It’s been an emotional month for Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who will coach his final game after athletic director Kevin Anderson announced the department would buy out the final year of Friedgen’s contract. Friedgen was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year and Maryland had the second-best turnaround in the FBS, but it wasn’t enough to save Friedgen’s job. The Terps are looking to send him out on a winning note. Here’s a quick preview of the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman.
WHO TO WATCH: Maryland receiver Torrey Smith. This could be his final game, as the junior is considering leaving early to enter the NFL draft. He has 12 touchdown receptions, which is tied for eighth in the FBS, while his 87.08 receiving yards-per-game average is 20th.
WHAT TO WATCH: Maryland’s secondary against East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. If the Pirates are going to win, they’re going to have to do it with their passing game, which ranks seventh in the NCAA at 319.33 yards per game. Davis, a Boston College transfer, passed for 3,699 yards, the fourth-most in the nation, while completing nearly 65 percent of his passes and throwing for 36 touchdowns. The Terps had at least one interception in 10 of 12 games this season. Kenny Tate ranks tied for fifth in the FBS in forced fumbles (0.33 pg), safety Antwine Perez is tied for 11th in the FBS in fumbles recovered (0.25 pg) and leads the team in pass breakups (eight). Cornerbacks Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes are tied for second on the team with seven pass breakups apiece.
WHY TO WATCH: This is Friedgen’s farewell after a decade coaching his alma mater, and a win would give the program at least nine wins for the first time since 2006. It will also be interesting to see how the play-calling goes, as the departure of former offensive coordinator James Franklin to Vanderbilt left the Terps in an awkward situation. Running backs coach John Donovan, who will eventually join Franklin on his staff, stayed behind to coach in the bowl game and will call the plays. Maryland is bowl-eligible for the seventh time in 10 seasons under Friedgen and is 4-2 during that span. The four bowl wins are the most in school history.
PREDICTION: Maryland 31, East Carolina 24 -- Instead of letting Friedgen’s farewell become a distraction or a spoiler, the Terps will use it as motivation and rally together to send him off with a win. East Carolina’s defense won’t be able to stop ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien, and Smith will have another eye-popping statistical performance.