Maryland at N.C. State: Two Really Bad Teams Meet in Meaningless Game

Brandon, you're throwing it the wrong way! - James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

And boy I can't wait!

Before this miserable dumpster fire of a season raged, it was easy to look at the schedule and see eight wins. The pillow-soft out-of-conference slate would make a lot of FCS squads blush, and, beyond Clemson and Florida State, the in-league foes were not much more formidable. Even knowing what we know now about our opponents--that Duke and Directional Carolina would take huge steps forward this season--an N.C. State team that simply held serve from the TOB era should put six wins on the board and get a bonus game. But rather than hold serve, an N.C. State team playing for the first time in five years without NFL talent at quarterback regressed considerably in the passing game and, puzzlingly since a decent d-line returned intact, became embarrassingly soft against the run.

It was right to have faith that a new and enthusiastic staff would push the program over the hump of TOB mediocrity, and it is still right to believe that will happen eventually. But the lack of a star at the QB position revealed that the previous stars at the QB position had been masking a lot of deep-rooted talent level and depth problems. Those problems have been thoroughly and painfully exposed and will likely take Jacoby Brissett proving to be the answer at QB and several years of improved recruiting to fix.

But first there's Maryland. And that's a good thing. A loss to the Terps will hardly register; what's another kick in the ribs when the body has already gone into shock from the pain of a seven-game losing streak? But a win over the team that is nearly universally second-most-hated among the Pack faithful would bring at least a fleeting flutter of happiness, a nanometer of something better than nothing that would far outweigh any suffering our closed hearts could feel from a loss at this point. And it would be all the more something kind of sort of sweet because this game is for eternal bragging rights. The Terps will take their derps to the B1G next year and good fucking riddance.

And Maryland, despite its six wins and Military Bowl god please anyone take us bowl aspirations, is just about every bit as bad as N.C. State. This is not a Duke or ECU that turned out to not only be much-improved but also in the midst of a hot streak. Since a surprising 4-0 start, the Terps are 2-5 with a one-point win over Virginia and an overtime win at Virginia Tech. The latter is impressive no matter how bad the Hokies are offensively, but the Terps also posted three-score losses to Syracuse and Wake Forest during that stretch.

The numbers from the respective teams below, culled entirely from ACC conference games, illustrate just how difficult to watch Saturday's game promises to be:

Team

Scoring Offense

Yards p. Rush

Yards  p. Pass

QB Rtg.

Yards p. Play

Turnover Margin

3rd down %

Sacks

Tackles for Loss

Mary

17.1

3.1

6.5

108.7

5.0

-10

26.5%

1.7

6.7

NCSU

16.3

3.6

5.9

102.2

4.8

-4

32.5%

1.7

6.9

And now the numbers they have allowed:

Team

Scoring Defense

Yards p. Rush

Yards p. Pass

QB Rtg.

Yards p. Play

3rd down %

Sacks

Tackles for Loss

Mary

33.7

4.3

7.4

141.3

5.7

38.3%

2.7

7.7

NCSU

32.9

5.8

6.7

124.1

6.2

40.0%

3.6

9.0

In aggregate, both teams are getting outscored in league play by better than 16 points per game because both teams are worse at everything than their opponents. EVERY SINGLE THING. I was too lazy to include rankings among ACC schools for the numbers above, but suffice it to say that N.C. State's passing yards allowed per attempt (3rd), opponent QB rating (6th), tackles for loss (7th), and Maryland's rushing yards allowed per attempt (7th) are the only stats from above that rank among the top half of the league. And a lot of the numbers above rank last or next to it.

But surely the teams have some standout individuals. Well no. Niklas Sade is the only player from either school to rank first in a stat category (that I could find anyway, after two minutes of combing through the internets), and his league-leading 19 made field goals is more an indictment of State's offense than something to be proud of. (Besides, lately he either doinks it or the holder misses the snap, thus negating the Pack's powerful field-goaling advantage.)

The Pack's pathetic-ness in the red zone has been well documented, but the Terps are scoring even less (76.5 for NCSU compared to 63.6% for UM) inside the 20 against league opponents, though when they do score at least they get six points (45.5%) more frequently than the historically bogged down Pack. No ACC team has converted red zone TDs at a rate less than 30% since at least 2006...that's as far back as I could stand to look. And anything under 40% is exceedingly rare. The Pack sit at 29.4%.

Well dammit, I did find something Maryland is doing well. It's allowing red zone TDs just 57.1% of the time against league foes, good for third in the league, so this game will probably come down to the Pack trading three for seven a couple of times and losing by eight. The Fighting Edsalls will probably bend but ultimately break what very little there is left of our collective heart.

But here's a fun thing to think about just in case the Pack do have one win left for the seniors: the Terps currently sit ninth in the ACC bowl pecking order and could end up 10th with a loss this weekend coupled with a Syracuse win. Most of the pundits already have them needing to take a spot--Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Little Caesar's Bowl--that another league can't fill in order to make a bowl. The ACC certainly doesn't have enough tie-ins for everybody. And there are plenty of extra Pac-12 bowl eligible teams (not to mention the MAC, that has like nine teams for three spots) eager to fill those spots. What if Maryland is bowl eligible but, with the weakest bowl resume of qualifying ACC schools and one of the weakest resumes nationally, doesn't get an invite? Could Randy Edsall have done all of this "Chariots of Fire" business for nothing? N.C. State could help make that happen, and that's reason enough for me to rekindle hope enough to make it through one more Saturday of really bad and nearly completely irrelevant college football.

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