Craig has the Scout - Maryland 2018

Oct 25, 2018

Coming Up

Who: Maryland Terrapins

When: 2:30 pm - October 27th, 2018

Where: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD (not sure why it is not longer Byrd Stadium though)

How: BTN

Opponent Primer:

Head Coach: Matt Canada. DJ Durkin is still on administrative leave (by the time you read this he may be fired). Matt Canada had some issues last year as the OC for LSU, and was given an unceremonious heave ho from Baton Rouge. Like a cat, he landed on his feet again, this time at Maryland. Canada has a meandering college coaching career. His first real chops came with Joe Novak at Northern Illinois, then he moved to the Terry Hoeppner staff at Indiana. He hooked up with Dave Doeren at both Northern Illinois and NC State. He burned his bridges with Doeren, and has since been a nomad of an OC and connecting with coaches from the defensive side to run the offense. Durkin was the latest to hire him when Walt Bell bailed for Florida State.

Offensive Style: Pro-style. Canada is known for his crazy motion game, one that is on par with Chris Petersen. He will move players around pre-snap, and there will be plenty of motion to go around. The Canada bump effect is not working its magic right now, Maryland is not having a very good year as offenses go. The offense is completing passes at a 52% clip, and average about 100 yards per game. The running game is much more efficient, and averages more yards per attempt than the passing game.

Defensive Style: Multiple? DJ Durkin has generally been a 3-4 guy in his career, with a nickel look so closer to a Charlie Strong 3-3-5. Andy Buh is his DC, and in his stints as a DC he has typically been more of a 4-3 or 4-2-5 guy. Maryland is a mix of both. They will mix 3 or 4 down linemen on different series, and at all down and distances. They mix up the coverages on the back end, but typically sit in a single high safety look (Cover 3 or Cover 1). When they go Cover 1, it is typically press man.

Specialists: Joseph Petrino is the placekicker for the Terrapins, and he is perfect kicking on the year. He has hit all 25 PATs, and is 5/5 on FGs. His long is only 40 yards though, and Canada seems to have little faith in his kicking. If the game is close, Illinois has the advantage at place kicker.

Three Things to Watch

  1. The number of plays Maryland runs. The Terrapins offense this year has been all over the place. They are a run-first unit, and work more on ball control. In wins this year, the Terrapins have averaged 65 plays per game. In losses, a mere 47. When the Terrapins can sustain drives they have limited opponent possessions and been victorious. When they have not, it is painful to watch.

  2. Maryland's passing game against the Illini pass defense. The Terrapins have one of the more bizarre stats for the year. They have 7 TD passes on the season, all in wins. They also have 4 INTs on the year, all in losses. I suspect, win or lose, that trend will end this week.

  3. The Illini run game vs. the Maryland run defense. Maryland is a defense first team, and this year they have stifled opposing run games. The Terrapins are giving up 3.5 yards per carry on the season, and no one has broke 4.3 yards per attempt. The multiple defensive looks and creative run blitzing get teams behind the sticks which allows the Terrapins to dictate the game. For Illinois to succeed, they will need to take the top off the defense, and be solid on 2nd level blocks.

Scouting Review - Offense

This week really makes me nervous. Matt Canada runs a fairly simple offense, but it is designed to sow confusion and to open up big plays. You know what other offense used that philosophy? Purdue. While Maryland does not have a Rondale Moore, and the starting QB Kasim Hill is not as good as David Blough, the wide open looks Illinois gave up against both Purdue and Wisconsin are on deck this weekend. When the offense is designed to put players into conflict like this, just trying to play assignment sound football is a fool's errand.

As stated above, Canada's scheme is basic set of plays and all kinds of shifting and motion. The point of all the shifting and motion is to provide a numbers advantage at the point of attack. In the run game this year it has been very effective, but the passing attack leaves something to be desired due to QB inconsistently.

