The Maryland Terrapins sit at 2-0 for the first time since 2019, the first season of the Mike Locksley era. However, the Terps will look for a different conclusion to that season as they lost nine of ten games to finish the season 3-9. For the first time this season, the Terps not only hit the road, but also play a conference foe. The Illinois Fighting Illini (1-2, 1-0 B1G) are in their first season under Brett Bielema. The former Arkansas head coach has dropped the past two games following an opening week win over Nebraska. Maryland will try to solidify their rise to relevance with something of a warm up game for the conference stretch that is forthcoming.
Illinois Scouting Report:
Illinois is a team that has a very interesting roster makeup. Many of the players from the old regime are still on the roster, but a large number have transferred. Bielema has decided to take more of a long term rebuild approach to the program. He is trying to revamp the overall sleepy program that has not experienced prolonged success since the mid 1980s. The team, though, will compete, as any Nebraska fan will attest. Bielema is a coach who is known for his ability to coach a defense. He has done it at both the collegiate and professional level, and will attempt to shut down the Terps’ potent attack.
As for the current roster, their quarterback is Artur Sitkowski, former Rutgers QB. In his first season in Champaign, Sitkowski has been up and down. The win over Nebraska was the high water mark. H the loss at home against UTSA and drubbing at Virginia certainly are the low points. In the past two games, Illinois has thrown the ball over 40 times, but Sitkowski is only completing passes at a 61.9% clip, much of which is ballooned by going 12/15 vs. Nebraska. Illinois is not going to kill a team with their air attack, but they have been able to consistently move the ball down the field and avoid big mistakes and a lot of turnovers.
Illinois has a duo in their backfield. Not to say that they are ineffective, but the combination of Mike Epstein and Reggie Love have combined for under 200 yards and one touchdown so far. They are very different from some of the teams that Maryland will face later on this season as they have a minimal rushing attack. Nonetheless, the Maryland front seven must ensure that the Illinois backfield does not use this game as their jumping off point.
On defense, Illinois is not too much better. They are allowing 33.7 points/game so far, and outside of Virginia, they are all against bottom tier offenses. The Illini simply have not been able to generate much pressure this season. They have been allowing opposing teams to pick apart their secondary. It is clear that they will need to step up not only on Friday night, but for the remainder of the season.
Maryland Clicking on all Cylinders:
The Terps are off to a tremendous start to the 2021 season. Maybe it has been even more fruitful than they had hoped, but nonetheless, they find themselves sitting at 2-0. Dan Enos looks like a genius having constructed a great offense around Taulia Tagovailoa. The wideouts look incredible, especially Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus. In addition, Jeshaun Jones has stepped in very well. Between Jarrett and Jones, Maryland is the only team with multiple 80+ grade wide receivers.
Moreover, the defense has really stepped up recently. In the past 101:30 of gameplay, the Terps have given up a total of three points. Yes, the majority of this time comes from their contest against Howard where they shutout the Bison. Nonetheless, the stat is very impressive due to the amount of craziness that occurs in college football. The secondary is led by two studs in Nick Cross and Tarheeb Still. They have the ability to lock down any team’s top receiving threats.
In the upcoming weeks, the team will be tested. After playing Kent State, the Terps will be fully thrust into their conference schedule that features multiple teams in the AP Top 25. The road to a bowl game was never going to be easy, but the fact that the team has played well offers hope and excitement that is rarely ever seen with Maryland football. Additionally, this is the first time in program history that Maryland visits Champaign. This game against Illinois will be a great tuneup for the Terps before they move into the grueling Big Ten schedule in the coming weeks. Illinois might not pose the biggest threat to their perfect start, but Maryland should, like they did against Howard, go in for the kill early and not ease up.
Date: Friday, September 17, 2021
Time: 9:00 PM EST
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Illinois