4 storylines for IU’s game vs. Maryland

1. Indiana’s ability to stop the run.
Maryland has had four different running backs rush for 100 yards in a game this season. It’s a backfield led by senior Ty Johnson and redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland, but don’t forget about sophomore Javon Leake or freshman Tayon Fleet-Davis, either. Johnson ranks fourth on Maryland’s all-time list with 2,597 yards, including 468 this season. McFarland has rushed for a team-high 514 yards this season, averaging seven yards per carry. Leake, meanwhile, became the first player in Big Ten history to win both the Big Ten Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week awards two weeks ago after totaling four touchdowns (three rushing, one kickoff) and 274 all-purpose yards against Illinois. IU’s rush defense ranks sixth in the Big Ten with 149.3 yards allowed against conference teams.

2. Making special teams matter.
IU’s special teams units have struggled at times during the past three games, including a blocked punt that led to a quick touchdown at Minnesota and poor kickoff coverage against Iowa and Penn State. The Hoosiers need to be at their best in the latter area against a Maryland team that stands as the only squad in the Football Bowl Subdivision that has two different players (Ty Johnson and Javon Leake) who have recorded a kickoff return touchdown. IU kicker Logan Justus, who is 11-for-13 on field goals and 23-of-24 on extra points, was named this week as one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award. Maryland’s Joseph Petrino is the only freshman kicker to remain perfect on kicks this season, knocking in each of his six attempts.

3. A meeting between ballhawks.
A pair of opportunistic defenses are set to meet this weekend in Bloomington. Indiana leads the Big Ten with 20 takeaways, while Maryland ranks second with 18. IU’s takeaways have been split evenly between interceptions and fumble recoveries, with 10 each. Maryland, meanwhile, has seized 16 interceptions. That’s the highest total in the country, albeit one due in large part to the Rutgers effect. The Terps intercepted Rutgers quarterbacks five times in their meeting last month. For Indiana, freshmen have had a hand in 14 of the 20 takeaways, including 11 of the last 13.

4. Getting explosive
At this point, Indiana’s offense is what is — one that struggles in opposing territory and lacks the kind of explosiveness needed to win games in the conference. According to the advanced stats at SB Nation, the Hoosiers’ offense ranks 124th nationally in explosiveness. At times, IU has shown the ability to complete the downfield passes that can stretch a defense. Indiana did exactly that during its fourth-quarter comeback attempt at Minnesota. Generally, however, there seems to be an unwillingness to take advantage of those matchups. Maryland ranks second in the Big Ten with 15 runs of 30 or more yards.

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