For the first time in over a decade, Maryland is 2-0 in ACC play. With wins over Wake Forest and Virginia, the Terps sit on top of the Atlantic Division, and look to improve on that when they welcome North Carolina State to College Park on Saturday.
Like the Terrapins, the Wolfpack stand at 4-2 this season. Unlike the Terps, it's not exactly a surprise. After a season-opening loss to Tennessee, N.C. State put together three wins in a row - at Connecticut, at home against South Alabama and the Citadel (not exactly a murderer's row). After a close loss at Miami, they shocked the conference by defeating Florida State 17-16, and had last week off.
Let's first take a look at the Connecticut victory, as it's the two teams' only common opponent. Maryland, of course, lost 24-21 at home against the Huskies, as Lyle McCombs and Scott McCummings got some big gains late and Perry Hills had his worst game to date. The Wolfpack, who won 10-7 in East Hartford, held McCombs relatively in check (20 rushes for 60 yards and a score), but didn't really have to deal with McCummings, who only got two touches.
The Wolfpack defense did force four turnovers, and they certainly have a defense filled with playmakers, even if they lack consistency. Cornerback David Amerson led the country with 13 interceptions last year, and has three thus far this season. Safety Brandan Bishop has an interception, two passes broken up, and two forced fumbles, and fellow safety Earl Wolff has 44 tackles (three for a loss) and an interception. Linebacker Rickey Dowdey has 36 tackles with nine for a loss (fourth in the conference - Joe Vellano is first) and three sacks. Former Maryland commit Rodman Noel has six tackles for a loss. Defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop has five tackles for a loss and three sacks.
The list goes on, but N.C. State's defense isn't doing all that well. While they're giving up just 20.5 points per game, they're dead last in the ACC in passing yardage allowed, at 268.5 yards per game. That includes 204 yards to Connecticut's Chandler Whitmer, who was barely able to crack 60 against the Terps, and an astonishing 566 yards to Miami's Stephen Morris.
The Wolfpack have been good against the run, only allowing 114.33 yards per game on the ground, and they possess a pretty imposing front seven.
On offense, N.C. State isn't nearly as frightening. A suspension to Mustafa Greene has hampered their ground game, leaving Tony Creecy (64 carries, 284 yards, three touchdowns) to carry the load. Granted, their 145.33 yards per game looks great compared to Maryland's 71.33, but the Terps have a top-ten rushing defense and should have little to no problem with Creecy.
The quarterback is once again Mike Glennon, younger brother of Sean and former top 100-recruit in the country. After a 31-touchdown year in 2011, he's not quite on that pace but is doing fairly well for himself - 1,681 yards through the air with 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions (four of which came in the season opener against Tennessee).
Glennon's surprise main target has been Quintin Payton, a junior who has already doubled all of his career highs with 25 catches for 500 yards and one touchdown thus far this season. Tobias Palmer is second on the team with 20 receptions for 214 yards, and Bryan Underwood is third with 16 catches for 208 yards. The speedy Underwood, however, has seven touchdowns, a ridiculous catch-to-touchdown ratio - he's the receiver the Terps will most have to watch out for.
For Maryland, the offensive line is once again depleted, but Wes Brown is now questionable with a shoulder injury. If the true freshman can play, that will give a much-needed boost to a rushing offense that has been one of the worst in the country.
Prediction: N.C. State 16, Maryland 10. The Terrapins' defense is good enough to stop Glennon and Underwood, but their offense isn't good enough to get pass the ballhawking Wolfpack D. Amerson returns a pick for a touchdown, Stefon Diggs scores one, and field goals round out the rest.