In what is becoming each team’s biggest rival in the Big Ten, Maryland is seeking a second straight victory at Beaver Stadium and its first 5-0 start since 2001 when the Terrapins visit Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions dominated the series (35-1-1) before Maryland received national notoriety in 2014 by refusing to shake hands with the Lions during the coin flip and then shocked Happy Valley by scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter for a 20-19 victory.
Penn State got revenge last season 31-30 in a back-and-forth contest in which Maryland quarterback Perry Hills accounted for 349 yards of total offense but committed four turnovers. This season, albeit against sub-par competition in Howard, FIU, UCF and Purdue – a 50-7 win last week – Hills has the offense in high gear, outscoring its opponents 105-14 in the first half and totaling 173 points through its first four games – a school record. The Terps will have their hands full with Lions signal-caller Trace McSorley, who totaled 408 yards of total offense – the third highest single-game total in school history – as Penn State rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit last week to defeat Minnesota 29-26 in overtime. This game will likely be decided in the trenches; Penn State’s battered-and-bruised front seven allows 217 rushing yards per game, while Maryland averages 300 yards rushing (seventh in FBS) and 6.5 yards per carry.
ABOUT MARYLAND (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten): Ty Johnson ran for a career-high 204 yards on seven carries last week, his 29.1 yards-per-carry was the highest in FBS for a 200-yard rusher over the last 20 years. The sophomore has 333 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns on the season and splits time with Lorenzo Harrison, who averages 7.5 yards per carry and is the first freshman in school history to post a rushing TD in each of his first four games. Hills, who will be playing 150 miles east from his hometown of Pittsburgh, has five TDs and just one interception in 73 throws this season compared to eight TDs and 13 picks on 180 attempts a season ago.
ABOUT PENN STATE (3-2, 1-1): McSorley (58.9 completion percentage, six TDs, three interceptions) leads the Big Ten in passing yards (1,284) and frequently targets wideouts Chris Godwin (23 catches, 325 yards), DaeSean Hamilton (16, 169) and DeAndre Thompkins (14, 237). Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley (380 yards rushing this season) was held to 63 yards on 20 carries last week but rumbled 25 yards on the opening play of Penn State’s first OT possession to provide the victory. Safety Marcus Allen jumped from fifth in the Big Ten in tackles to first after recording 22 stops last week – two shy of the school record and the most since 2005 – and will probably see plenty of action this week as the Lions try to play through injuries to five linebackers – including all three starters – and three members of the secondary.
1. The Terps have won five consecutive games dating back to their 2015 season finale – the most since posting seven straight victories in 2003-04.
2. Penn State junior kicker Tyler Davis converted three field goals against Minnesota to match a career high and move his consecutive field goals streak to 17, breaking the school record of 15 held by Sam Ficken.
3. Penn State coach James Franklin was the offensive coordinator at Maryland from 2008-10 and its wide receivers coach from 2000-04.
PREDICTION: Penn State 34, Maryland 31