down the first touchdown of the game and Torrey Smith scored a late touchdown and converted the two-point conversion. 

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As one of the most penalized teams in college football, Maryland's penalty woes showed vs. Michigan

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As one of the most penalized teams in college football, Maryland's penalty woes showed vs. Michigan

On the field, it has been a season of ups and downs for the Maryland Terrapins. On Saturday, it became evident that the team's penalty issues are at epic proportions based on their loss to Michigan.

This season, Maryland is one of the most penalized teams in all of Division I football. 

No matter if the penalties are coming in wins or in losses, yellow flags have forced Maryland to dig themselves out of holes this season. Quickly these holes become insurmountable with the inconsistent offense the Terps have this season. 

Below is where they stand on the NCAA FBS Division I leaderboard:

  • Penalties per game (4th worst) - 9.8 penalties
  • Penalty yards per game (3rd worst) - 93.8 yards
  • 7 penalties per 100 plays (t-worst) 


This past Saturday against Michigan, their penalties were a significant factor in a loss for the first time this season. Twelve times the Terps were flagged, costing them 107 yards. 

The first major penalty was just after the Terps got a big kickoff return for a touchdown by Ty Johnson to give them an early 7-3 lead. Two scrimmage plays later, Darnell Savage got his second interception of the season on Michigan's side of the field with the upset in full swing. A holding penalty on the return pushed the Terps back to midfield where they would go three-and-out. 

That mistake, although minuscule at the time, cannot happen on the road against a top-25 opponent. A momentum-swinging play was diminished by the penalty and kept them from adding to their lead.  

The offense though was responsible for most of the dirty laundry on the field. Of their 12 penalties, half of them were on the offense. Five of those six were detrimental to their success. 

A holding penalty in the second quarter prevented the Terps from having the chance to answer Michigan's first touchdown of the game.

On the first drive of the second half for the Terps, three penalties in the first four plays pushed them back to a 4th-and-36. 

Although they converted a fourth-and-6 in the red zone, they got pushed back to that mark because of a false start the play prior. This was their first drive of the fourth where they were behind by three scores and desperately trying to come back.

In their Week 1 shocking upset over the ranked Texas Longhorns the team had eight penalties for 70 yards. This was the only game that their opponent committed more penalties.

The next week at Bowling Green (14 for 139 yards) was worse, at home vs. Temple (five penalties, 35 yards) and at Minnesota (10 penalties, 118 yards).

Currently, the team is sitting at 3-2 with a win over the No. 9 team in the country, Texas. Considering everything that has happened, and they are under interim head coach Matt Canada, they are rising above expectations. 

But by no means are there many confident in how the Terps have played this season. Mostly that is due to these penalties. 

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