Maryland next to try to stop Wisconsin's Gordon
Welcome to the Big Ten, Terrapins.
The inaugural tour through the new conference brings Maryland to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, when Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) will unleash rested tailback Melvin Gordon on a defense allowing 198.3 yards rushing per game.
Gordon presents the Terrapins (5-2, 2-1) their biggest test on the ground yet.
''I think he has long and short speed. I think he has great vision, and he has power. He's an upright runner that has a lot of power,'' Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said. ''There's a combination of those things that makes him such a good runner.''
Wisconsin seems to think so, too, and this week launched a social media campaign hyping Gordon's credentials to get to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
They're pretty impressive halfway through the 2014 season. Gordon leads the Bowl Subdivision at 174.3 yards rushing per game. He's also the NCAA career leader in yards per carry at 8.03.
Gordon's Heisman hopes were already a popular topic of conversation during the Badgers' bye week. The running back said the attention is a little draining, especially after being unable to watch a college football game without seeing a commercial or segment mentioning his name.
Gordon knows he needs to keep producing.
''I hear it. It's a good feeling,'' he said. ''But I know after a bad game, or one loss, it can be all gone.''
Some things to watch in the first meeting between the two schools:
HIGH WATTAGE: Wisconsin likes to push defensive fronts around with its beefy offensive line. But the Badgers will get another key piece on offense back with fullback Derek Watt cleared to play. Watt had been sidelined by right foot surgery after getting hurt in the season-opening loss to LSU. Watt, the younger brother of Houston Texans star defensive lineman J.J. Watt, is a good blocker who can also give the uneven passing game another option out of the backfield.
ON A ROLL: Maryland's offense presents its own challenges in averaging 35 points a game. One of the league's surprise teams of the first half, the Terrapins can ride the confidence of the comeback win over Iowa and a five-game road winning streak. It's a streak that will be severely tested at Camp Randall Stadium.
''Obviously the thing that comes to mind for me is between the third and fourth quarter, when they play the `Jump Around' song and it gets everybody going there,'' Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. ''It is a packed house, it's loud.''
RED HERRING: Wisconsin's defense is getting a key player back, too, with the return of top defensive lineman Warren Herring. The senior has been sidelined since injuring his right knee in the LSU game. Getting Herring back could help shore up a run defense that has allowed 178 yards rushing per game the last two weeks.
''Standing on the sideline kills him, so I know he's ready to go and (he's) fired up to help us win,'' said fellow lineman Konrad Zagzebski.
TERPS' BROWN: Herring and Zagzebski will be tasked to help figure out how to contain Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, who ran for 99 yards on 21 carries last week despite missing a quarter with a back injury. The Badgers are wary of the presence of Brown, though he has also departed the Terps' two previous games for either injury or ineffectiveness. Perry Hills will be the backup after Caleb Rowe left last week with a knee injury. Receiver Stefon Diggs is coming off a season-high 130 yards on nine catches against Iowa.
TWO-TIMING: Wisconsin, as usual, has declined to officially name a starting quarterback, though it appears Joel Stave will get the nod for a second straight week. Coach Gary Andersen indicated that dual-threat sophomore Tanner McEvoy should get more than one series, as he did in Wisconsin's last game two weeks ago against Illinois. Stewart said the Terps' defense will prepare for both quarterbacks.
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in College Park, Maryland, contributed to this report.
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