The Teams: Florida International (0-0) vs Maryland Terrapins (0-0)
The Site: Byrd Stadium. College Park, Maryland
The Time: 12:30 PM Kickoff
TV, Radio, Internet: ESPN3 (Internet), ESPN 980 (Radio)
The Coaches: Randy Edsall (6-18, second season at Maryland) and Ron Turner (0-0, first season at FIU)
The History: Maryland is 3-0 all-time against the Golden Panthers including a 2010 42-28 victory.
Maryland enters the 2013 season as a team that is full of promise and is coming off a dreadful 4-8 season. It’s been a rough couple of years in College Park and fans finally have something to cheer about. The Terps are healthy for the first time in a while and that is one of the biggest keys to the team’s success in 2013. There’s a ton of firepower on the offensive side of the football and that could propel the Terps to their first bowl appearance since 2010 (a 51-20 Military Bowl win over East Carolina).
Key Questions and Storylines
1.) The high-powered Maryland offense - Entering the season, Maryland’s high-powered offense seems to be the hot topic of conversation and for good reason. Quarterback C.J. Brown is fully recovered from the torn ACL that he suffered last August. At his disposal, Brown has a phenomenal group of wide receivers that is even better than last year’s group. The Terps are without Marcus Leak, who will miss the season for personal reasons, but still have sophomore phenom Stefon Diggs, JUCO transfer Deon Long, and sophomore slot receiver Nigel King. Diggs was sixth in the ACC in receiving in 2012 as he caught 54 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns.
One of the key aspects to Saturday’s opener is the fact that Brown hasn’t taken a snap in live game action since Nov. 2011. Practice reps can only prepare you so much for a game. There’s a good chance that there will be rust in the early going but we will also see flashes of the C.J. Brown that torched the likes of Clemson and Georgia Tech nearly two seasons ago. After enduring a tumultuous 2012 season that saw Perry Hills, Devin Burns, Caleb Rowe, and Shawn Petty take snaps under center, the stability that a healthy Brown brings is a welcome addition. The Pennsylvania native adds a whole new dimension to the offense. Outside of Burns, Maryland didn’t have a signal caller that was capable of running with the football last season. Brown also didn’t have weapons like Diggs and Long the last time he took the field.
2.) Can FIU establish a running game? - Golden Panthers senior running back Kedrick Rhodes was the team’s leading rusher a season ago but is no longer enrolled at Florida International after being dismissed from the team last month. Rhodes was arrested for discharging a firearm on school property and is now enrolled at West Alabama. This was going to be his third year as a starter. In 2011 as a sophomore, Rhodes rushed for 1,149 yards which was a FIU single season record.
Now FIU’s leading rusher is quarterback Jake Medlock (236 yards) and their top returning tailback is sophomore Shane Coleman (34 yards on eight carries). It’s say to safe that the Golden Panthers don’t have much of a running game. Now obviously, I’m not saying that they won’t be able to run the football at all. However, I wouldn’t expect them to run it effectively. We don’t know how the Maryland front seven is going to defend the run because it’s a very different unit. The likes of Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis, and Kenneth Tate are gone but Maryland’s defense still has the potential to be very good. The defensive line is very different but has the pieces to slow down the running game. Keith Bowers, Darius Kilgo, and Quinton Jefferson will likely start on Saturday afternoon and have a lot of upside. All three are very athletic and it’s a good test to start off the season against a less-than-stellar team like FIU.
3.) The health of Deon Long - For the past two weeks, wide receiver Deon Long has been held out of practice due to a back injury. However, Long returned to practice this week. It’s unclear how effective the former New Mexico wideout will be this week. It looks like he will definitely play but who knows in what capacity Long will be used.
For those who have never seen Long play, he is an absolute stud. Long can is a home run threat on any play, much like his counterpart Stefon Diggs. As I indicated above, it may take a little while for C.J. Brown to shake off the rust. Once he goes, Long will likely be one of his top targets in the passing time. Long also has the ability to run for yards after the catch. He’s very quick and has great hands. FIU won’t be able to double Diggs and Long because that leaves guys like Nigel King and tight end Dave Stinebaugh open or in single coverage. Personally, I wouldn’t expect a ton of production from Long this week due to the fact that he is coming off a recent injury and it’s his first game as a Terp.
The Terrapins will win if:
A.) The offense puts up points on a bad FIU team
B.) Brandon Ross and Albert Reid establish the running game and have tremendous success
The Terrapins will lose if:
A.) The defense lets Jake Medlock sit back in the pocket and pick apart Maryland’s secondary
B.) They perform poorly against another mid-major (A.K.A. just like their narrow victory against William & Mary in last year’s season opener)
- This is Florida International’s first year as a member of Conference USA and their 12th season as a football program
- FIU only returns five total starters on both sides of the ball (one on offense and four on defense).
- This isn’t the first time that Randy Edsall and Ron Turner have faced one another in the coaching ranks. In 1995, Turner was the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears and Edsall was the defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Turner’s Bears edged the Edsall and the Jaguars 30-27.