Syracuse travels to Maryland to play the Terrapins on Saturday at College Park (12:00 p.m. ET/ESPN). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Wes Cheng and Brad Bierman give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record 1-0): Syracuse and Maryland square off Saturday coming off shutout victories in one-sided defensive tune-ups against teams with inferior talent. With the old coaching adage of “the biggest improvement a team makes is from game one to game two,” the season now really gets underway in this Power 5 match-up, not only for conference bragging rights but in SU’s case a 2-0 record before the biggest home opener in the Dome since Tennessee invaded in 1998.
But first things first. The Orange and Terrapins struggled (don’t let UM’s 79 points fool you) at times on offense against Liberty and Howard, respectively. In the case of SU, a more vanilla game plan was a tad out of sync in the passing attack during the beginning of the Tommy DeVito era, and for the Terps, Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson was also feeling his way through the pace of running new coach Mike Locksley’s speedier offensive flow, even with his four touchdown performance.
Despite defensive strength, we think both teams will put up points through three quarters with the Orange leading 32-20 and Maryland driving with under 10:00 to play. Then the ‘Cuse “D” will do its thing, cause a turnover, and a late Andre Szmyt field goal seals a 35-20 Syracuse victory.
WES CHENG (Season Record: 1-0): Though it was against a thoroughly overmatched opponent in Howard, Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson provided plenty of optimism for Terrapin fans following his 245 yard, four touchdown performance in a 79-0 win.
No one expected Maryland to lose this game, but the 79-point margin of victory was more than twice what the spread was (31 points), and provided a nice beginning to the Mike Locksley era.
Locksley’s offensive philosophy was also fully on display, with the Terps amassing 306 passing yards versus 56 rushing yards at intermission (though with the second and third stringers in later, Maryland elected to run the ball more in the second half and finished with a 306-to-317 pass-to-run ratio), a stark contrast to last year, when Maryland pounded the ball on the ground for more than 300 yards per game.
To be sure, Jackson won’t have the same kind of success against a staunch Syracuse defense, but I also expect SU quarterback Tommy DeVito to still experience growing pains in just his second college start. Syracuse was initially a three-point favorite over the Terps to start the season before week 1. With SU’s offensive struggles on the road against Liberty, that changed to the Orange being a 1.5-point underdog. I think Vegas is on to something, with Maryland grinding out a 20-17 win over Syracuse.