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NC State’s defense will have to set the tone against Maryland

The passing attack is the Terps’ strength, but it’s also depleted.

Ohio State v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Mayo Bowl between NC State and Maryland is expected to be a tight one, and low-scoring, with Vegas setting the over/under around 46 points. While you never know with this crazy sport, that feels like the proper read on this one.

NC State plays excellent defense but mostly terrible offense. Maryland is above-average but not exceptional at either. The Terps rate higher in SP+ but have also been hit harder by transfers and opt-outs—their passing game especially. But Maryland does have a decided edge at quarterback, and it’s tempting in any matchup to think that will trump everything else.

Which it might. To get a better idea of what we might expect from Maryland’s offense, I looked at the games they played against defenses ranked similarly to NC State’s. Here is an overview:

Maryland against SP+ top 25 defenses

Opp Opp Def Rk UMD Pts UMD YPP UMD Yds/Car UMD Yds/PassAtt
Opp Opp Def Rk UMD Pts UMD YPP UMD Yds/Car UMD Yds/PassAtt
Michigan 4 27 5.4 3.8 6.9
Penn State 11 0 2.2 1.6 3.2
OSU 16 30 5.9 2.7 8.6
Wisconsin 20 10 3 2.7 3.3

(NC State’s defense ranks 13th in SP+.)

The Terps showed up pretty well against the brand names and were just complete disasters in the other two. A consistent theme in these games, all of which Maryland lost (and three of which were on the road), was the ineffectiveness of Maryland’s ground game.

Maryland’s rushing attack wasn’t a strength during the regular season—the Terps averaged 3.6 yards per carry in Big Ten games, and, obviously, they were quite a lot worse against the league’s top defenses.

If the Terps’ ground game is bottled up by NC State, it puts a lot of pressure on a passing attack that is missing three of its top five receivers in terms of yardage—two to opt-outs (WRs Rakim Jarrett and Jacob Copeland), and another to transfer (TE CJ Dippre, who is headed to Alabama). Maryland is missing WR Dontay Demus (8th on team with 233 yards receiving), who opted out as well.

That’s a lot of attrition for a unit that might need to carry the team offensively. Could be this ends up not being a huge deal, because Maryland does still have Taulia Tagovailoa, after all. But if those absences do put a significant dent in the effectiveness of that passing game, then NC State’s odds start to look a lot better.