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December 29, 2006
Champs Sports Bowl: Purdue vs. Maryland
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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."