Penn State Football

Penn State football: Who has the edge — Maryland or Penn State?

Maryland (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) travels to Beaver Stadium to take on Penn State (4-3, 1-3) in Week 10. Which team has the edge position-by-position?

Offensive Line

Maryland’s big guys have combined for 95 man games started and are led by a pair of 300-plus pound tackles in Michael Dunn and Ryan Doyle, plus center Sal Conaboy is on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top center. The Terps are averaging 138 rushing yards per game and have given up 18 sacks. Penn State’s struggles up front are well-documented and the Nittany Lions may be forced to shuffle personnel if left tackle Donovan Smith (head) cannot play. Expect to see Wendy Laurent at center, Angelo Mangiro at right tackle and Andrew Nelson at Smith’s spot if Smith can’t go. Advantage: Maryland

Quarterbacks

C.J. Brown hasn’t been asked to carry the Terps offense with his arm and has completed just 48 percent of his throws for 249 yards over the last two games. But Brown can run and is one of just 10 active FBS players with 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in his career. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg is having a tough season compared to his freshman campaign but is as tough as nails, a team player and is still capable of making game-changing throws despite his recent struggles. Advantage: Penn State

Running Backs

Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch will split the workload with Zach Zwinak out for the season. Penn State will have a third back ready but expect Belton and Lynch to get most of the work. Lynch’s has a nice combination of Zwinak’s size and Belton’s quickness and uses both to hit holes quickly. Both are involved in the passing game. Maryland uses Brandon Ross and Wes Brown equally and the two are combining for 65 yards per game. C.J. Brown leads the Terps with 376 yards on 98 carries. Advantage: Push

Receivers/Tight Ends

Maryland has a nice collection of wideouts with a lot of speed. Stefon Diggs is the team’s most dangerous playmaker. He and Deon Long are the Terps’ two primary options. Diggs leads the team with 46 grabs for 601 yards and five touchdown receptions. Marcus Leak is the Terps’ biggest wideout but he doesn’t lack speed and can get deep quick. Derrick Hayward is a converted linebacker playing tight end for Maryland. Penn State’s Saeed Blacknall made a nice touchdown catch last week and he and fellow true freshman Chris Godwin have been useful while Geno Lewis has caught just eight passes over the last three games. DaeSean Hamilton continues to be Penn State’s best offensive weapon and has 27 catches for 284 yards in that same span. Penn State’s tight ends are chipping in here and there but aren’t stretching the field like they have in the past. Advantage: Maryland

Defensive Line

Maryland runs a 3-4 and nose tackle Darius Kilgo is the big man in the middle with Keith Bowers and Andre Monroe flanking him. Monroe is a dangerous pass rusher and his 5-foot-11 inch frame is deceptive as Monroe packs 282 pounds onto it. He’s got eight tackles for loss and is tied for second in the conference with 61/2 sacks. Penn State’s getting production out of all four of their starters. Anthony Zettel continues his relentless assault on opposing offenses week after week which has freed Deion Barnes up in the process. Barnes is just one sack away from his season high of five set during his breakout freshman season in 2012. Penn State’s defensive line has been formidable in every game and is making life much easier for their teammates behind them. Advantage: Penn State

Linebackers

As Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said, he can show 10 clips of Mike Hull making big plays every game. Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell have been solid on either side of Hull. Bell has played with an edge over the last few games. Maryland may get outside backer Matt Robinson back for this game. If so, he’ll join Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, Cole Farrand and L.A. Goree as the Terps’ projected starters. Yannick Ngakoue is used as a pass rusher and has 41/2 sacks on the season. Overall, the Terps haven’t been nearly as effective stopping the run as Hull and Co. have, and are allowing 212 yards per game. Advantage: Penn State

Defensive Backs

The Nittany Lions lost a key component in Ryan Keiser, the quarterback of the secondary, before the Ohio State game. Marcus Allen filled in admirably and will make his second start alongside Adrian Amos on Saturday. Meanwhile, Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas continue to hold down corner duties with help from true freshmen Grant Haley and Christian Campbell. Maryland relies on a trio of upperclassmen — safeties Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon and corner Jeremiah Johnson — but sophomore corner William Likely is their biggest playmaker. Although he’s small at 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, Likely has returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns this season. The most important trend? Maryland’s given up three times as many passing touchdowns (12) as Penn State has. Advantage: Penn State

Special Teams

Maryland is averaging about five more yards per punt but the return game is where the Terps do most of their damage. The Terps, with Likely as their primary punt returner, are averaging a league-best 18 yards per return, good for sixth-best in the country. Maryland also fields a Top 25 kickoff return team which averages 24 yards per game. Penn State’s Sam Ficken has been near perfect on field goals with 13 makes in 15 tries. Maryland’s Brad Craddock has been perfect, making 12 of 12 kicks and 18 straight dating to last season. Advantage: Maryland

Intangibles

Both teams are coming off losses with Penn State having stood toe-to-toe with Big Ten heavyweight Ohio State. Maryland got blasted at Wisconsin but overall is 3-1 on the road so far. Penn State has been better on third down and both teams are minus 1 in turnover margin. Maryland has committed 11 more penalties. The Nittany Lions haven’t lost four straight games since 2004 and have historically dominated Maryland, owning a 35-1-1 edge in the series. As for Beaver Stadium, it usually provides a pretty good home field advantage. The five pre-snap penalties committed by the Buckeyes should serve as plenty of evidence. Advantage: Penn State

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