The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (0-0) vs James Madison Dukes (0-0)
Time Time: 3:30 PM EST
The Location: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network 2, 105.7 FM
The Coaches: Randy Edsall (20-30 at Maryland) and Everett Withers (0-0 at James Madison)
For the past 62 football seasons, the Maryland Terrapins have patrolled the gridiron as ambassadors to the Atlantic Coast Conference. This year, they’re officially broken up with their former beau and ready to represent their new conference, the Big Ten. It had been a messy breakup, and in order to finally put this one behind them, the Terps need to take the field donning that B1G patch on their shoulders. Against James Madison, they’ll get that chance — at full strength, too.
The Terrapins are, for the first time in a long time, nearly entirely healthy and fully loaded. Stefon Diggs, who broke his leg last year against Wake Forest, is fully recovered and poised for a breakout year and is the lead man in Maryland’s stockpile of receiving weapons. Among those is Deon Long. Maryland’s prized transfer from last year was injured last year in the same game as Diggs, but is even healthier than last year and prepped to give the Terps his best. Of course, there’s the Jacobs brothers; Levern led the team in receiving last year and freshman Taivon has wowed in the preseason.
Maryland’s still got sixth-year senior C.J. Brown to rely on, a playmaker in his own right, as well as a defense that returns a surprisingly solid front and an experienced secondary. This is the most talented team Randy Edsall has had in College Park, and it’s guaranteed to be an explosive offense built to take on any team.
Meanwhile, the James Madison Dukes are getting a fresh coat of paint in the form of a new coaching staff and a whole lot of new players. The biggest piece may be their head coach Everett Withers, an assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator on Ohio State’s staff for the last two years. Withers wants to get the Dukes uptempo and moving this year, and has the coaching resume to suggest their rise to prominence in the CAA will be quick and ruthless.
His help in turning around a Dukes team that won six games last year comes in the form of a familiar foe: Georgia Tech transfer QB Vad Lee. Lee opted to leave Paul Johnson’s triple option offense for a more pass-friendly attack, but his first game is against a team he’s already beaten once. Lee took down the severely undermanned Terps during that injury-filled 2012 season. Funnily enough, the linebacker Maryland had playing QB (Shawn Petty) actually threw for more yards than Lee.
Three B1G Questions
1.) Just how many points will Maryland score?
There’s no getting around this one. The Terrapins have the horses to compete with any team in the country on the offensive side of the football, and the Dukes do not have the requisite talent to cover it all. Asking a team to prepare for Stefon Diggs’ versatility is hard enough, but add in Deon Long, C.J. Brown, and Marcus Leak? It’s a tall order for Division I-A teams; and this is James Madison here.
Maryland might have to ease up on the pedal at some point during this game, assuming they’re prepared and things go as planned. They hung 47 points on a solid Old Dominion team (rough equivalent talent wise) last year, and didn’t do anything this offseason but reload with more ammo on both sides of the ball. Maryland hasn’t scored 50+ points on a team in awhile, but this game could break the trend — even with the backups in.
2.) Will Vad Lee keep things interesting against the Terps?
Vad Lee has seen Maryland (and plenty of other ACC teams) during his collegiate career, so there won’t be a major adjustment period for him competition wise. Sure, the talent he around him is diminished, but good quarterbacks are capable of adjusting. James Madison wants Lee to be that next-level quarterback who transfers to a lower program to really shine (read: Joe Flacco 2.0) and raises it to new heights. Is that feasible, though?
Lee throws a decent ball, but he couldn’t throw a beach ball into the ocean last year (didn’t complete 50% of his passes in ACC play). So he’s expected to throw an even tighter ball to receivers who are going to be even less open than before? It just doesn’t add up. He’ll get some help from speedster freshman tailback John Miller, but elsewhere? He’s going to need to do a lot of the work himself while being hounded by Maryland’s underrated front, and for a guy who rushed for under 3 yards per carry last year, it’s unrealistic to expect much.
3.) Will the offensive line look much improved?
It’s no secret that if this Terps team has one big question mark, it’s the offensive line. To be sure, the offensive line has a bit of experience and talent on it, but the group hasn’t been together for too long and has to adjust to both a new coach and a relatively complicated zone-read blocking scheme. Last year, against inferior competition, the offensive line look great and C.J. Brown and Brandon Ross had plenty of time. But against some of the more talented teams, the Terps had no time to let receivers get downfield.
This is an inferior opponent, but Maryland’s offensive line has got to become a cohesive unit very early this year if the Terps want to be successful in the Big Ten. Seeing what they do and how few mistakes they make against James Madison will give us an idea of how they’ll fare against the Ohio State’s of the football world.
This isn’t like 2012 when Maryland played William & Maryland, another CAA team, to a 7-6 victory with Perry Hills at quarterback. This is 2014, and the Terps have a new conference, tons of weapons, and are ready to start their campaign to show the football world they are a legitimate team. Their first victim will be James Madison, and it’s going to be ugly. Maryland’s given up under 30 points in their last three home openers, so expect similarly. 56-10 Terps.