Here are five key matchups in the Texas-Maryland game to keep your eye on Saturday:
1. COLLIN JOHNSON VS. MARYLAND CORNERBACKS
Don’t count the Terrapins among those who think that Johnson underachieved last season. In last year’s meeting — a 51-41 Maryland win — Texas’ 6-6 receiver caught seven passes for 125 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown. Among the Terps defenders are Florida State transfer Marcus Lewis and Tino Ellis, who recorded five pass-breakups in 2017.
2. BYRON COWARD VS. UT’S CALVIN ANDERSON, PATRICK VAHE
Cowart was once the nation’s third-rated recruit in the entire recruiting class of 2015, but the defensive end failed to live up to that billing at Auburn. He ended up at Maryland after spending a year in junior college and he sat out last season. As he attempts to re-establish his reputation, he’ll also try to improve a Terps pass rush that was nearly nonexistent last year. But to do so, he’ll have to get by Anderson (Texas’ left tackle who had 36 career starts at Rice) and Vahe, the left guard with 31 career starts. “He has tremendous potential,” Vahe said of Cowart. “He’s going to be a really great player in the future and I can’t wait to go against him and see what he’s got.”
3. TEXAS’ RUSHERS VS. MARYLAND’S RUSHERS
The five scholarship running backs that returned this season for the Longhorns combined for 886 yards last year. That bested Maryland’s Ty Johnson’s 2017 total by 11 yards. Texas should get a boost with the addition of Cal graduate transfer Tre Watson and freshman Keaontay Ingram. Besides Johnson, Maryland also returns Lorenzo Harrison III (622 yards, 3 TDs last year). The Longhorns ran for 98 yards as a team against Maryland; Johnson and Harrison alone combined for 177 yards.
4. TODD ORLANDO VS. MARYLAND’S QUARTERBACKS
Both of Maryland’s quarterback options — Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill — had their 2017 seasons cut short by injuries, but not before they showcased their skills against Texas. The fleet-footed Pigrome burned the Longhorns for 239 total yards before Hill put away the game. Orlando, the architect of the UT defense, saw his unit post good results against six quarterbacks who finished last season ranked among the nation’s top 20 leaders in passing yards. As defensive coordinator, can Orlando scheme his way to containing either player?
5. THE TEXAS LONGHORNS VS. THE ROAD
This isn’t technically a home game for Maryland, which calls Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium its home. Still, the Terps only have to travel 10 miles to FedEx Field while Texas is logging a 1,500-mile road trip. Texas, which is opening a season on the road for only the third time since 1996, has gone 10-16 in games away from Austin since Mack Brown’s departure at the end of the 2013 season. Maryland coach D.J. Durkin is on administrative leave, but six of the 10 games the Terrapins have won since his hire were recorded at home.