Some of these predictions which are forthcoming have a low likelihood of actually transpiring, I’ll grant you that. These are gut feelings that may not have statistical or popular backing, but they’re being thrown out there. And every single one of these predictions will only be plausible if you accept that Maryland, for once, will be completely healthy this year without suffering any catastrophic losses.
Maryland will beat Ohio State
Even before Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller went down for the year, I couldn’t help but think that Maryland could compete with them at full strength. I got to see Ohio State take on Clemson in the Orange Bowl last year firsthand, and while I came away impressed with their ability to score, Urban Meyer’s defenses at tOSU have been terrible. Sure, Clemson whipped up on Maryland last year too and scored in zounds, but the Terps weren’t at full strength. They still looked competitive.
This Maryland team is even better than last year, and I think if they’re 100% healthy at key positions then they have the talent to compete with Ohio State. Home field advantage is huge in college football, and any team that thinks they can just waltz into Byrd Stadium and come away with an easy victory is liable to get upset. Losing Braxton Miller just made me even more certain of an already certain gut feeling.
Maryland will win eight games…and I actually think they could win nine, too.
1. James Madison – too much talent to lose
2. South Florida – Ibid
3. Syracuse – Rangoon knows how to dole out revenge (ask Connecticut)
4. West Virginia – Considerably more talented and better coached
5. Indiana – Maryland can apply the necessary pass rush to fluster IU
6. Ohio State – Their first Big Ten game of the year with a new QB, Maryland will be prepared for this one.
7. Iowa – Homecoming game should be a win
8. Rutgers – Did you see what Washington State did to them? Paul James will have a lot of miles on the tires by the time Maryland plays the Scarlet Knights.
These eight games I’m very sure Maryland will win, and that includes three road wins. The Terps have never won more than that in a season under Coach Edsall, so I’m hesitant to say they’ll surpass that mark. Still, if they were to pick up a ninth win, it seems likely that Michigan or Penn State are the two candidates. Unfortunately, winning at Penn State is highly unlikely, and winning on the road as an underdog is even less probable.
Stefon Diggs will lead the Big Ten in receiving, but he won’t be a Heisman candidate
Personally, I don’t think there’s a single receiver in the Big Ten as talented as Stefon Diggs. He definitely has a little bit of work to do as a pure route runner, but the pros outweigh the cons by hundreds of miles. Allen Robinson was the best receiver in the Big Ten last year, and Diggs still seems like a better player than him right now. Yeah, I said it.
Diggs is going to rack up a lot of yards on kick return duty (a spot where he truly looks happy and can be as creative as he’d like to be) and remain a major focus in this offense all year. Provided his recovered leg doesn’t cause an mental blocks to sprout up, Diggs is going to maul some of these Big Ten corners. He has the added benefit of Deon Long and Marcus Leak to help serve as a relief valve, so no one defense can hone in on him (save for Michigan).
C.J. Brown will be healthy an entire season, and will be considered a top three quarterback in the Big Ten
Some people forget that, prior to Virginia Tech, C.J. Brown had a whopping zero conference victories during his career at Maryland. Zilch. Zippy. When he beat the Hokies on the road (in one of the toughest places to play) to get Maryland bowl eligible for the first time during the Edsall era, it felt like a great weight was lifted off his back. Losing all your conference games will weigh on any QB, especially one as smart as Brown.
After that, things just seemed to click for him and I think that carries over into the Big Ten this year. Brown may not be the most accurate thrower, but he’s got so much experience in virtually every situation imaginable that it’s hard not to expect him to succeed mightily. He’s a sixth-year quarterback, and even in a new conference, it’s still football. Brown can deliver big wins on the road, make even the most impressive defenses look terrible, and is the consummate leader at QB Maryland has been wanting for years. He’s going to wow the Big Ten media this year with his speed, but he’s going to be craftier than before.
The Terps defense is going to win more than a few games for Maryland
When you look at good defenses, they typically have one of two things: playmaking ability in the secondary or players who can get to the quarterback at will. Well the Terps have both of that and (in my opinion) one of the best defensive coordinators in the Big Ten. Maryland can trot out Will Likely, Sean Davis, Jeremiah Johnson, and Alvin Hill without missing a beat, and each one of those guys can make very good plays on the ball while not giving up too many big plays.
But up front they’ve got some serious talent, too. Andre Monroe might be an NFL prospect after he was fifth in the ACC in tackles for loss. He’s a preseason all-Big Ten player and has looked great so far. They’ve also got Quinton Jefferson, who has become a really good tackler and always seems to be active on the ball, and senior leadership in Darius Kilgo. And those two Yannick guys who, physically, look as daunting as any other linebackers and posses amazing explosiveness.
It’s hard not to be very high on this team, and now I’m just admitting it.