COLLEGE PARK – With both teams coming off their worst loss of the season, Maryland (3-2) and Northwestern (2-3) will face off in their first ever meeting this afternoon at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.
The game marks the midpoint of the season for both teams, each at a critical juncture heading into the second half.
Northwestern currently sits in last place in the Big Ten West, without a conference victory.
Following this afternoon’s matchup, the Wildcats face a three-game stretch against Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska.
Maryland is fifth in the Big Ten East behind perennial powerhouses Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.
Northwestern, along with Indiana and Rutgers, represent the Terrapins best chance to accumulate the six wins necessary to become bowl eligible.
Maryland also has road games at Wisconsin and Michigan State and home games against Michigan and Penn State to close the season.
Complicating matters further, both teams received their bye week early in the season, leaving no time to heal injured players.
If any team could really use a bye right now, it’s Maryland.
Max Bortenschlager, already the third quarterback to start a game for the Terrapins this season, left last week’s game against Ohio State with a concussion, and remains a game time decision.
If Bortenschlager can’t go, Caleb Henderson, a junior transfer from North Carolina, will make his first career start.
Henderson came in following the injury to Bortenschlager, and finished the game 1 for 1 for no yards and no touchdowns.
Maryland will need to rally around whoever starts at quarterback in order to bounce back from a 66-yard performance against the Buckeyes.
The Terrapins offensive line failed to protect Bortenschlager, who was sacked six times a week ago, or create holes for a running game that amassed 262 yards on 47 carries two weeks ago against Minnesota.
Northwestern has quarterback issues of their own, and Coach Pat Fitzgerald has speculated backup quarterback Matt Alviti could see extended playing time if starter Clayton Thorson fails to impress.
Thorson struggled against the Nittany Lions last weekend, and was pulled in favor of Alviti, who led the Wildcats on their only scoring drive of the game.
Northwestern is also likely to rely on standout running back, Justin Jackson, who comes into today’s game averaging 4.2 yards per carry this season, along with four rushing touchdowns.
The Wildcats enter the game as 3-point favorites.
- The two teams will not meet again until October 17, 2020 at Ryan Field in Evanston.
- Pat Fitzgerald began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Maryland in 1998.
- After the game, the Terrapins will have played every team in the Big Ten except for Illinois. The Illini travel to College Park next October.
Northwestern 24, Maryland 18