The Illinois football team is set to host Big Ten foe, Maryland, in their primetime matchup at Memorial Stadium Friday night.
What challenges do the Terrapins pose to the Illinois football program?
A Red-Hot Terrapin Offense
Maryland’s biggest strength is arguably their offense. This unit is currently averaging 535 total yards per game, ranking No. 13 among all NCAA DI offenses. Additionally, their ample 46 PPG ranks No. 12 in the country.
The Terps’ offense is led by junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa — the brother of Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa has thrown for a total of 606 yards through two games, which ranks No. 17 of all NCAA DI quarterbacks — just one spot behind Illini quarterback, Artur Sitkowski. Additionally, the Terps QB has thrown for six touchdowns on the year, ranking No. 7 in the nation.
Tagovailoa’s primary target is senior receiver Dontay Demus Jr, one of the nation’s top receivers. Through Maryland’s first two games, Demus Jr has caught 12 passes for a total of 266 yards, which is the nation’s ninth-most. The senior receiver has scored two touchdowns for the Terrapins on the young season.
Demus Jr has recorded over 100 yards in both of the Terps’ wins — recording 133 yards in their week one season opener vs. West Virginia and 128 yards in their recent week two victory vs. Howard.
A struggling Illinois defense that has allowed over 33 points per game will need to take a major step forward tonight if they hope to contain Tagovailoa and the Maryland offense.
What does Illinois football have in their favor going into tonight?
The biggest news of the week regarding the Fighting Illini was the return of starting senior quarterback Brandon Peters.
It was announced Monday that Peters was to start Friday’s game.
Brandon Peters is starting against Maryland.#Illini
— Writing Illini (@WritingIlliniFS) September 13, 2021
The senior QB suffered an upper-body injury in the first quarter of the Illini’s season-opening win vs. Nebraska, causing him to miss the remainder of that game, along with the Illini’s past two losses.
Peters will finally get the opportunity to sling the ball to receiver Isaiah Williams, who was Peters’ backup last season. Through the Illini’s three games, Williams has hauled in 13 receptions for a total of 183 yards. Williams’ 183 yards ranks No. 37 in the country.
If the Illini offense hopes to put up a fight vs. a Maryland defense that is only allowing 235.5 YPG — the ninth-fewest in the nation — Peters and Williams will need to produce significantly tonight.
With momentum on its side, a Maryland Terrapins team that is dangerous both offensively and defensively will have no problem putting on a show against a struggling Fighting Illini team.
The Terps win this one handily, 49-21.