The Terrapins offense is more straightforward than the Wisconsin offense. The one thing I like about their playcalling, when they find something they like, they will run that play and its counter multiple times from the same look. Against Michigan, Texas, Bowling Green and Iowa they found a formation and plays the opponent did not adjust to and they must moved the ball down the field. Kudos to the staff for taking what the opponent gives you and not getting too fancy. If Illinois is unwilling to mask their scheme, or change the look Maryland will experiment until they find a few plays that work and repeatedly run the look.

Illinois has seen their fair share of counter this year, and with a mobile QB who struggles to pass, I think Maryland is going to do the same. Once again, Maryland will run the same play out of multiple formations and motions. The first version of this is out of shotgun, with the slot motioning twice pre-snap.

The guard on this play inexplicably chases the DE who took himself out of the play...which may mean this is a read play and the slot might get the ball (never saw that though). The slot motion though does have the defensive backfield moving back and forth, and the contain assignment will change based on the motion.

Another version of this play involves the offense changing the strength of the formation and forcing confusion in the front 6. If they don't adjust, it gives the weak side end as the player being run at, while giving more favorable angles to the blockers play side.

Here is the same counter play out of shotgun, with the motion player lined up as a RB. The motion out of the backfield is meant to confuse the LBs, they typically have responsibility for players lined up there.

As you can see in this motion, the LBs both respond to the motion out of the backfield, and the counter this time is run away from the motion.

Two separate counter plays, out of three different motions, with three very different reactions from the defense. The first two were run to challenge edge players playing jet sweeps. The third was to confuse LBs.

Another wrinkle Maryland will bring is unbalanced lines. Canada has been known for this formation since his days at NC State.

If you look pre-motion, the left side of the line is the center and guard only. They then motion over the TE and H-back, leaving 2 Tackles and a guard on the play side. After the snap, the right side of the line all have down blocks set up perfectly, and they pull two players around who are immediately on the second level. Also pre-snap, Texas was still trying to set up correctly (they were probably better off before they moved pre-snap).

Another wrinkle is to take the unbalanced look, and mix in the slot motion again.

Once again, they flip the TE and H back to the guard and center. They then run the slot motion back and forth forcing a change in the defensive secondary to play the jet sweep.

The next play Illinois will see with frequency is a simple inside zone off tackle run. They will run this again out of a dizzying number of motions and formations. First up, an RPO look where they flip the TE and run slot motion.

The motion gives the look of a bubble screen and pulls that side of the defense reacting to it. The play then runs opposite the motion. Maryland has every player on that side of the formation accounted for sans the safety. If it is run correctly and they win their blocks, the RB is mano y mano with the safety seven yards downfield.

Using a different formation, the Terrapins give the same look out of a H-back look. The result is the same, the RB matched up with the safety.

The Terrapins pre-snap change formation strength, then run the bubble screen RPO action. The OL wins their blocks heads up and the RB breaks a big run.

The Terrapins will run this out of a few other formations.

In both of these plays, the off-tackle run is opposite motion. The blocking for the OL is very straight forward zone blocking, but in each instance they have advantage at the point of attack based on the motion.

I mentioned above that Matt Canada is known for doing unbalanced lines. He is a really big fan, and he runs his whole playbook out of it.

The Terrapins are unbalanced to the play side on this one, but once again they have the bubble screen action running away from play side.

When you run that much motioning across the formation action, you need to give the ball on occasion to keep the defense reacting to it. Since Maryland runs that H-back / slot motion over half the time, it lulls the defense to sleep. When Maryland does give on the action, they tend to break really big plays. Similar to Wisconsin last week.

Bowling Green was playing hard on outside contain which turned this into a 14 yard gain vs. a touchdown. Just for fun, rewatch that play looking only at the LBs. The play side LB is actually running the opposite direction as the other two LBs are chasing the ball carrier. If you could bottle that, Matt Canada would be selling it by the gallon.

Another way to keep the defense honest on assignments is to mix up the motion look. Maryland runs read option at times, but they like to use that slot motion as part of the read option game.

