My weekend was a pretty full one, to say the least, so I didn’t get a chance to give any of my impressions on the 19-14 victory over Wake Forest at home Saturday evening. And even though I’m two days late to the party, I still think there is a lot to be said about the game which put the Terrapins in first place in the Atlantic Division. Yes, that is definitely not something I would have imagined saying at this point in the season (at any point in the season, actually), but considering the events that transpired in the ACC this past weekend, here we are. That Florida State loss turned the conference on its head and pretty much ensured that the ACC would continue to be the ACC (parity laden). So without further ado, let’s get into it.
1.) Mike Locksley has no idea what he’s doing
I’m sure the Terrapins aren’t going to get rid of Mike Locksley anytime soon, considering how good of a recruiter he presumably is, but my goodness is that guy ever a double-edged sword. Against West Virginia, Locksley spurns his top running back Wes Brown in favor of a never-used Brandon Ross who was just coming off injury (a move that I was a major critic of), with the latter receiving the lion’s share of carries during that game. Then, two weeks later, Locksley decides to go back to Wes Brown and Justus Pickett, despite scarcely using them in the previous game. I am in favor of the move, actually, because I think Brown is the best back the Terrapins have, but for Pete’s sake, can we at least have some consistency?
One week, Hills was running a full spread offense; the next week he was running a pro-style set. One week Justus Pickett gets all the carries, then Wes Brown, then Brandon Ross, then back to Wes Brown and Justus Pickett. None of them, by the way, worked at all except for lots of Wes Brown against Temple. Yes, Wake Forest stacked the box, but I did like that the Terrapins were committed to the run regardless, but this team has no offensive identity other than giving the ball to…
2.) Stefon Diggs, who by the way is one of the best player’s I have ever seen…on Maryland
Oh my, is my typical reaction whenever I get to watch this kid play. He is, more or less, the reason why the Maryland Terrapins have any offense at all. Locksley understands that in order for this unit to succeed, the ball has to be in his hands almost ever play. Last week, Perry Hills threw for 191 yards on 14 attempts; 105 of those yards were to Stefon Diggs (on five catches). Hills needs only to throw the ball in his vicinity and Diggs is going to make something spectacular happen. He is the most electrifying player on the field at all times, and really doesn’t take too many plays off.
Maryland’s offense at the time is feast or famine, and that’s probably okay with Diggs. After Hills took an awful sack about halfway into the fourth quarter when Maryland needed him to step up, Diggs took the wheel on the next play for a gorgeous 63 yard reception that put the Terrapins in prime position to score. Pickett finished off the play, but it was Diggs that got them there in the fourth, and if we know one thing about the Terrapins, it’s that….
3.) The defense is a well-oiled machine.
The defense is going to keep the Terrapins in every single game this year, because they just aren’t willing to give up that many points or yards to anyone. They are pretty much at full strength now, and it’s incredible how effective they really are. On Wake Forest’s last real drive in the fourth quarter, with a couple of minutes left, Kenny Tate and Demetrius Hartsfield absolutely squashed any notion of a comeback victory for Tanner Price and the Deacons. Back-t0-back sacks by first Tate then Hartsfield for a loss of 15 yards ruined Wake Forest’s game plan, and that was all Maryland needed. Outside of that first play, which resulted in a 73 yard TD by Deacons wideout Terence Davis, the D was incredibly good.
It also didn’t hurt that the defense also plugged up the run game entirely against Wake Forest. They only gave up 71 total rushing yards against Wake, and doing that helped the Terrapins hold Tanner Price to an incredibly poor 34% completion rate. Granted, his average this year is 52%, which is bad in and of itself, they still held him to a paltry 4.2 yards per completion. Take out that 73 yarder? That number gets even worse, much like…
4.) The ACC, which is embarrassing itself again but showing (hear me out) promise
Let me rephrase that, to some people the ACC is embarrassing, but honestly after having watched it for the majority of my life, this is par for the course. Why would anyone think, for a second, that Florida State, which hasn’t had an undefeated season since 2000, would be able to run the gauntlet and finish the season up undefeated? A loss was going to come at some point, anyone who knows their history knew that from the get go. Heck, even though they have won two national championships(1993 and 2000), only one of those season’s was an undefeated one. At their best, Florida State is typically a one-loss team that still finishes incredibly well. If you were expecting differently, you haven’t been paying attention.
But I am telling you that while this is disappointing, the ACC is getting progressively better. Mark my words, N.C. State will finish up 10-2 or 9-3 this season after disappointing losses against Tennessee and a fluke in Miami. I think they are going to win out. That would leave Florida State as an 11-1 or 10-2 team, N.C. State as a 10-2 team (or 9-3, as the play Clemson), and Clemson as a 10-2 (or 9-3, they play N.C. State and South Carolina) team. Considering the SEC is only going to have one undefeated team this season, I won’t be complaining about it. That gives the ACC three teams that will end up being ranked at the end of the season, and I can’t believe I’m writing this on a Maryland blog, but there will be a fourth ranked team in….
5.) Duke, who is legitimately talented this year.
Yeah, I know, I hate them too. But Duke is actually a good football team this year. They score like Top 25 team (they’re actually 27th in the nation), and they play passable defense. I’m not suggesting that they will win out, but they are going to be in every game and have a good chance to finish with only two or three losses. Even as I write that, I don’t even believe it; my mind keeps telling me to remember their not-so-ready-for-primetime disaster against a bad Stanford team. Still, they have been doing what they are supposed to do, which is beat up on bad teams like Virginia, Memphis, and Wake Forest.
They will have a test against another relatively poor team in Virginia Tech, and if they can win that I will go ahead and declare them battle tested enough to play closely against Georgia Tech, Miami, and North Carolina. I’m assuming they drop two games against Clemson and Florida State, although anything is possible. Either way, they are looking better, and when more teams look better, that’s never a bad thing for the ACC.