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Gameday blog: Maryland at Miami

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The Hurricanes (5-3, 3-2 ACC) will try to keep their faint hopes of reaching the ACC championship alive today when they take on Maryland (6-2, 3-1) at noon. You can watch it on ESPNU or listen it on the radio at WQAM.com. Feel free to participate in our discussion below as you tune in.

REWIND: The last time the Hurricanes faced the Terrapins was 2006 -- just a few days after the shooting death of Bryan Pata. Maryland came away with a 14-13 win in College Park. It's been the only meeting between the teams since Miami joined the ACC in 2004. Maryland owns the all-time series 8-7.

ABOUT MARYLAND: The Terrapins have won four of their last five games including a 62-14 blowout of Wake Forest last weekend. Maryland has turned the ball over a league-low seven times. The offense is led by freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien, who has thrown for 1,148 yards, 13 TDs and only 3 INTs. The Terps, however, are really known for their power running game led by 5-11, 200-pound senior Da'Rel Scott, who has run for 346 yards and 3 TDs on 75 carries. Junior Davin Meggett (5-9, 215) leads the team in rushing with 487 yards and 4 TDs on 90 carries. The team's top receiver is Torrey Smith. He has 34 catches for 540 yards and seven TDs. Adrian Cannon (22 rec., 189) is the second option. Defensively, the team is led by linebacker Alex Wujciak, who ranks third in the ACC with 10 tackles per game. Safety Kenny Tate ranks second in tackles (63) and has 3.5 sacks to go with two picks. Joe Vellano leads the team with eight tackles for loss and five sacks. As a unit, Maryland ranks 33rd in run defense and 8th nationally in pass efficiency defense. They're especially good in the red zone, ranking eighth nationally. They'll bring a lot of blitzes out of their 3-5-3 defensive package. Where Maryland really excels is special teams. Tony Logan ranks second in punt return average (21.2 yards) and has taken two back to the house. Smith handles the kickoff duties and is explosive as well.


> How much will offensive coordinator Mark Whipple ask freshman QB Stephen Morris to do? If there is one criticism a lot of people have of Whipple it is that at times he's asked his players (Jacory Harris, Travis Benjamin come to mind) to do things they aren't necessarily good at. Morris will be making the first start of his career against a defense that will throw a lot of complicated blitzes at him. Will Whipple continue to ask his quarterback throw the ball deep and over the middle? Or, will he make things easier for Morris and allow him to make the plays he's capable of?

> Will the defense rebound? As bad as the Hurricanes played last week in Charlottesville, they'll still had a chance to win the game late. The defense had a chance to come up with a stop and put the offense back on the field. They didn't get the job done and were gashed for 185 yards on the ground. UM's run defense ranks 71st in the country and has been the one thing on defense that hasn't been good enough. This is a big day for Sean Spence, Colin McCarthy and the rest of UM's front seven. Time to answer the bell and get back to creating tackles for loss and sacks.

> Will special teams do anything right?  Seems like an eternity since Lamar Miller and Travis Benjamin made those big returns for touchdowns against Ohio State. The Hurricanes haven't gotten much out of their special teams in a long time. And to make it worse, kicker/punter Matt Bosher has been unreliable. He's missed extra points, shanked punts. Maryland can beat Miami in the return game. Special teams coach Joe Pannunzio could ill-afford another disastrous day.

MY PICK... MIAMI 23, MARYLAND 17: Everything points to an improved Maryland team delivering more misery for Miami. But every time I'm ready to pour gasoline and light a fire on this regime, the Canes stand up and win. The truth is Maryland is overachieving and Miami is underachieving. The Hurricanes are the better team -- and probably better with Stephen Morris under center. The Canes haven't lost two in a row since the end of the 2008 season. They'll win today and become bowl eligible. But this won't be a North Carolina-type beatdown.

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