Texas wins if
The Longhorns will be successful against Maryland if they can slow down the Terrapins’ high-octane ground game. All seven of the Longhorns’ starting defensive front from last year returns to build on an underwhelming year in which they gave up 189.8 rushing yards per game, fifth in the Big 12.
In 2016, Maryland’s sophomore Lorenzo Harrison III and junior Ty Johnson ran for a combined 1,641 yards and 11 touchdowns. The pair could have gone for even more had the former not been suspended by the team in early November.
With the suspension now over, Harrison and Johnson will once again fuel a potentially potent offense. Maryland also boasts a deep offensive line, featuring six former four-star recruits, making matters more difficult for Texas.
On the other hand, throwing the ball was an area of weakness last year for the Terrapins. Four different quarterbacks threw at least 33 passes as former starter Perry Hills battled injuries all season long. Hills and two of the Terrapins’ top-three leading receivers last year graduated, and the team’s current options under center have hardly gotten their feet wet.
The one-two punch of the Terrapins’ backfield will be the first real test of the season for head coach Tom Herman’s defense. If Texas thwarts Maryland’s early attempts to establish the run and force them to air the ball out, the Terrapins should run out of gas.
Texas loses if
The Longhorns will come up short if their offense can’t fully adjust to the massive amount of turnover it has experienced since the end of last season. Key former playmakers such as D’Onta Foreman, Tyrone Swoopes and Jacorey Warrick are no longer around to help mentor the youth-filled unit, and neither is former head coach Charlie Strong.
Add in a season-ending foot fracture to incumbent starting senior tight end Andrew Beck, and it’s clear the Longhorns will rely on a lot of new faces to make their way to the end zone.
The Maryland defense was not menacing by any means last season, finishing in the bottom four in the Big 10 in both yards and points allowed per game. Still, the unit strung together enough solid performances to earn Maryland a 6-7 record and an appearance in the Quick Lane Bowl.
Texas isn’t starting from scratch. Sophomore gunslinger Shane Buechele appears to have the lead in the team’s competition for the starting quarterback spot (for now, at least). Junior running back Chris Warren III’s mold is similar to Foreman’s as a thumper who can pound his way through the trenches. Additionally, the receiving corps might be the deepest area on the team’s roster.
However, learning a new system, perfecting your timing, building chemistry — all of that takes time. Thus far, the Longhorns have only had nine months with Herman.
If Texas’ offense gets overwhelmed by all of the changes, falls out of rhythm or can’t stay in sync, Maryland’s defense is good enough to capitalize on the Longhorns’ mistakes.