It’s been 1,444 days since Maryland last defeated a ranked opponent: the last win was November 27, 2010 when Danny O’Brien threw four touchdowns to lead the Terps over Russell Wilson and the 22nd ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack.
It’s been 2,571 days since Randy Edsall last defeated a ranked opponent: the last win was October 27, 2007 when Andre Dixon rushed for 167 yards and upset the 11th ranked South Florida Bulls.
Combined, that’s 4,015 days (or 11 years).
You get the point.
Under Randy Edsall, the Terrapins haven’t been about taking giant leaps forward on the field — that wasn’t what the Terps head coach was brought in to do. Rather, Edsall’s route to success has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary; incremental in nature instead of taking the world by surprise. As such, we’ve taken to gauging his level of success by checking off the challenge boxes as they come rather than tearing out the list and starting a new one.
- At the end of his first year, the question was whether Maryland would ever become a competent program. Then the team showed both heart and depth in 2012 by hanging tough after losing five quarterbacks and still managing to remain in (some) games while playing with a linebacker at quarterback.
- At the end of his second year, one question was whether Maryland would win past October 13, where the team’s record at the time was 0-13 at the time. Another was whether Maryland would ever become bowl eligible or if C.J. Brown could win his first-ever ACC game as a starter. Edsall’s response? Winning two of his final three games, including Brown getting his first ever ACC win on the road against Virginia Tech in overtime. That also gave the Terps bowl eligibility for the first time under Edsall.
- At the end of his third year (the lead up to this season), the question was whether or not the Terps would be able to hang with the big dogs of the Big Ten; the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. The question was also whether Maryland would be capable of beating ranked opponents. Maryland has responded by taking down Iowa, whipping up on Indiana, and upsetting Penn State.
Maryland’s answered one question with absolute certainty: outside of the powerhouse schools in the Big Ten, they will not be pushovers. They’ve sent a clear message to the Big Ten that this program will not be a whipping boy for the Iowa’s and Indiana’s of the conference. They’ve also hinted at the possibility that while they aren’t Ohio State or Wisconsin, they can certainly upset traditional powers in hostile environments (ahem, Penn State).
The next move, and the one that could be most important for this program in establishing it’s identity under Edsall, would be to play host to an upset of a top 10 team. That’s the kind of thing that reverberates with recruits, fans, and opponents alike. It’s a heavy declaration that the Terps are here to compete, and that there’s plenty more to come from a program that is on the rise and the apex of realized potential isn’t even in sight yet.
Michigan State has called with the question, now all Maryland has to do is answer the phone. An emotional home defeat against Ohio State serve as the impetus for sending to College Park an already defeated and downtrodden team. That loss has all but crushed their chances of making not only the College Football Playoff, but also a chance to defend their Big Ten champions title from last year. Ohio State showed that the Spartan’s high praise after dismantling inferior opponents was fool’s gold, and that’s the kind of thing that plays tricks with the psyche of players.
Edsall has undoubtedly heard the criticism lobbed his direction. That he doesn’t have his teams prepared against top opponents, that he’s awful against ranked teams, that Maryland only has so much potential under Edsall and that they will never be able to compete with the elite programs. He’s gone about answering criticism in the same, methodical manner to this point, and likely looks at Michigan State the same way: just another game that, should they win, will slowly raise the bar a little higher without providing unreasonable expectations.
Michigan State won’t be easy, but nothing ever is. Still, this game offers an opportunity to answer even more questions of legitimacy on a national level — both for the coach and the program. A win here completely silences criticism at home about Edsall’s so-called “ability to win big games” and it levies a serious counter-argument to the notion that Maryland is — at best — a perennial 7-win team. The questions then won’t be whether Edsall and the Terps should be mentioned with the big boys.
It’ll be where they rank among them.