I don’t know about you all, but I’m still pretty fired up about having lost to Rutgers in football at the end of the regular season.
That Rutgers team was not as good as Maryland, and having lost the game it felt as though Ralph Friedgen was trying to obliterate momentum on an otherwise solid season. The Terps followed that up with a loss in a bowl game and failed to reach eight wins for the first time in the Edsall era. It felt like this year would be the one where true progress would be made in a tangible way, and then it wasn’t.
Because of Rutgers.
When I look at Rutgers, I’m kind of starting to get what the ACC was always going on about in reference to Maryland being the stepchild that no one wanted. Not necessarily a rival, but one of those pests you can’t get rid of and just have to work around most of the time. Like white-tailed deer in New Jersey and New York. Rutgers is the white-tailed deer of the Big Ten now, and Maryland and the rest of the conference will just have to work around them.
The Scarlet Knights took out fourth-ranked Wisconsin last Sunday, evidence of their potential Maryland-ness. Using a player who won a state title with Melo Trimble at Bishop O’Connell (Junior Etou, who may or may not be like 25 years old) and a coach who most D.M.V. professional basketball fans revere (the great Eddie Jordan), they beat a team that they absolutely should not have. It was a gritty showing by a team that most people had pegged as being a disaster this season.
They’re still a tire fire this season, but even the most modest of fires can get out of control if it isn’t extinguished in time.
Maryland’s got to beat Rutgers, and handily. The Terps have to put Rutgers back in its place as the team that nobody likes in the Big Ten, and one that is a clear notch below Maryland on the totem pole. Maryland (as a program) in the Big Ten wants to establish a legacy of being a perennial contender mentioned alongside Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin — not part of the muddled middle of someone like Rutgers.
As much as a rivalry with Rutgers makes sense due to proximity and recruiting ties, it makes even more sense that Maryland would want to distance that relationship as much as possible. Rutgers isn’t a money-maker. People don’t get up and tailgate early for games against Rutgers like they do against, say, Penn State. Marylanders have more (warranted or not) revulsion to the Nittany Lions, and the fan base will respond accordingly at each game. Maryland wants to be mentioned with the bigger programs, and it starts with securing the assertion that Rutgers is a far cry from their program. It starts with going to work on Rutgers tonight and keeping the game as uneven as possible. Dispel the notion that Rutgers likes to “get up” for Maryland games in the same way Maryland used to “get up” for Duke games. Forget that.
Beat them so badly that Maryland makes up for that loss at the end of football season. Ensure that no matter what, this Rutgers team will never have equal footing with Maryland as a program.
It’s pronounced “Rtger” now, because they have nothing to do with “us”. Not now and not ever.