Key stretch: Maryland

Key stretch: vs. Navy, Morgan State, at West Virginia, Florida International (Sept. 4-Sept. 25)

Analysis: That’s right, not a single conference game in this key stretch. Why? Because the Terps have a better chance of going to a bowl game than they do winning the Atlantic Division, and their best shot at the postseason happens with a 3-1 record against this stretch. A win at West Virginia is a little too much to ask of a team with a rookie quarterback coming off a 2-10 season. Wins over Navy, Morgan State and FIU are not. The season opener against Navy will set the tone for Maryland’s entire season. Can the Terps reclaim the title of best team in the state?

Prediction: There’s too much pressure on Ralph Friedgen right now for him to lose to an in-state opponent, which is the biggest reason I don’t think he will. Maryland has the entire summer to prepare for Navy’s offense, which is no big secret. The game against Morgan State should be a lopsided win in the Terps’ favor -- no reason to pull a Middle Tennessee there. And FIU was 3-9 last year (not that Maryland was much better). A 3-1 record here is not only possible, it’s necessary to keep the bowl hopes alive. If Navy trips up the Terps in Week 1, it’s going to be another long season for the Fridge.

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