The Rutgers football team will face off against Maryland in its final game of the regular season on Saturday. This is the eighth straight season the two teams will face off, and the game holds major bowl implications for both sides.
The Scarlet Knights (5-6, 2-6) and the Terrapins (5-6, 2-6) both come into this weekend with five wins, one short of securing bowl eligibility. A win would give Rutgers its first bowl berth since 2014 while a Maryland win would secure the program its first appearance since 2016.
“They know what the ramifications are on the result of this game, but if that is your focus, you’re probably not going to get your desired result,” said head coach Greg Schiano on Monday. “The focus has to be on our preparation for Maryland, as it is every week for the 11 previous games.”
Dating back to 1920, the Knights have won seven head-to-head meetings compared to nine for the Terrapins. Since 2014, the same year both schools joined the Big Ten, Rutgers is 3-4 against Maryland.
One year ago, both programs faced off in a late-season matchup in which the Knights won in overtime 27-24. In the win, Rutgers ran for more on the ground, scored more rushing touchdowns and converted six more first downs.
“(Maryland’s) a good football team, they’re very explosive on offense. Defensively, they’re big, they're long, they can run, they play a lot of man coverage and they’re good at it,” Schiano said. “There are similarities because of the people, and obviously the head coach is the same … but so many things that change over the course of the season.”
Last time out, the Knights were shut out for the first time this season in a loss to Penn State. Senior quarterback Noah Vedral registered his second-lowest number of yards through the air this season, and Rutgers had its lowest total in rush yards. The program averages 139.1 rushing yards per game.
Meanwhile for the Terrapins, after starting their season 3-0, the program has lost 6 of its last 7 games with each opponent scoring more than 30 points in those losses. Its most recent loss came in a 59-18 defeat to Michigan.
Maryland is led at quarterback by Taulia Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa is second in the Big Ten in passing yards with 3,297 yards and third in touchdown passes with 21. The sophomore is on pace to break the school’s passing yards record in a season, and he leads a Terrapin offense that averages 426.5 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the conference.
“(Tagovailoa) is very good at ... understanding what he sees. So he understands their offense, and I think he understands defenses very well,” Schiano said. “He’s really a good player, and it’s going to be quite a challenge for our defense.”
The game will kick off at noon and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network. It will be season-ticket holder appreciation day and senior day for the program.
“I have decided to leave it up to them,” Schiano said when asked about the possibility of some current seniors weighing the option of returning due to their extra year of eligibility brought on by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. “If there's any question, go through the senior day ceremony. Because then if you decide ‘that’s it for me’, then you’ve gone through it because I think they deserve it.”
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