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Maryland, Michigan State seek a 'plus-one' victory Saturday
By: By DAVID GINSBURG  - AP Sports Writer
Published: 12/17/2020  at  12:42:15 PM
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In yet another twist to this crazy college football season, Maryland gets a second chance to provide its seniors with a victory in their final home game.

The Terrapins face Michigan State on Saturday night in a Big Ten ''plus-one'' matchup featuring two teams with losing records that were supposed to meet last month before an outbreak of COVID-19 in College Park forced the game to be canceled.

Maryland (2-3, 2-3) honored its senior class last Saturday before falling in overtime to Rutgers. Now, during what the conference has labeled ''Champions Week,'' the Terps get another opportunity to get it right.

''It's almost like a do-over for our seniors, a second chance to send them out the right way,'' said Maryland coach Michael Locksley, who will use the same three tri-captains as last week.

The original plan by the Big Ten was to match teams from opposite divisions in this additional week, but since the Terrapins and Spartans had their Nov. 21 game wiped off the schedule, they'll try again Saturday night.

''None of us in the Big Ten were certain how this Champions Week would play out,'' Locksley said. ''Having the opportunity to play Michigan State - which we missed out on earlier in the year - our players are excited about it.''

The matchup also works well for Michigan State (2-5, 2-5), which has struggled thus far under first-year coach Mel Tucker.

''This gives us an opportunity to continue to build and figure out how to play tough, relentless football for four quarters,'' Tucker said.

Tucker had a game plan fully in place for that Nov. 21 game before the Terrapins were forced to cancel on the 19th. So preparing for this one will be just a little bit easier.

''It's going to factor in a little bit but we have to take into account what they've done since then,'' he said. ''It's kind of like in the NFL, playing a team twice a year. Things change and you have to make adjustments.''

UNCERTAINTY AT QUARTERBACK

Maryland starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa sat out the Rutgers game for ''medical reasons'' according to the team, which does not specify which players test positive for COVID-19.

His status for Saturday remains up in the air.

Backup Lance LeGendre started against Rutgers but was pulled after throwing two early interceptions. Eric Najarian, a sophomore who had never taken a snap at the college level, took over and went 12 for 23 for 218 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Michigan State has also had issues at quarterback. Rocky Lombardi started the first six games, but was injured in a loss to Ohio State and did not play last week against Penn State.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Payton Thorne made his first career start and was 22 for 39 for 325 yards and three TDs in a 39-24 defeat.

''Payton is going to start this week and hopefully Rocky will be available for us,'' Tucker said..

GOOD AND BAD

The Spartans finished the regular season in last place in the Big Ten East, and enter this game with a two-game losing streak.

They've suffered several lopsided defeats, most notably 52-12 to Ohio State, 49-7 at Iowa and 24-0 against Indiana. But Michigan State is the only team to defeat Northwestern, which is playing for the Big Ten title on Saturday.

FINAU SUSPENDED

Maryland junior defensive lineman Ami Finau will sit out the first half after being suspended by Locksley for twisting the ankle of Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral in a pileup.

''He made a poor decision. That's not what we're about here at Maryland,'' said Locksley, who called Rutgers coach Greg Schiano to apologize.

Finau also wrote a letter of apology to Schiano, Locksley said.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25


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