Michigan State started the year 2-0 before plunging into a four-game losing streak that's knocked the Spartans way out of the picture in the Big Ten and called into question their long-term viability as a contender. Maryland started 4-0 under first-year head coach D.J. Durkin, but two ugly losses to Penn State and Minnesota have poured cold water on the Terps.
Clearly, 2016's a transitional year for both programs. Mark Dantonio's job at this point is damage control, with the goal of preventing MSU from slipping any farther than it already has. The Spartans made the Playoff last year, and now they're miles from national competitiveness again. Dantonio needs to keep things from getting worse.
On the other sideline, Maryland was 3-9 last year and has looked generally better so far, but the Terps have clear problems to address before they're any kind of threat in the East division.
Neither of these teams is going anywhere this year, but both could be relevant in the years to come. How they close 2016 will say a lot about that, and that process moves forward on Saturday.
How to watch, stream, and listen
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. The broadcasters are Eric Collins, Glen Mason, and Allison Hayes.
Radio: Michigan State and Maryland
Online streaming: BTN2Go
Spread: Michigan State is a field goal favorite on the road.
Make friends: Get to SB Nation’s team blog chats for this game at The Only Colors (for MSU fans) and Testudo Times (for Maryland fans).
Three big things to know
1. Maryland might need to win this game to make a bowl. The Terps have six games left, and winning two gets them to a bowl. Sounds easy enough, except two of those are sure losses to Ohio State and Michigan, and one's a basically sure loss at Nebraska. That leaves three winnable games: this one, the one at Indiana, and one at home against Rutgers. The Terps should beat the Scarlet Knights in their finale in November, but they'll almost surely need to either beat Michigan State or Indiana to reach the magic number. A win here would go a long way.
2. Michigan State is probably missing a bowl either way. The Spartans would need to win every remaining game except the ones against Ohio State and Michigan to get to six wins. With a trip to Penn State still on the schedule, that feels highly unlikely. Losing to Maryland would all but officially end Michigan State's postseason hopes with still nearly a half season to play. It's remarkable how quickly things can change.
3. Maryland's QB situation is uncertain. Starter Perry Hills missed last week's game, and true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome couldn't move the ball in his place. Hills might return this week, but it's not clear how strong he'd be. Maryland's most versatile playmaker, cornerback and returner Will Likely, was injured last week, too, and is out for the year.