The Michigan Wolverines are scheduled to welcome the undefeated Maryland Terrapins and head coach Mike Locksley to the Big House for the first time in his three-year tenure. Since his arrival in 2019, Locksley is 0-2 against the Wolverines — Covid-enforced protocols canceled the game in 2020 — and has been outscored 97-25 in the two contests.
Last year, however, marked a turning point for the Maryland program as Locksley guided the team to seven wins and their first bowl game since 2016. Currently 3-0 this season, Locksley has his sights set on more, but understands the challenge the Wolverines here.
“We know we are going to get a really, really good team,” Locksley said. “They’re well coached, they’re one of the least penalized teams — opposite of us — they’re one of the least penalized teams, they play a physical brand of football. They got playmakers across the board on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, they lost a bunch of players, but when you watch them in the first three games, they play very physical. They’ve got an exotic third down package, which tells us we’ve got to be really good on first and second down in terms of trying to keep that blitz package off the field.”
Locksley was the offensive coordinator in 2014 when Maryland beat Michigan at the Big House. In reflecting on how that prepares he and this team, Locksley was dismissive of that having any bearing on Saturday’s game, but acknowledged winning at Michigan Stadium is no small feat.
“I know it’s a great place, a great venue, a great place to go play a game, they’re one of the blue bloods in college football. Any time you can go to place like Michigan and come away with a win, you have to give credit to the team we had in 2014. But there’s nobody on that team left in this locker room,” he said.
Locksley is conveying a message to his team of consistent preparation to help them understand that foundations of solid programs are built upon good habits.
“Who we play doesn’t change, it’s the consistency of how we prepare to play. I’ve tried to get us out of this mentality of riding the wave of emotions of we prepare differently for Charlotte than we do Ohio State. We prepare differently for Michigan than we do SMU, because that’s not the case as a football coach. We don’t go in and say, ‘It’s Michigan week let’s all of the sudden ramp up our intensity,’ because that’s not how you go about building a winning program,” he said.
While Locksley anticipates more of the same from the Michigan offense, he recognizes the threat sophomore quarterback JJ McCarthy poses as a runner and a passer.
“Their philosophy is they want to run the football. They have explosive playmakers on the perimeter; JJ is an explosive play maker with his feet and his arm. They will feature the quarterback run because of that ability, they play to his strengths,” Locksley said. “He has also shown the propensity that when you commit to stopping him as a runner, he can take the shots that come off the play-actions down the field where they’ve got talented receivers.”
Maryland has not beaten Michigan since 2014, a ranked team on the road since Texas in 2017, or a top-five team since Michigan State in 1950.