Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State football's opponent. This week, The State News' Sam Sklar spoke with The Diamondback’s co-sports editor and football reporter Jacob Richman.
Following its first loss of the season, Michigan State looks to get back on track with the Maryland Terrapins in town. MSU slipped to No. 7 in this week’s College Football Playoff Rankings behind Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten, but with three games left in the regular season, the Spartans still control their own destiny.
Here’s a look into Maryland, as told from The Diamondback’s Jacob Richman:
Q: Michigan State’s defense surrenders the most passing yards in the country after allowing 536 yards to Purdue last weekend. How dangerous is the Mayland passing attack and what strides have been made by Taulia Tagovailoa in his third season?
A: “I think that Maryland’s passing game is a big, big strength. Tagovailoa has really taken advantage of short passes and a lot of high tempo offense, just getting the ball quickly down the field to his receivers who are just really good at being able to make plays. Despite some injuries to the group, it is still a group with a lot of talent and a lot of ability to pick up big gains. Tagovailoa hasn’t really had a bad game this year other than Iowa truly. So if there’s an area where Maryland will excel, it is the passing game.”
Q: Maryland's defense has given up 28 plays of 30+ yards, which is one of the worst in the country. Why has the defense struggled to prevent big plays and has there been any progress in that regard?
A: “It’s been a problem since some of the early weeks, particularly because of injuries. In the secondary, it looks completely different from what it looked at the start of the season. Between a couple of season-ending injuries and a couple of nagging injuries that have kept some players out for a few weeks. So, it’s been a lot of younger players, a lot more inexperienced players going up against some of the top receivers in the country. Players like Chris Olave and Jahan Dotson and then it’s just tough for them to keep up with players of that caliber. It’s been a bit of a problem for most of the season and I am not sure I see a way of them getting exactly better at that right now.”
Q: Only occasionally have teams been able to slow down Kenneth Walker III. Do you think Maryland’s defense has the ability to do so and who are some players to watch on that side of the ball?
A: “It’s gonna be a tough ask when Maryland is coming up against players at the level of a Kenneth Walker. They struggled to contain them whether it's in the passing game or in the running game or in the receiving game, they have struggled when faced with someone like that. Fortunately for Maryland, their big strength is the interior of the defensive line. Players like Greg Rose, Ami Finau, Mosiah Nasili-Kite, guys who played a little bit last year but are really taking a feature role. Coach [Michael] Locksley said that those guys are playing winning football. It’s the rest of the defense that is kind of lacking behind. So in order for Walker to have a lot of success, he’ll need to try and abuse the edges and try and get into the linebackers, another group that has been pretty injury stricken. If there is anyway for them to stop Walker at all, it’s going to be those guys in the middle clogging it up for him early.”
Q: What is your score prediction for the game?
A: “I am definitely going to be going with Michigan State. I think they are just at a different level than Maryland is at right now. Particularly, the fact that Maryland gives up a lot of points every game. I am gonna go with 35-27. Maryland has typically given up 30-plus points for the last handful of games. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I think it’s just gonna be a matter of how many points Maryland is able to put up, particularly how effective the passing game is. I think they will be able to manage a handful of touchdowns.”
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