The Gophers are set to travel to College Park, Maryland to take on the Terrapins from the University of Maryland on Friday night, Oct. 30.
Week one of the 2020 Big Ten season came and went. We saw the Gophers fall 24-49 at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines. It was a truly underwhelming performance from Minnesota. Its defense looked sluggish and the offense looked out of sync. The game wasn’t a complete throw-away, as we certainly saw flashes of how special this team could be. Overall, there were no problems that can’t be corrected.
This week P.J. Fleck’s team is fortunate enough to go against a Maryland squad that is coming off a 3-43 shellacking at the hands of Northwestern. At the surface, this may seem like a great situation for the Gophers to re-gain their footing against a struggling Terrapin team, as they’re currently favored to win by as many as 20.5 points. I am here to go deeper and tell you why Maryland could stick around with the Gophers.
The first reason why the Terrapins could be pesky is their talent behind center. Maryland’s week one starting QB was Alabama-transfer Taulia Tagovailoa. Most college football fans would recognize the name, that is because Taulia is the younger brother of former Bama quarterback Tua.
Taulia truly couldn’t have done much worse in his first career start for the Terps’ when they traveled to Northwestern. The redshirt-sophomore QB was 14/25 for 94 yards and three interceptions. Although many people would see those numbers and say that he is just another overhyped younger brother, I think the Gophers should be ready for an ultra-talented quarterback with a lot to prove. To quote James Baldwin, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”
Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi shared how he has prepared for Taulia at his press conference earlier this week.
#Gophers DC Joe Rossi is very impressed with Maryland QB, Taulia Tagovailoa’s talent.
During this afternoon’s press conference, he spoke on how he prepares for a player entering only his second career start. pic.twitter.com/7aIKByPgJS
— Tony Liebert (@TonyLiebert) October 28, 2020
While Taulia has not been able to showcase his skills yet, he certainly has the talent that should scare the Gophers’ defense. He will always be compared to his older brother, but he deserves to be recognized for his won talent. The Hawaii native was ESPN’s No. 143-rated prospect and the fifth-ranked dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school in 2019.
Before Taulia arrived at Alabama, well respected NFL Network draft analyst, Daniel Jeremiah had very kind words when describing his skillset seen at the Elite 11 football camp, the nation’s primer high school QB camp.
“I did see Tua’s little brother throw and it looks like a right-handed version of Tua. He has a live arm. He’s got that same square, thick build, the ball jumps out of his hand.”
Home Field Advantage
Reason number two is the fact that Maryland is hosting the contest. This week’s game is being played in College Park. Fans or no fans, traveling to an opposing team’s stadium for a night-time conference game will always pose a challenge. Since 1989, Maryland has a 67-61 home record. Although the Terps’ joined the Big Ten in 2014, this is a record you can’t gloss over. For reference, Minnesota is 57-83-2 at home in the same time frame. Even though Terrapin fans will not be present it is fair to say that even in this altered season, home-field advantage is still very present in college football in 2020.
Maryland’s Improving Culture
Maryland’s past regime was rather problematic for numerous reasons. When the administration moved on from head coach, D.J. Durkin in 2018 they decided to bring in Alabama OC, Mike Locksley as his replacement. Locksley transitioned well into being a head coach, dramatically improving the overall image of the program.
Their current roster has a surplus of talent. Their skill positions deliver much of the buzz, Dontay Demus Jr, Darryl Jones, and Jeshaun Jones are all very talented veteran receivers. Five-star, Rakim Jarrett and underrated three-star, Nick DeGennaro make for a talented duo of freshman receivers who have already received substantial playing time. The backfield is manned by freshman duo, Peny Boone, and Isaiah Jacobs who came in as four and three-star prospects respectively.
The rest of Maryland’s roster certainly has holes, as there is a reason why they were picked to finish No. 13 in Big Ten standings before the season.
Ultimately, the Gophers should not truly struggle to get past this Maryland team, but they shouldn’t look past them. With the Big Ten looking as deep as ever this screams, potential trap game. Coming off of a Michigan game, where the Gophers’ defense looked very vulnerable, a talented Maryland offense could stick around. While I think Minnesota should end up having no problem getting past the Terrapins I believe this one will be a little closer than what the people down in the desert think.
Minnesota: 45 Maryland: 28