Maryland vs. Virginia Tech: 5 reasons the Terrapins will win the Pinstripe Bowl
Maryland is back in a bowl game.
The Terrapins notched a victory over Rutgers in the season finale to finish the year with a 6-6 record, getting to their first bowl game under Mike Locksley. It’s also the team’s first appearance since 2016.
Maryland makes the trek to New York to play in the Pinstripe Bowl. It will be battling a familiar foe from the ACC days, taking on Virginia Tech at Yankee Stadium.
How favorable is the Pinstripe Bowl matchup for Maryland? Here are 5 reasons the Terrapins will win:
Taulia Tagovailoa’s ability to move the chains
Tagovailoa had a strong season under center for the Terps, proving to be the heart-and-soul of a team that reached its first postseason since 2016. He threw for 3,595 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 68.4% of his passes. He did throw 11 interceptions, but 5 of those came in a blowout loss to Iowa in early October.
While Maryland did endure some hard stretches offensively throughout the season, Tagovailoa did protect the ball fairly well during the year. He only had two multi-interception games and he completed 70% or more of his passes in 7 of the Terrapins’ 12 games.
Tagovailoa did an excellent job of getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers with a quick release. To put it simply, the Maryland quarterback runs Mike Locksley’s offensive scheme really well.
Athleticism at the skill positions
Speaking of getting the ball to the playmakers, Maryland has some high-level players at the skill positions. They’ll give Virginia Tech’s defense some serious issues inside Yankee Stadium.
Rakim Jarrett hauled in 56 catches for 769 yards and 5 touchdowns and Carlos Carriere stepped up late in the year, totaling 316 yards and 5 touchdowns for the Terrapins. Maryland was also able to incorporate tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo into the offense, ending the year with 49 receptions for 433 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Maryland’s rushing attack wasn’t much to write home about, but Tayon Fleet-Davis does possess some flash and sizzle. He rushed for 123 yards on 18 carries against West Virginia and closed the season with 152 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Terps’ season-ending win over Rutgers.
It’s not the most explosive offense you’ll see, but Maryland has the type of speed and talent that can make defenses pay.
Success against the middle of the pack
Virginia Tech enters the Pinstripe Bowl with a 6-6 record. Maryland was undefeated against teams that finished the regular season with a 6-6 record or worse. That accounted for all 6 of the Terrapins’ victories in the 2021 season.
Maryland struggled against high-level competition this season, a by-product of developing offensive and defensive lines, primarily. Plus, the Terrapins just don’t have the same level of talent and depth as so many of the power hitters in the B1G.
But against similar competition, the Terrapins found plenty of success. This is a Virginia Tech team that has plenty of holes, which is what Locksley’s team has taken advantage of all season long.
Virginia Tech’s QB situation
Starting quarterback Braxton Burmeister has entered the transfer portal after throwing for 1,960 yards and 14 touchdowns during the 2021 season. That pushes Connor Blumrick into his first career start in a bowl game.
Maryland’s defense has some gaps, but that’s going to be a pretty rough spot for the Texas A&M transfer.
Blumrick threw just 16 passes during the season, completing 7 for 42 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is a major threat on the ground, rushing for 241 yards and an additional 2 scores in 5 games. But doing that as the starter is a bit different than in a rotational role or in mop-up duty.
If the Terrapins can make Blumrick uncomfortable early in the game, it’s going to be a huge advantage over the course of a four-quarter game.
The bowl game won’t be JC Price’s first as the interim head coach, so that’s a positive for the Hokies. But it’s still a change from Justin Fuente, who led the program through 10 games this season.
Virginia Tech was able to clinch bowl eligibility under Prices’ leadership, so maybe this won’t be quite as much of a factor as some might think. Still, it’s noteworthy heading into the final game of the year.