Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa
Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) in action during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Howard, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Maryland vs Illinois, Sept. 17

Kyle Barrette

The Terps hit the road in a search to stay undefeated, as they take on the Fighting Illini. The 2021 season has been somewhat of a rebirth for the younger Tagovailoa. After finishing the 2020 season with a lot of question marks and disappointment, 2021 has been a whole different story. Illinois’ inconsistent play makes them a tough team to bet with or against. Will the younger Tagovailoa be able to continue his hot start to the season and lead Maryland to its third win of the year? What version of Illinois will show up in this game?


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Maryland:
Offensively last season, this team couldn’t finish drives and it left many wondering what they had in the younger Tagovailoa. This season so far, the answer has been what many were hoping for when he decided to sign with Maryland. Taulia has been impressive to start the season, throwing for over 600 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions in the first two games. Maryland has been able to air out the ball and this has landed their passing offense in the top 50 in the country. Maryland has not been as successful when it comes to running the ball as the season moves forward, and it will be interesting to watch this offense if they are unable to correct that and get stuck as a one dimensional team. Maryland’s defense also had a season to forget in 2020 and has taken a major step forward early this season. A defense that brought back a large majority of its roster from last season was hopeful that they could take a big step in the right direction this season. So far, the defense has been up to the task. They rank 30th against the run and 26th in getting pressure. The season is still very early, but the improvements on both sides of the ball are great signs for Maryland.

Illinois:
The Illini started the season with an impressive win over Nebraska but have since followed that up with a loss to USTA, a game in which they were a point favorite, and a blowout loss to Virginia, where they were only a 10.5 point underdog. Looking at this Illinois offense, Brandon Peters is reported to be under center for this game, after exiting the first game after only four pass attempts. The Illinois offensive line will need to come together and play significantly better if they want to be able to stop this Maryland pass rush and keep Peters upright. It will be interesting to see who will get the advantage, as Maryland has shown a good ability to stop the run, but Illinois has had great success with their double headed monster at running back. The biggest issue coming into this game for Illinois is their defense. Their pass defense is simply not good. They rank near the bottom of the country when it comes to defending the pass and are not much better when it comes to stopping the run. The Illinois defensive line is going to have to generate some kind of pressure, which they have not been able to do so far, to have any chance of helping their teammates out on the back end.

Illinois vs Maryland: The Pick
This one comes down to a few things. The Maryland offense is on the rise, and despite some issues in the running game, you have to love what you see out of Tagovailoa. The Illinois defense has gotten worse as each week progresses and the Maryland offense has gotten better. Lay the seven points with Maryland here. The Illinois defense won’t be able to generate enough pressure to disrupt Tagovailoa who will be able to light up this Illinois secondary all game long, making their sluggish run game a non-factor for this week.

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