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Maryland-Miami preview: eliminating the "yea, but..."

By Rick Nelligan

The Terps travel to Miami this Saturday, in what will be the biggest game of the year to so far for the Maryland football team. That is until they square off against Florida State in two weeks at home. More on that game as it comes though. A win against the Hurricanes on the road would finally get some excitement going in the D.C. area for the Terps -- an excitement the Maryland football program has lacked for years.

Even with a 6-2 record and Maryland controlling its own destiny to get to the ACC Championship game, the casual football fans in the D.C. area have yet to embrace the Terps. There is still a lot of “yea, but…” surrounding Maryland. Yea, they beat Navy, but it took a fourth down stand on their own 1-yard-line. Yea, they beat Wake Forest by 48 points, but Wake has lost five straight games. Yea, they are 6-2, but only one of the teams they’ve beaten owns a winning record. Well with a game against the Hurricanes, the Terps get a chance to erase their “yea, but…” reputation.

I don’t want to hear about how Miami starting quarterback Jacory Harris is out for the game either. The Hurricanes are still a supremely talented football team, and boast one of the top defenses in the country. The ‘Canes are ranked 22nd in the country in scoring defense, giving up an average of 19 points per game. They’ve also produced 25 sacks and 15 interceptions defensively, both of which are good for top five in the country. Jacory Harris doesn’t play on defense folks; they are still a very good team. Furthermore, the Miami Hurricanes are still a name brand program in NCAA football, and a win would definitely look great on the Terps' resume when it comes to recruiting.

I fully expect this game to be a defensive slugfest in Miami with the team who makes the biggest plays on defense and special teams winning the game. The principle advantage the Terps have in this regard is Miami is starting true freshman quarterback Stephen Morris in his first collegiate game ever. Morris did get a half of playing time last week against Virginia, but threw two interceptions. He did look better late, but one could argue that the Cavaliers were already in a prevent defense in that point. Also, don’t forget, the Terps possess the ACC’s top run defense in conference games, so the ‘Canes likely won’t have much of a running game to take pressure off of Morris. I expect Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown to dial up the heat on the true freshman signal caller to see what he’s really made of.

While Maryland does have a freshman quarterback of its own in Danny O’Brien, he has the experience of starting the past five games. O’Brien has also proven to be one of the most efficient passers in the ACC, throwing for thirteen touchdowns and just three interceptions – all coming while trying to come from behind in the fourth quarter against Clemson. Don’t forget about Maryland punt returner Tony Logan either. He’s been quiet for the last few games, but mostly because opposing teams have refused to kick to him. If the Hurricanes make the mistake of kicking to Logan, expect them to regret it Sunday morning.

The Hurricanes only seem to be good when Harris is playing well, and he’s obviously not playing. I doubt that their freshman quarterback is ready to give his team the same lift that Harris does. When it comes down to it, I believe the Terps are hungry to finally earn a little national recognition. Look for Logan, or Kenny Tate (one of the top safeties in the nation) to make a big play and give the Terps the lead early, which Morris will be unable to lead them back from. My prediction: Maryland wins 17-7 at Sunf Life Stadium, and gets rid of the ugly “yea, but…” reputation surrounding their team.

On a side note, if you didn’t get a chance to read my preview of the Maryland men’s basketball team over the past couple days, it’s worth a look. Part 1/ Part 2

By Rick Nelligan  | November 5, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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