Indiana-Maryland game is critical for both teams’ bowl hopes

Statistically, quarterback Peyton Ramsey rates among the best passers in Hoosiers history.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The glaring numbers put everything in perspective this weekend.

Indiana coach Tom Allen and Maryland interim coach Matt Canada know their teams desperately need momentum heading into the season’s final month and understand how crucial the outcome of Saturday’s game could be.

The winner could be bowl-bound. The loser may be relegated to a longer-than-expected offseason and both coaches know it, even if they choose to downplay the significance of how everything adds up in this game.

“It’s an opportunity for us come to out here and turn things around for our season, get a whole different feel for our program,” Allen said as his Hoosiers returned to work following a bye week.

Neither Allen nor Canada planned on spending November crunching probabilities. But previous results left them no choice.

Indiana (4-5, 1-5 Big Ten) has lost four consecutive games and still needs two wins to become bowl-eligible with a trip to No. 4 Michigan next weekend looming. The Hoosiers haven’t won at Ann Arbor since 1967, meaning their most logical path to the postseason would be winning their final two home games — against Maryland (5-4, 3-3) and bitter rival Purdue (5-4, 4-2), which could be playing for the West Division title.

With No. 8 Ohio State coming to town next week and a trip to No. 21 Penn State to close out the season, Maryland’s best shot of earning that crucial sixth win appears to be winning Saturday.

But the Terrapins‘ only road win this season came at Mid-American Conference foe Bowling Green, and all four losses have come by at least 21 points.

The implications of leading Maryland to its second bowl game in four years could add up to an even bigger reward for Canada, who has held together a team grieving from the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, last week’s firing of coach DJ Durkin and this week’s dismissal of two trainers involved in treating McNair after he collapsed during a May workout.

Canada never has made it about him.

“We have three games in the next 18 days, so our focus is on today,” he said. “It’s focused on getting ready to beat Indiana and being around each other. That’s all we can do right now.”

TURNING POINT

Keep an eye on the turnovers Saturday. Maryland leads the country with 16 interceptions and the Big Ten in turnover margin (plus-9). It is the only conference team with at least one pick in every game.

Indiana, meanwhile, has a league-high 20 takeaways, including a league-leading 10 fumble recoveries. The Hoosiers also are No. 24 nationally with 10 interceptions.

MOVIN’ ON UP

Peyton Ramsey’s season certainly looks good on paper. He heads into this weekend with a completion percentage of 68.2, which would be the best in school history. Ramsey needs 20 completions to move into the top five on Indiana’s single-season list and 23 pass attempts, 135 total yards and 377 yards passing to crack the top 10. He’s already in the top 10 for TD passes in a season and needs three more to pass Antwaan Randle El and Ben Chappell for No. 7.

READY TO RUN

Last week, the Terrapins played without injured running backs Ty Johnson and Jake Funk. Both hope to return this weekend.

Johnson hurt his calf against Illinois on Oct. 27 and ranks third in school history with 4,158 all-purpose yards and fourth all-time in yards rushing with 2,597. Canada said he would be a game-time decision. Funk hasn’t played since the opener against Texas because of a broken hand. He scored five touchdowns last year — two against Indiana — and was the named the Terrapins’ special teams player of the year. Canada said Funk was cleared to play last week.

HOOSIER TIES

Canada grew up in central Indiana, earned his degree at Indiana University in 1993 and got his coaching start with the Hoosiers as a graduate assistant in 1994 and 1995 under the late Bill Mallory. He returned in 2004 as Indiana’s quarterbacks coach, spent 2005 and 2006 as the passing game coordinator and then became Bill Lynch’s offensive coordinator from 2007-10.

It’s unclear if one of Maryland’s famous alums will make the drive to Memorial Stadium. Colts coach Frank Reich is best remembered for throwing six second-half TD passes in relief to lead the Terrapins back from a 31-point deficit to beat Miami 42-40 in 1984. It’s still the third-largest comeback in FBS history.