July 23, 2012; Greensboro, NC, USA; Maryland Terrapins head football coach Randy Edsall talks to reporters during the ACC media day at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro NC. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
As Chris and I spoke about on our podcast, this year is a tough year to call for the Maryland Terrapins. On one hand, you look at the schedule, and aside from Clemson and Florida State, there isn’t anyone else that jumps out as a scary opponent. Sure, they play road games against Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, and Connecticut, but Virginia Tech might be in a down year, and the other three are comparable to Maryland. On the other hand though, what has Maryland shown us to believe in them to come out on top in many of those games? There are question marks with the offensive line, the inability to run the ball effectively, a quarterback who hasn’t played in nearly two years, and a suspect kicking game.
Starting the season against FIU is great for building confidence and getting the players into the swing of the season. As fans, we can’t overreact to anything positive we see on Saturday. It’s too early and the opponent isn’t good enough to put a lot of stock into a huge day. What we can take note of, is the decision making of the coaches, and how the players approach the game. It would speak volumes if the team came in and took care of business early. For example, avoiding penalties, mental lapses leading to big plays, and staying professional would be extremely beneficial. Those are positives that we can get excited about early.
With that said, I felt bad when I copped out of giving a prediction for the Maryland season on the podcast. In some respects I was unprepared, even though I knew Chris and I would talk about it. Without seeing this team play yet, it’s tough to say how this season will go. Now that there is only one day left before the start of the season, I feel that I have to give a prediction. To spice things up, I’m even going to try to predict some of the times for the games.
Maryland 49, Florida International 9
A thin FIU team, transition into a new coaching staff, with a couple of top players being out, is the perfect way for C.J. Brown to transition back into the game. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long dominate the first half, while the defense has a field day making plays on FIU’s short passing attack. I think they even force a big play and take a pick or fumble to the house. Diggs and Long sit out the second half, while Edsall is able to give backup quarterbacks Ricardo Young and Caleb Rowe some snaps in the fourth quarter.
Maryland (1-0) 45, Old Dominion (0-1) 13
Old Dominion is a step up from FIU, but I think they struggle to keep up with the playmakers Maryland has on offense. Brown looks comfortable making plays and staying in the pocket, while the defense continues to build confidence with another great game. The opponents aren’t great, but Maryland does a good job of using these games to build confidence and get into the swing of things. They take care of business, and are able to get everyone playing time.
Maryland (2-0) 23 @ Connecticut (1-0) 17
Winning on the road is never easy, but UConn isn’t a tough venue or the best of opponents (as evident by the beatdown they just got from Towson). Maryland’s confidence heading into the game plays a huge factor. Going on the road after starting the season with two blowouts, does a lot for the Terps. I worry about the running game, especially late in this game. As much as Maryland wants to play up tempo, they also need to remain balance and make sure they aren’t predictable. With coach Don Brown gone from UConn, Maryland catches them at a good time with a defense in transition.
Maryland (3-0) 42, West Virginia (2-1) 20 – 3:30 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore
Maryland’s hot start, West Virginia being a rivalry game, and the venue give this game a 3:30 p.m. start time. Without quarterback Geno Smith, Bailey, wide receiver Tavon Austin, and wide receiver Stedman Bailey, West Virginia is looking for playmakers on offense. They run a high power spread offense, but without quick and shifty players, it becomes tougher to run. Maryland’s defense is an unknown right now, but I have more faith in them to have a strong day then I do in West Virginia’s ability to replace the aforementioned players so early in the season. As for the offense, the Terps played well last year against West Virginia, and their defense is still suspect this year. The bright lights of an NFL venue, and the chance to knock off a rival in West Virginia, gets Diggs and company excited for a chance to show everyone that they are better than people realize.
Maryland (4-0) 21 @ (4-0) Florida State 42 – 3:30
The Seminoles will be highly ranked, and this will always lead to them playing on an ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 slot. Mixed with the Terps hot start, there will be some excitement about this game from a television standpoint. As much as Maryland’s defense may be better than advertised, I don’t think they will be able to handle the Florida State rushing attack. Florida State may have lost E.J. Manuel from last year, but there is never a shortage of talent in Tallahassee. Maryland struggles throughout the game, especially with establishing a rhythm on offense, with the Florida State secondary dominating them throughout. The loss brings fans back to reality about the team, but all is not lost with Maryland only needing two more wins to become bowl eligible.
Maryland (4-1) 45, Virginia (2-3) 13 – 3:30
In terms of ACC teams I dislike, it’s 1A Duke and 1B Virginia. I’ve never understood how many people don’t consider Virginia to be a rival. I know I’m not the only one who gets really upset if we lose to Virginia. The two programs have been in the ACC middle tier for sometime now, and most of the games are competitive. With Maryland leaving the ACC, I think they place a greater emphasis on beating Virginia at home. Virginia’s lack of a quarterback, and a more hyped up Byrd Stadium create a lot of problems for the Cavaliers. The defense takes advantage of the poor quarterback play to force a couple of turnovers, and keep the crowd excited throughout the game. With this being the last Virginia/Maryland ACC game, I think they get a favorable time slot at 3:30 p.m. Despite Virginia’s poor record entering the game, it’s a game that people in the region will be interested in seeing.
