The Maryland football team is proof positive that statistics don't mean a hill of beans.
You can search the NCAA stats all day long and you'll be hard-pressed to figure out how the Terrapins won eight games against only four losses. Seriously. Their offense ranked 96th nationally (77th in rushing, 81st in passing). Their defense ranked 89th nationally (102nd against the run, 49th against the pass).
No, they didn't have a great turnover ratio. In fact, it was bad, 101st nationally.
You can go down all 17 team categories that are listed by the NCAA and find Maryland no higher than 48th except in one category, kickoff returns. The Terps were 18th in the country in kickoff-return average. So how far does that go in explaining eight wins? Not very. In its best kickoff return game of the season in terms of yardage and average (three for 157 and a touchdown against Georgia Tech), it still lost.
"Coach (Ralph) Friedgen has done an exceptional job," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "He has the reputation of being an offensive coach, but his teams have been very good on defense, as well. He's one of the good guys in coaching. I don't know him well, but I have met him a couple of times at clinics, and he's a solid guy."
Tiller's team is a lot easier to figure out. It's going to throw the ball a lot and hope its defense can make one or two stops. The Boilermakers are 10th in the nation in total offense (including sixth in passing) and 114th in total defense. Only five teams in the country gave up more yardage per game than Purdue, and their combined record was 17-44.
The Champs Sports foes have never met.
"It's always exciting to play against a team that we don't really know much about," Maryland linebacker Erin Henderson said. "Purdue is a very tough opponent and they bring a lot to the table. They have one of the top offenses in the country, so it will be a challenge for our defense. But it gives us a chance to go out and set the tempo for next year. I've been studying tapes a lot to try to pick up their tendencies and the different things that they do."
Champs Sports Bowl: Purdue (8-5) vs. Maryland (8-4)
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29 Where: Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando TV info: ESPN (Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire and sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein)
Purdue Boilermakers Conference: Big Ten Record: 8-5, 5-3 Coach: Joe Tiller (10th season, 75-48) Passing leader:Curtis Painter (292 of 494, 3,721 yards, 21 touchdowns, 18 interceptions) Rushing leaders:Kory Sheets (156 carries, 769 yards, 11 TDs) Receiving leaders:Dorien Bryant (79 receptions, 967 yards, six TDs), Dustin Keller (55 receptions, 751 yards, four TDs) Defensive leaders: DE Anthony Spencer (26.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, six pass breakups, five forced fumbles)
Maryland Terrapins Conference: ACC Record: 8-4, 5-3 Coach:Ralph Friedgen (49-24, sixth season) Passing leader:Sam Hollenbach (174 of 278, 1,966 yards, 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions) Rushing leader:Lance Ball (150 carries, 653 yards, seven TDs), Keon Lattimore (117 carries, 539 yards, two TDs) Receiving leaders:Darrius Heyward-Bey (38 receptions, 576 yards, four TDs) Defensive leaders: LB Erin Henderson (99 tackles, six tackles for loss, two interceptions), LB Wesley Jefferson (98 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks)
Purdue running game vs. Maryland run defense: The Boilermakers will run it a little, but not much. Kory Sheets averages about 5 yards per carry, so he can keep a defense honest. The Terrapins struggled to stop the run, ranking 102nd nationally. They yielded almost 175 yards per game, and will have to be careful about leaving open running lanes with Purdue's spread attack. Edge: Purdue.
Purdue passing game vs. Maryland pass defense: The Boilermakers passed on 57 percent of their plays this season, and most of the time they did it well. They were sixth in the nation in passing offense at 293.7 yards per game. Curtis Painter does throw into traffic too much (18 interceptions), but he also can be dangerous when he's on his game. Maryland was better against the pass than the run statistically, but that's a little misleading. The ACC had only two teams that averaged among the top 60 in the nation in passing (Boston College, 25th; Florida State, 38th). Edge: Purdue.
Maryland running game vs. Purdue run defense: The Terrapins have struggled to run the ball all season, but that doesn't mean they won't try. Their offense is the opposite of Purdue's; the Terps have run it nearly 57 percent of the time this season. But Maryland has topped the 100-yard mark only once in their past five games, and they lost that game. The Boilermakers are more inept at stopping the run than the Terps are at running it, though. Purdue has yielded 190 rushing yards per game, ranking 112th nationally. Edge: Maryland.
Maryland passing game vs. Purdue pass defense: The Terrapins don't throw it particularly well either (81st nationally at about 180 yards per game). But Sam Hollenbach was better during their five-game, midseason winning streak. He threw seven TD passes and just two interceptions in that span. The Boilermakers were nearly as miserable against the pass (106th nationally) as they were against the run. Basically, if Anthony Spencer doesn't tackle somebody in the backfield, Purdue gives up big yardage. Advantage: Maryland.
Purdue coach Joe Tiller vs. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen: Both coaches are proven winners who often have gotten the most from their teams. Friedgen has gotten more this season, somehow fashioning a five-game winning streak with a total margin of 14 points. Tiller's bunch, while again solid on offense, has been horrible on defense. Edge: Maryland.
Purdue will win if: Its defense makes the occasional stop, maybe forces a turnover or two.
Maryland will win if: It can block Anthony Spencer and have success on the ground.
Injury situation: None.
Worth noting: All five of Purdue's losses came against bowl teams. ? All four of Maryland's losses came against bowl teams. ? The Boilermakers have gone to a bowl game in nine of the past 10 seasons. ? Purdue is 7-6 all time in bowl games, including 3-5 under Tiller. ? This is the first meeting between the schools. ? The Champs Sports Bowl is in its first year with a Big Ten tie-in. ? You may know the Champs Sports Bowl as the Blockbuster Bowl (1990-93), the Carquest Bowl (1994-97), the Micronpc Bowl (1998-2000) or the Tangerine Bowl (2001-03). ? Purdue is 5-2 on ESPN this season. ? The Boilermakers are 7-0 this season when leading at the half. ? Three Boilermakers ranked among the top 10 receivers in the Big Ten in yards per game. ? Freshman Darrius Heyward-Bey was the only Terrapin among the top 25 receivers in the ACC in yards per game (he was sixth). ? Maryland hasn't played against a Big Ten opponent since the 1993 regular season, when it lost to Penn State 70-7. That was the Nittany Lions' first season in the Big Ten.
Line as of 12/27: Maryland by 1
Prediction: Purdue 33, Maryland 31. Other Rivals.com Expert picks: Olin Buchanan, national college football writer: Maryland 20-14 Steve Megargee, national college football writer: Purdue 28-20 Bobby Burton, editor-in-chief: Purdue 31-27 Bill King, RivalsRadio host: Purdue 24-16 Make your picks on Rivals.com Bowl Pick 'Em.