Nonconference opponents (with 2011 records)
William & Mary (5-6)
At Temple (9-4)
At West Virginia (10-3)
ACC home games
ACC road games
At Boston College
At North Carolina
Gut-check time: Oct. 13 at Virginia. Maryland has lost to its neighbor four of the past five seasons, the lone exception being 2010. The Terps consider the Hoos a rival because they compete against each other in recruiting, and the proximity of the two schools breeds some contempt. Virginia’s rival is Virginia Tech, but it’s also a game they take very seriously in Charlotte, so bragging rights will also be at stake. Mike London will be entering his third season, while Maryland coach Randy Edsall will be entering his second. London has obviously had more time to build the foundation for his program, but if Edsall is going to get things turned around from last year’s 2-10 finish, he’s got to show he’s at least on par with UVa.
Trap game: Sept. 8 at Temple. You’d think Maryland would be able to hang with a MAC team, right? Last year Maryland lost at home to Temple 38-7. At home! If the perception of Maryland and Edsall is going to change, the Terps can’t afford to lose this game and get off to a bad start. If they lose this one, a bowl bid would seem even less likely.
Snoozer: After a 2-10 season, not even William & Mary is a given. We’ve seen it happen before in the ACC.
Defining stretch: Sept. 1-Sept. 22 (William & Mary, at Temple, Connecticut, at West Virginia). That’s right -- not one conference game in the lineup. Maryland’s nonconference September will determine if a turnaround truly took place this summer under Edsall. They’ll face his old team in Connecticut, and a road trip to what should be a preseason top 10 West Virginia team. As mentioned before, the trip to Philly should be taken seriously. Maryland needs to go 3-1 during this stretch to have any hope at a bowl game.
Final analysis: As of right now, Maryland doesn’t look like a real player in the Atlantic Division race, so the focus here is on whether the Terps can get six wins and get back to a bowl game. That would be a victory for Edsall in his second season and help ease some of the heat on him. They’ve got a good chance if they can get through September with a lone loss to West Virginia. The bye week would give Maryland time to prepare for Wake Forest and Virginia, and a win over Boston College would make the Terps bowl eligible. In order to do that, though, Maryland HAS to be able to win on the road -- at Temple, at Virginia and at Boston College. Maryland’s defense should surprise some ACC fans this year. It’s going to have to be good, considering the questions and turnover the offense will have to overcome. Whether it’s good enough to carry the Terps to at least six wins? We should know by the end of September.