Maryland (5-1) 27 @ Wake Forest (3-3) 17 – 3:00
Maryland has a strong bounce back game against Virginia following the loss to Florida State. Wake Forest is playing a lot of freshmen this year and is switching to a new system. Winston-Salem isn’t a tough place to play, and having already played at Connecticut and Florida State, the Terps are more seasoned to life on the road. Maryland was able to take care of Wake Forest last year at home and I think the Terps are able to control the game. A late field goal or touchdown seals the game and pushes the scoreline up to double figures.
*Note for this next game… throw any logic out the window*
Maryland (6-1) 59, Clemson 56 (7-0) – 7:00
As I gave note, suspend your logic for this game as what I’m about to describe has an incredibly small chance of happening. Edsall and Mark Turgeon came into Maryland at the same time, and both have faced an uphill battle with getting fan support and positive results on the field. During the 2012-2013 basketball season, Maryland’s arch rival Duke came into College Park for the last time as an ACC rival and a top ranked team. This was Turgeon’s biggest game of his Maryland career so far, and everyone in town knew it. Beating Duke brought Turgeon to a new level in College Park, and showed the average fans just how much he was able to accomplish with his team in a short period of time. Edsall hasn’t had a signature win yet, and he is due. His teams have struggled the past two seasons, but its clear how much work he has put in to getting the fans on his side and selling recruits. Homecoming, a late start, and an upstart six win team, build up this game to a new level.
In preparation for the game, Under Armour releases the “B1G MARYLAND PRIDE” jersey, which is essentially the Maryland Pride jersey, except with the ACC patch moved from the shoulder to the back of the pants. In an offensive shootout in which Stefon Diggs returns a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, catches a touchdown, runs for a touchdown, and passes for a touchdown in the first three quarters, Maryland enters the fourth down seven. With Clemson on offense, Diggs approaches Edsall and ask to come in on defense and cover Sammy Watkins. With nothing working so far on defense, Edsall says what the hell and puts him in. On the first play in, Diggs picks off Boyd and returns the interception for a touchdown. This sends Byrd into a frenzy, that has never been seen before in College Park. The two teams go back and forth, but no one is able to break the stalemate. Until C.J. Brown puts together a long drive at the end of regulation and leads Maryland to Clemson’s 15 yard line with five seconds left in regulation. Maryland takes a timeout, and Clemson follows it up with another one to try and ice the kicker. The next time out, Diggs stops Brad Craddock and tells Edsall that he is coming in. The stadium, Clemson, and even the coaching staff has no idea how to react, until then Diggs converts the field goal and the fans storm the field. Afterwards, Sam Ponder interviews Diggs, and all he says is, “I put on for my city.” Diggs becomes the first player to score a touchdown on the ground, through the air, receiving, and on special teams, and also kick a field goal. Engineering students spend the next week preparing designs for a Stefon Diggs statue for once he graduates, and Route 1 is a sea of students and cops on Saturday night.
Maryland (8-1) 14, Syracuse (3-5) 24 – 3:30
Not used to the hype of beating a top team, a poor game from Craddock, and since the ACC never makes any sense, Maryland drops a winnable home game. Maryland should be able to beat Syracuse. But given the unbelievable set of events outlined earlier (which I acknowledge have a .00000000001% happening), the Terps struggle to recover. The offense is shaky throughout, and Craddock misses a couple of field goals, which puts more pressure on the defense. After entering the Top 25, Maryland gets upset at home and drops out of the rankings.
Maryland (8-2) 13 @ Virginia Tech (7-3) 20 – 7:00
Unfortunately the Terps drop two in a row after upsetting Clemson. Blacksburg is a tough place to play for any visiting team, and Maryland can’t hold on late despite an early lead. Quarterback Logan Thomas is subject to making mistakes and not protecting the ball. However, Virginia Tech’s special teams and defense are usually among the best in the ACC. Both C.J. Brown and Thomas have bad games, which keeps it close. A late touchdown drive by the Hokies gives them the edge at home, and some Maryland fans start getting nervous about the season. Despite having eight wins, some people begin to hop off the Maryland bandwagon Edsall’s critics emerge from the dark.
Maryland (8-3) 35, Boston College (4-6) 17 – 3:00
Maryland’s offense gets back on track at home with another strong performance. The Terps defense continues their strong play, with another great game. Edsall and the staff get the team refocused after the back to back losses, mainly by showing them last year’s game against Boston College. Maryland looks to get revenge from blowing the game in Chestnut Hill last year, and maintain their sights on a good bowl game. Boston College has a veteran quarterback and wide receiver combination, but under a new coaching staff, they continue to struggle.
Maryland (9-3) 42 @ North Carolina State (8-3) 28 – 7:00
Another revenge game for the Terps, and their last game in the ACC is against their old friend Debbie Yow. Edsall looks to get even against the Wolfpack after his last trip to Raleigh ended poorly. Diggs takes the game more personally, and looks to leave the ACC on a high note. With both teams doing well, it picks up a 7:00 p.m. start time. This gives Diggs another prime-time opportunity to show the country how good he is.
Is it ambitious to see Maryland going 9-3 (5-3)? Absolutely. I think I’m drinking the kool-aid a little bit too much with this, but with the ACC being a weak conference and Maryland’s easy schedule, why not aim for the stars? Don’t get me wrong, I would be happy to see Maryland go a more likely 7-5 or 8-4, but I think Edsall pulls out all the stops. This has the potential to be a big year for Maryland on and off the field, and they are certainly due for some bounces their way on the field.