Michigan State vs. Maryland preview: Halt the skid
Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-Maryland game at Maryland Stadium (7:30, BTN/WJR).
Terrapins to watch
Perry Hills, QB: The fifth-year senior didn’t play last week in a loss to Minnesota, the second straight for Maryland, after injuring his shoulder the week before at Penn State. Maryland coach D.J. Durkin said he hopes to have Hills back. If Hills can’t go against, the Terrapins would give freshman Tyrrell Pigrome his second start. Pigrome threw for 161 yards and a TD and rushed for 71 yards against Minnesota.
Levern Jacobs, WR: The senior had 10 catches last week against Minnesota, which moved him into 11th place in receptions at Maryland with 102. His 82 yards also moved Jacobs into 19th in career receiving yards with 1,207, passing Frank Wycheck and Dean Richards. Jacobs, sophomore D.J. Moore and senior Teldrick Morgan share the team lead with 19 catches apiece.
Jesse Aniebonam, DL: The junior is in his first season as a full-time starter for the Terrapins and ranks second in the Big Ten with 5 1/2 sacks. He also ranks third in the Big Ten and 22nd nationally with 1.4 tackles for loss/game. Aniebonam was held without a sack for the first time this season last week against Minnesota, but he’ll be pinning his ears back against a Michigan State offensive line that allowed four sacks last week in the loss to Northwestern.
Uphill battle: Michigan State has lost four straight, and despite being a three-point favorite, there has to be some doubt beginning to creep in for the Spartans.
The starter is … Mark Dantonio made the decision last week to start redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke at quarterback, only to pull him in favor of fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor in the third quarter. Both had their moments, although O’Connor was more productive.
Turnaround, sort of: Maryland has lost two straight after opening the season with four consecutive victories. It’s been an impressive start for first-year coach D.J. Durkin, and even with Michigan State having an off year, a win at home today would be a signature victory.
Welcomed trip: With the home fans getting restless after Michigan State’s last two losses at Spartan Stadium, getting out of town can sometimes rally a team looking for something to cling to. This might be the trip that tell whether there’s run left in the Spartans.
Revenge: D.J. Durkin spent one season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, but you can bet the last-second loss to Michigan State has been hard to shake for the first-year Maryland coach. The Terrapins won’t get picky with wins, but there’s little doubt this one would mean a little more to the coach.
Facts and figures
■ Michigan State junior S Montae Nicholson has 30 tackles his last two games, including a career-high 17 against BYU. He is fourth in the Big Ten in tackles (9.0).
■ The Spartans defense has six sacks through six games.
■ Senior R.J. Shelton is quietly having an impressive season, leading Michigan State in receptions (28), receiving yards (452) and TD catches (4). Shelton had an 86-yard TD last week against Northwestern, the second time he and QB Tyler O’Connor have done so (Indiana).
■ Michigan State junior DT Malik McDowell started last week at end and responded with a career-high 11 tackles, including two for loss and a half sack. His previous 19 starts all came at tackle.
■ Michigan State is 26-11 in Big Ten road games under Mark Dantonio, including 20-5 since 2010. Dantonio has won at least one game at every Big Ten stadium, and Michigan State, which lost three weeks ago at Indiana, has not lost consecutive Big Ten road games since 2008-09.