The first season without Ralph Friedgen at the helm was a tumultuous one for Maryland football. Guided by former Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall and some spiffy new jerseys, the Terps started out strong but were reeling by the end of the year. A huge win over an improved Miami team, a 6-point loss against #18 West Virginia? Not bad. The wheels fell off against Temple in week three, when the Terps got trounced 38-7 in front of a home crowd. From there, they finished the year losing eight of their last nine games (including eight straight after beating lowly in-state school Towson).
It was expected that there would be an adjustment period involved with Randy Edsall; it’s widely acknowledged that college coaches need a year or two to establish their players with their system. Edsall is a culture changing guy, and changing a culture requires more than one year to do. With another year under his belt, and the experience of playing against much better football teams than he faced in the Big East, I expect Edsall and the Terrapins to be much improved this year. I’d hedge my bets on it being an almost certainty.
Without further ado, let’s break down the schedule to see just where Maryland might get some more wins.
9/01/12 vs William & Mary
2011 Record: 5-6
Key Wins: N/A
William & Mary is a garbage football team and facing them in the first week means Maryland will be 1-0 to start the season. Last year, the Tribe started the year getting destroyed by Virginia 40-3 (thanks in part to Kevin Parks rushing for 116 yards and 3 TDs), and I expect the same result this season. With incoming local freshman RB Wes Brown (Good Counsel), who was courted by basically every major college program his senior year, Maryland should run all over these kids. Add in another local star in Albert Reid, and the Terps are set at running back for the foreseeable future. Given that the Tribe gave up 144 yards on the ground last year, that’s the area Maryland is likely to attack first.
Speaking of rushing, the Tribe are going to have a very rough time overcoming the loss of their only superstar in running back Jonathan Grimes. Grimes is nationally known, due in part to his 4,541 total career yards, and losing his production might collapse this offense that averaged 18 points per game last year. Redshirt sophomore Keith McBride might be a talent, but right now he is far more of a question mark than anything. Also, give that they really lack a passing game with a lot of unproven wideouts, I’m not sure anything is going to go right this game for the Tribe.
9/8/12 vs @ Temple
2011 Record: 9-4
Key Wins: Maryland
Just thinking about this match up grinds my gears, so I can only imagine what it’s doing to a Terrapin team that got routed at home by the Owls. That 38-7 loss falls solely on one man’s shoulders: the head coach. Edsall should have prepared Maryland for a much improved Temple team that has gone to bowl games in two of the past three seasons. Gone are the old Owls, and in is the team with new facilities and much, much, better recruits led by head coach Steve Azzadio. Under him, the Owls have won 26 games over the last three seasons under him, and hope to continue that trend despite moving into the Big East.
Luckily for Maryland, Temple only returns nine starters in total from last year’s team. Losing junior RB Bernard Pierce to the Baltimore Ravens in last year’s draft is going to hurt them more than people think. I say this because I really do not think second leading rusher Matt Brown (all of 5’5) is going to be an everyday back without getting injured. He is very fast, but he is streaky at best. Sure, they picked up father time/grad student Montel Harris from Boston College, who has rushed for 110+ yards in all three games he has faced Maryland during his college career, but he is coming off a major knee injury which kept him out of all but two games last season. If he is healthy, Maryland is in big trouble; if not, this is a definite win.
9/15/12 vs Connecticut
2011 Record: 5-7
Key Wins: Syracuse, Rutgers
If you think Randy’s former team is going to be a pushover because they struggled under a new head coach, you’ve got another thing coming. Connecticut had a rough go of things last year, but that does not mean they weren’t competitive. They lost by three points to Vanderbilt and routed Rutgers, but conversely they got blown out by West Virginia. They’re mercurial, and mirror the Terrapins of last year in their woes at quarterback. Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings proved to be pretty poor passers, who lost them quite a few games last year with their ineptitude at the quarterback position. Oftentimes their defense was forced to stay on the field for far too long during games, leading to fatigue and eventually collapsing.
This year, they’re likely to start the season with junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer under center. His job is made easier by superstar running back Lyle McCombs, who the Terps really need to look out for. McCombs rushed for 1,151 yards and 7 touchdowns during his freshman campaign, establishing himself as one of the best runners in the nation. Assuming he continues to improve, and their passing game gets even marginally better, the Huskies might be a very tough team to slow down offensively. It’s still an enormous question mark.
Maryland has the upper hand, though, as Randy knows his former team well. Not to mention how awful that defensive unit for Connecticut was last year, giving up 367 total yards per game (281 of those coming through the air). The Huskies secondary was absolutely brutal in 2011, and if Maryland has anything going on through the air this game could get ugly. The Terps are also certain to make a point that their head coach made the right decision coming to Maryland.
Part II: West Virginia, Wake Forest, Virginia