Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pregame Thoughts: Maryland-Eastern Michigan

The Maryland Terrapins versus the Eastern Michigan Eagles, the titanic matchup you’ve all been waiting for. The Terrapins come into today’s game at a typically manic 2-1 record, having beaten heavily favored Cal last week and embarrassed one week before that losing to Middle Tennessee. Where the Terps are now represents something of an eerie pattern for this program, as Maryland football has typically played up (or down, as the case may be) to their competition. That’s the reason why they can beat teams like Cal while lose to Middle Tennessee.

The thing that all Maryand fans want to know is whether or not this team will continue that pattern and ultimately underachieve, or will the team be at (or near) their best every game regardless of competition. So, with the MTSU Blue Raiders loss in the rear-view mirror, can the Terps turn that psychological corner? That is the overarching question that this game could help answer. As for what specific things we should be looking for…

Can Chris Turner put together back-to-back solid games? Inconsistency has plagued Turner throughout his career and it’s been a big factor early in this season (see Middle Tennessee). Although Falco insists that it might be good for Turner to get his ‘bad game’ out of the way so he’ll have a good game against Clemson, most Maryland fans are hoping he comes out and has a good game and gain more confidence in this offense.

Will Kenny Tate emerge as a playmaking safety? There have been a good number of glowing reports on Kenny Tate’s development as a safety in this year’s defense. Originally recruited as a wide receiver (four stars by, Tate was switched to safety this summer to make up for lack of depth. Friedgen has been impressed with his aptitude and soft hands. Tate is set to get a good deal of playing time today, so he’s a major player to watch; he will also be the short man on punt returns because of the difficult rugby-style punts that EMU employs.

Can Josh Portis find a rhythm? There’s been a lot of confusion amongst Terrapin fans regarding the use of Josh Portis in games, because nearly all of his plays have been predictable and generally ineffective. It has come to light however that there have been issues with Portis making the correct reads on those plays. Considering how much time that Josh Portis has gone without being on a football field (two full seasons and then some), it’s somewhat understandable that he’s been having some of these issues. This game provides another opportunity for him to get things right; if Portis can become the weapon he has the potential to be, Terrapin fans will have good reason to get excited.

How will the running game look without Scott? Most likely Da'Rell Scott will not be playing in this game, leaving the running duties to Davin Meggett and Morgan Green. Davin Meggett will be most likely the primary ball carrier, with Morgan Green spelling him on certain series. We know that Davin can be very effective at spelling Scott, but how he handles the starting duties will be something very important to watch. Morgan Green was one of Maryland's better backs going into spring practice but has been continually slowed by injury; a strong performance could ease a lot of Terp fans concerns were Da'Rell's injury to become a sustained problem.
Can Obi Egekeze regain his confidence? Ralph Friedgen desperately wants his kicker to find his stroke heading into next week's ACC matchup versus Clemson. He is currently 0-5 on field goals this season earning him LVP for two games this year according to this blog. If the Terps are going to win big games, Egekeze needs to get on track. Now's the time to do it.

Those are just a few points that are important to look out for; Eastern Michigan is not a good team. They were throttled by Michigan State by over thirty points, the same MSU team that was trounced by Cal. From that we can safely say that Maryland, playing at or near its best, should win handily. If the Terps can only squeak out a victory, we might be looking at the same old team. If they blow EMU out like they’re capable of, we might be looking at a new team. (Note: And if they lose… please drink responsibly)

Prediction: Maryland, 31-17
(Photo Credit: Greg Fiume/

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