When media days arrive you know that college football season is almost upon us. To get us through the last few days before the good stuff arrives, we’re setting a bar for each team in the conference and weighing in on why they might or might not reach it during the 2015 season.
Up next is Maryland, which had a solid first season in the Big Ten with a 7-6 record. Coach Randy Edsall recently agreed to a three-year contract extension, so he's hoping to lead the Terps to their third straight bowl berth. Can Maryland avoid a losing season in 2015?
Why Maryland will win at least six games
Solid, playmaking secondary: Will Likely and Sean Davis form one of the better cornerback tandems in the conference and, overall, this secondary doesn't have many weaknesses. Everyone here is a senior, except for Likely, who tied for the conference lead in interceptions (6) and passes defended (15) last season. This unit is the most experienced on the team, with a combined 76 starts, and Likely majored in making big plays last season. He returned a national-best two interceptions for touchdowns and finished fourth in the country with a 31-yard kick return average. That's all good news for a team that will face Connor Cook, Cardale Jones/J.T. Barrett and Christian Hackenberg. If the Terps can just limit the big play, they could surprise.
Young talent breaks out: There is a lot of potential at Maryland. On the offensive line, for example, three redshirt freshmen -- Brendan Moore, Damian Prince, Derwin Gray -- could wind up starting for the Terps. And Gray, who's recovering from a torn labrum, and Prince were both among the most-recruited players at their position. (Prince was No. 26 in the ESPN 300; Gray was a four-star recruit selected to the Under Armour All-America Game.) On defense, some of the young players here received rave reviews during the spring. Defensive end Jesse Aniebonam and linebacker Jermaine Carter have been praised for their quickness and ability to always be around the ball, and they are both just sophomores. There could be a few nice surprises in store for Maryland.
Why Maryland won't reach .500
Difficult conference schedule: Not only do the Terps have to contend with one of the hardest divisions in college football, but their crossover games won't exactly do them any favors, either. The early West favorite, Wisconsin, comes to town Nov. 7 -- a week after Maryland is forced to travel to an intimidating Kinnick Stadium at Iowa. Maryland could wind up as an underdog in its first six conference games, so, obviously, reaching six overall wins won't be easy.
Too much inexperience/question marks: The good news is Maryland has a lot of potential for the future, but the bad news is that might not mean much for a rebuilding 2015. Maryland has an injury-prone quarterback who has two career starts, four receivers who left or transferred early, a makeshift offensive line and nearly an entirely new front seven operating under an entirely new 4-3 scheme. That adds up to a lot of question marks. Defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski acknowledged early on that there is a "learning curve" here, and Maryland has until Sept. 26 to figure it all out. That's when the schedule toughens up; that's when it becomes sink or swim.