Friday, August 1, 2014
Schedule analysis: Maryland
By Brian Bennett
Football is back. At least preseason practice is. And our schedule analysis for every Big Ten team is also back after taking a brief hiatus during the media days/coaches car wash craziness.
We resume by looking at the Maryland Terrapins:
Nonconference opponents (with 2013 records)
Aug. 30: James Madison (6-6)
Sept. 6: at South Florida (2-10)
Sept. 13: West Virginia (4-8)
Sept. 20: at Syracuse (7-6)
East Division games
Sept. 27: at Indiana
Oct. 4: Ohio State
Nov. 1: at Penn State
Nov. 15: Michigan State
Nov. 22: at Michigan
Nov. 29: Rutgers
Oct. 18: Iowa
Oct. 25: at Wisconsin
Gut-check game: Terrapins fans get their real introduction to the league when Ohio State visits on Oct. 4. Maryland went to a bowl game last year but got blown out by ACC powers Florida State and Clemson. Can it change the trend against what might be the Big Ten's most talented team?
Trap game: Randy Edsall might feel like he's back in the Big East with a schedule that includes three straight games against South Florida, West Virginia and Syracuse. Of those, the first one -- against the Bulls in Tampa -- feels the most like a trap game. USF was awful last year, but that program has a history of pulling off big upsets at home. Maryland had better not focus on the Bulls' 2-10 record from last year and instead be ready to go in the Florida heat in Week 2.
Snoozer: There aren't any total dogs on this schedule, though the opener against FCS opponent James Madison won't tell us much of anything about Maryland's Big Ten readiness. Then again, there's always this to consider.
Noncon challenge: Syracuse might offer the bigger challenge. Yet West Virginia is much more of a rival for Maryland, and the Mountaineers lead the all-time series 26-22-2. The Terps dominated the game last year in a 37-0 win, so Dana Holgorsen's crew will be looking for revenge this season.
Analysis: Maryland's inaugural Big Ten season isn't quite as daunting as Rutgers' slate. Or is it? Both teams face Wisconsin in a crossover game, with the Terps having to go to Camp Randall. Edsall's team drew Iowa as another crossover, while Rutgers got Nebraska. It's debatable as to which game will be tougher. Maryland doesn't face a marquee team in the nonconference, but it also doesn't have a lot of gimmes with USF, West Virginia and Syracuse on the docket. Ohio State and Michigan State both come to College Park, where the home team will be a significant underdog, and the Terrapins will have to find a way to win in the Big House and at Beaver Stadium. The key games could be the league opener and finale against Indiana and Rutgers, respectively. If Maryland wins those two and sweeps in the nonconference, it can at least assure itself of another bowl appearance.