This play has the Power blocking scheme up front, and I am fairly certain the QB Hill is reading the MLB. If the MLB reacts to the motion, he keeps. If the MLB doesn't go to the edge it is a give. Once again, this is a numbers game. There are 5 blockers for 5 players, and the DT actually is unblocked due to a bad assignment. If Illinois cannot stay gap sound and hold at the point of attack, Canada and Maryland will pound this play.

With the extreme use of H-backs, Maryland will mix in the Wham play. In this play, the H-back will pull across the formation and kick out the DE. Meanwhile, the RB is running a simple between the tackles run.

Once again, the initial motion switches the strength of formation, and the motion moves around the defensive backfield.

Another fun Canada wrinkle is the tackle eligible look.. Mind you, if the tackle doesn't report he is not eligible, but Canada is not afraid an ineligible player on the end of the line. He will purposefully motion players and make a previously eligible receiver ineligible.

I really like this play. It is a full blown RPO. It also involves using 6 OL, and motioning one across the formation pre-snap. Once the play goes, the QB is doing a Read Option on the Nickel. If the Nickel plays back, it is a give to the RB. Depending on how he attacks the play, the QB can keep like this play or throw a pass into the flat. Notice the receiver does not cross the LOS, therefore preventing the Kendrick Green penalty.

In the pass game, Maryland likes to work the flats with frequency. The continued motion and flipping of the secondary assignments means defensive players looking into the backfield. This allows Maryland to slip players into the flat and then turn up the sidelines for big gains. It is also a lower risk throw for an offense that completes about half of it's passes.

This play is designed to put the Nickel defender in conflict. He is looking hard into the backfield trying to equalize the numbers in the run game. The split second he spends deciphering the backfield allowed the H back to leak into the flat.

If the LBs eyes start tracking the OL (they will take you to the play!), Maryland has a set of one off plays to get the RB into space. Here is one of them.

The OL blocking scheme is for a counter. The LBs freeze to read the action of the OL. Meanwhile, the RB does not run the counter footwork and leaks to the flat. The QB is running an RPO here. If the edge defenders bail with the RB, he will turn upfield on this play.

Another Wisconsin staple that translates to this week is the crossing route. Matt Canada has an obsession with this play that rivals that of Paul Petrino. Here is the first version of it.

Here they use the H motion to get the defense to declare part of the coverage, then run the crossing routes.

Another version is run when Maryland is in a passing down. They empty the backfield, and get the LBs running across the face of the secondary with a crossing route coming away from the motion.

Maryland clears the LB with the RB motion, then blocks the corner on the edge. The WR stays behind the LOS to make that block legal. The Michigan Safety read this well, if he doesn't close down on this, the WR gets the corner where he has two blockers and the potential to convert the 3rd and 19.

On passing downs, the Terrapins will go to a shotgun 4x1 formation. Illinois has struggled to defend the middle of the field in pass defense, and as a result Maryland will work that Saturday. Here is one version of the play.

The route tree from top to bottom is a go, and out, and in and an arrow route. The in route is the first option (as evidenced by the fact that the QB never looks off the receiver). Illinois can help squelch a play like this with a Robber safety.

Maryland struggles to string together long drives. According to S&P+, they are 120th in drive efficiency. Canada's team is struggling to sustain drives. They are very boom or bust on offense. Teams that blitz the offense on the edges have created major havoc for the offense. On the other hand, they are 7th in explosiveness. When they find the mismatch, they exploit it with big plays. Maryland has a top 40 rush offense paired with a bottom 20 pass offense.

Scouting Review - Defense

Speaking of teams with a top flight rush offense and a bottom of the barrel pass offense, the Illini offense fits that exact description. Unlike Maryland, who is facing one of the statistical worst defenses in the country, the Illini are facing one of the best. Maryland has a legit top 40 defense, and in some statistical measurements they are top 20.

The Maryland offense is infinitely flexible, it is matched up with a Terrapin's defense that is just as flexible. The defense will morph from between a 3-4 and a 4-3. The Nickel formation varies from the 3-3-5 look to the 4-2-5 look. Against Illinois, the Terrapins should remain in the 3-4 for a majority of the game. It will also have Tre Watson roaming in the middle of the field.

