X-factors for Penn State-Maryland game
No. 12 Penn State faces a significant road test Friday night against Maryland.
The Nittany Lions (3-0) are a touchdown favorite against the Terrapins (2-1), who lost to Temple two weeks ago in Philadelphia. Penn State’s October Big Ten slate will be challenging, with home games against Purdue and Michigan and road dates with Iowa and Michigan State. The Lions can’t afford to look past a Maryland team that has dropped four straight to the Nittany Lions.
Here are some X-factors for the game:
Ricky Rahne: Penn State’s second-year offensive coordinator will be under the microscope all season. He has a talented cast of weapons at his disposal, but the Lions have scored a total of 17 points in the first halves against Buffalo and Pitt. A slow start against Maryland must be avoided.
Josh Jackson: The Maryland quarterback has the athleticism and arm talent to cause problems for Penn State’s defense. Jackson, a redshirt junior who transferred after a couple of seasons at Virginia Tech, has thrown for 724 yards and eight touchdowns, including a three-touchdown performance in a win over Syracuse. If Jackson gets going early, Maryland will be a handful.
Ricky Slade: The Lions’ sophomore back has not made much of an impact in the run game. He has carried 12 times for 21 yards. The talent is there, but Slade will continue to lose playing time if his production does not improve. He ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns in the Lions’ 38-3 home win over Maryland last season.
Keandre Jones: Maryland’s senior linebacker has been disruptive in the first three games, notching 4 1/2 tackles for loss, 3 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble. A transfer from Ohio State, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones was a decorated Maryland prep star brought in to solidify the defense.
Jahan Dotson and Justin Shorter: Redshirt sophomore KJ Hamler and and second-year sophomore Pat Freiermuth are the most dangerous players in the Penn State passing game, but Dotson and Shorter, both second-year wideouts, are capable of creating big plays, as well. They were quiet in the Lions’ 17-10 win over Pitt, but Dotson went off (four receptions, 109 yards, two touchdowns) against Buffalo.
Mike Locksley: Maryland’s first-year coach has a bright offensive mind, and Locksley’s career resume is impressive with stops at Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Maryland and New Mexico. Locksley and Franklin were assistants on Ralph Friedgen’s staff 20 years ago. The Terps’ issues against Penn State in recent years are significant. Maryland’s defense has not been able to slow the Lions’ ground game. PSU ran for 372 yards against the Terps in 2016, 286 in ‘17 and 310 last year at Beaver Stadium.
Anthony McFarland: Slowing the Terps’ talented sophomore runner will be the top priority for the Penn State defense. A second-team All-Big Ten pick last season, McFarland ran for 210 yards against Indiana in 2018 and 298 against Ohio State. McFarland gained 132 yards in Maryland’s narrow loss to Temple two weeks ago.