We sat down with Thomas Kendziora of Maryland Terrapins blog Testudo Times to get to know the Terps better in advance of Saturday's game. You can follow Thomas and Testudo Times on Twitter @TKendziora37 and @TestudoTimes.
1. Maryland has looked great in D.J. Durkin’s first two games as head coach with a 52-13 victory over Howard and a 41-14 beat down of FIU (UCF’s next opponent). From an outsider perspective, it looks like he has Maryland ahead of schedule. Do you agree?
The Terps definitely look way better than last year, and even ahead of where we thought they'd be at this point. Durkin seemed like the best human ever when he took the job and brought all of his energy to the program, but he's quickly proven that all the gushing we did over him was warranted. This team looks solid on both sides of the ball. It's not turning the ball over, and it's not committing many penalties. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Durkin and his new staff.
2. What’s been the best surprise of the season for the Terps?
Perry Hills looked awful last year. He threw 13 interceptions against only 8 touchdowns and completed only 50 percent of his passes. In two games so far, he's 27-of-37 (73 percent) with three touchdowns and no picks. Those stats are against Howard and FIU, but it's such a drastic difference that it really can't be ignored.
3. Conversely, any unpleasant surprises?
Maryland's run defense has looked suspect, especially against FIU, who gained 148 yards on 23 carries in the first half (they finished with 202 on 40, which is slightly less alarming). The Terps have a pretty big defensive line, even by defensive line standards, so that's a little surprising. But given the small sample size, I'm still not sure if this is something to be super concerned about.
4. Share with us whom you think we should be watching on offense and defense! Maybe your biggest playmakers. Or someone who is fun to watch. Whatever.
Always be on the lookout for Will Likely. He's a fourth-year starter at corner, where he's been an all-conference selection in the past (he'll mostly line up as the nickel guy, with JC Jackson and Alvin Hill on the outside). But he's also one of the nation's most explosive returners. He has six career touchdowns on special teams: four on punt returns and two on kickoffs. Maryland is also starting to use him more on offense, and we could see him join that unit for a few snaps Saturday.
On offense, the biggest threat is probably wide receiver D.J. Moore, who torched FIU for 147 yards and two scores last week. And on defense, watch Jermaine Carter Jr. He's always all over the place, and he even returned an interception for a touchdown last week.
5. Maryland opened as a nine point favorite over the Knights. Where’s the smart money, in your view?
I think the smart money's on the Terps here. They were a 10.5-point favorite against FIU and won by 27. Any issues that come from playing a night game in another state should be minimized because the team did exactly that last week. DJ Durkin will have his boys ready. This should be a fun ballgame.
Thanks for the insight Thomas.