Here is the 3-4 basic setup Maryland has run for most of the season, and should run against Illinois primarily.

The OLBs are both more of hybrid safety type vs. the South Florida stand up OLB/DE. Conversely, they are all about bringing the heat. Maryland will always bring 4 out of this package, and sometimes 5-6.

Speaking of bringing outside pressure, here is the Terrapins with an edge blitz.

While the Terrapins have held opponents to a 52% completion percentage this year, quick hitters on the edges have been very effective against them this season and have resulted in big plays. When the Terrapins get beat on defense, they tend to give up really big plays.

In obvious passing downs, I suspect Buh will attack the Illini interior of the OL. The Illini interior OL have struggled mightily with motion this season, with more issues in the last few games. Look for Maryland to execute a tackle twist multiple times to challenge the Illini on passing downs.

This was run out of the 4-2-5 setup, but they will downplay a DE and create the exact same action for the interior line.

Finally, here is the base 4-3 look for the Terrapins.

The Terrapin defense is extremely sound, and execute assignments. On Saturday, watch #33 one of the MLB. He is a fundamentally sound LB who does well against the run and the pass. Then remember he was in Orange and Blue last year, and Illinois could really use a LB who can both cover in pass defense and attack against the run.

What does it mean?

Illinois on offense is going to need to establish the run. The Illini are going to rely on the run game to move the chains, but will have to pass just enough to keep the Terrapins hones. Maryland will play fast against Illinois, and load the box. Illinois will need to go deep to win. The Terrapin offense is going to keep it simple for the scheme. They will try to assignment confuse the Illini and break a few big plays. Once they have a lead, they will try to grind out teh clock. This could be a VERY quick game.

For Illinois to Win:

Simply put, stop the run and force some turnovers. But, the primary objective. Stop. The. Run.
The Maryland passing game is pretty awful, but it looks a lot better when they can run the ball. Maryland is averaging just over 110 yards per game passing. If Illinois can stop the run and force Maryland to pass, they are in good shape. Forcing some turnovers early and force Maryland to catch up will position the Illini well.

For Maryland to Win:

This is a fun game in that both teams have been extremely lucky in turnovers this year. Maryland struggles with teams when they are even or behind on turnovers in the game. When they win the turnover battle, they tend to dominate games.

For Maryland to win, they need to establish their run game and stifle the Illini run game. When Maryland is forced to pass they struggle. The Orange and Blue have the same issue. Maryland needs to stay stout in the read option game and force Illinois into passing situations.

Illinois +18

Illinois and Maryland on offense are so similar it hurts. Both have struggled with a passing game, and the run game is boom or bust.

Defensively, Illinois has been gashed for 200 yards rushing four of the last five games. Conversely, when Maryland has rushed for 200 yards, they are undefeated. Illinois is a long shot to win. But, is Maryland 18 points better?

When in doubt, bet against the worst unit on the field. That would be the Illinois defense. I doubt Illinois is 18 points worse than Maryland though, Matt Canada's offense will pull a South Florida and keep Illinois in this one.

YTD Against the Spread:



Illinimac68 on October 25 @ 11:39 AM CDT

It's not Byrd Stadium any more because Capital One wrote a big check. Remember when Northwestern played football at Dyche Stadium?

illiniranger on October 25 @ 02:44 PM CDT

i think we have to start Rivers to move the football. He trusts the RBs more on the read option and he is accurate enough to find open WRs in the RPO game.

Still probably not good enough to win this one, but Rivers could keep it close.

CraigG on October 26 @ 08:04 AM CDT

After you made the change last week mid-game, Rivers has to start. Rivers has to lose the job for Bush to come back. The main issue with Rivers in this game will be the pressure when Illinois has to pass. He is still not making his way fully through the progressions, and pressure rattles him.

If I'm Andy Buh, I bring 5 and overload the line as much as possible with Rivers in the game while throwing press man on the receivers. Illinois has yet to show a receiver who can run himself open in a short field, and Rivers doesn't trust the line to break anything deep.

IF the defense shows up, Rivers should be able to keep it close

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