After a promising 3-1 start, Maryland football was hit with a dose of reality last week in its 62-14 loss to No. 10 Ohio State. But the Terps’ next opponent, Northwestern, is 2-3 and has almost as many questions, if not more.

We asked Ben Pope of The Daily Northwestern to provide his insight into this weekend’s matchup between Maryland and Northwestern.

1. What is the general outlook for the Northwestern football program right now?

Two months ago, this was seen as a potential breakthrough year for Northwestern. Those hopes haven’t exactly materialized, with promising first halves dissipating in the third quarter in losses to Wisconsin (33-24) and Penn State (31-7) the last two weeks. The final seven games of the Wildcats’ schedule are all relatively winnable, though, and a 5-2 finish could still get them to the Holiday/Music City Bowl range that many expected pre-season.

2. Who are the key Wildcats to look out for?

Running back Justin Jackson is very likely to break Northwestern’s career rushing record on Saturday, as he enters the game just 17 yards from the record with 4,468 already under his belt. Quarterback Clayton Thorson is one of the Big Ten’s most experienced signal-callers, and tight end Garrett Dickerson is probably the most NFL-ready player on offense. Defensively, safety Godwin Igwebuike is the leader of the unit and freshman linebacker Paddy Fisher has been the most pleasant surprise, but both are suspended for the first half against Maryland after targeting penalties last week.

3. What has been Northwestern’s biggest strength so far this season?

The defensive line struggled in the season’s opening games against Nevada and Duke, but it’s been near-impeccable since then. They’ve tallied 10 sacks in their last three games, and excluding one 53-yard eruption, Saquon Barkley managed only 22 yards on 15 carries against this unit last week. Team captain Tyler Lancaster is a run-stuffer inside, and sophomore end Joe Gaziano will be playing on Sundays one day. The D-line is also the key to Northwestern’s strategy to stop run-pass option plays, which they’ve seen a lot this year and will again Saturday.

4. What is the team’s biggest weakness?

Conversely, the offensive line has been bad for years and especially atrocious the past month. Coach Pat Fitzgerald ripped the unit at his press conference this week, and it’s not the first time — Fitzgerald has been openly critical of his offensive line dating back to 2016. Only six teams across the country have allowed more sacks than Northwestern has (19), and the offensive line’s struggles is also the main reason Jackson’s yards-per-carry average is significantly down this year.

5. What about Maryland do you think will give Northwestern the biggest problems?

I’m worried about Northwestern’s ability to pass on the Terrapins. Maryland’s secondary may not be elite, but it seems respectable nonetheless, and that’s been more than enough to shut down the Cats’ aerial attack so far this season. Northwestern’s receiving group is iffy at best — star-of-the-future Bennett Skowronek has cooled off after a blazing start, projected star-of-the-present Flynn Nagel has been oddly quiet and the rest of the unit is alarmingly inexperienced — and Thorson doesn’t have the explosiveness to single-handedly make plays happen when the system isn’t working.

6. If Northwestern is going to win, what is one thing that has to go right?

If the Cats can shut down Ty Johnson, they could be in for a great day defensively, considering Maryland’s near-unbelievable quarterback woes. I’m cautiously confident in their ability to do that, considering the effort against Barkley last week and how familiar this defense has become with offenses similar to Maryland’s. Surviving the first-half absences of Igwebuike and Fisher and continuing the recent run of solid run defense would be a major step toward victory for the Wildcats.