We continue to whet your palate for the postseason by looking at the bowl match ups involving Big Ten teams. Today we continue with a look at the bowl in Detroit…between two East Coast teams…trust us, we’ll find something to encourage you to tune in!
After all, someone at 6-6 has to finish with a winning record. We think.
Thanks to conference expansion, the Big Ten now regularly fills the Detroit bowl game (it did not do so under the old Little Caesar’s Bowl contracts). Ironically, with this one being near the bottom of the line-up, the last two years have features Rutgers and Minnesota, two of the farthest places from Ford Field. Once again, long travel is in the mix with the Terrapins coming to the 2016 version to play a former ACC rival Boston College.
Here are five reasons to enjoy the day after Christmas with holiday cheer from the Motor City:
— It’s the first bowl game for the B1G, ending a 23-day football drought
If you’re going to watch all 10 (or 11) B1G postseason games, then this is your starting place. Plus, almost everyone has this Monday off thanks to Christmas falling on a Sunday in 2016, and what better way to avoid more awkward political conversations with your uncle and grandparents than focusing on good old-fashioned football?
Speaking of droughts, both these teams have gone a long time without winning a bowl game. The Eagles last won one in 2007, and the Terrapins in 2010. Thus, one would expect high motivation levels and perhaps a high level of play from both of these teams, despite their mediocre season records and rough conference play experiences.
After all, 6-6 is a lot better than 3-9, which is what both of these teams were in 2015.
Bottom line: you have to start somewhere, and this is where the journey begins for the Big Ten.
— Defensive masterminds at work
D.J. Durkin earned the Maryland head coaching job by helping turn Michigan’s defense around very quickly in Jim Harbaugh’s first season in Ann Arbor. While he may have a lot of recruiting and player development to do before Maryland gets to the same level, the defensive numbers were better than a year ago, at least in scoring defense.
Durkin was replaced at Michigan by Don Brown, the man who built Boston College’s defense into a powerhouse. Even with Brown gone this season, the Eagles put up impressive numbers (24.6 points per game allowed, 310.6 yards allowed per game) for being in the same ACC division as Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson.
Both head coaches Steve Addazio and Durkin plus their defensive assistants will have these units ready to hit hard and make some big plays in this bowl game. It should be low-scoring Big Ten style football at its finest.
— Perry Hills’s last hurrah as leader of the Terrapins (and Caleb Rowe, too)
Perry Hills led the charge early in the season as a senior quarterback, and while he distanced himself from freshman Tyrrell Pigrome and his long-time QB split-time buddy senior Caleb Rowe, he eventually became injured and largely a non-factor in November. Not coincidentally, that’s when the Terrapins went on a four-game losing streak.
However, with most of November to mend and now December as well, Hills should be ready to lead this team once more in an effort to perhaps win a bowl game before he leaves College Park. Hills has been a steady presence since 2012 (redshirt in 2013), and with a 10 touchdown-3 interception ratio this season, he should be able to test BC’s defense without making too many costly mistakes.
Hills and any other Maryland quarterbacks who play will also be severely tested by Eagles DE Harold Landry, who has a NCAA-high 15 sacks so far this season. If Hills can avoid allowing Landry to become a factor in this game, Maryland will have a good chance to emerge victorious.
— It’s a true coin flip game with no clear outcome
The spread in Vegas has bounced around even, with Maryland currently being favored by about a point. The Football Power Index that ESPN uses to predict game outcomes has this bowl at a 51%-49% split between the two teams. Every metric appears to agree: nobody knows who wins this game.
That type of unknown outcome makes a game like this more fun and interesting to watch for outside observers with no dog in the hunt. After all, nobody really wants to see a blowout type matchup, which is what makes the new partnership between the ACC and the Big Ten for this bowl a great arrangement, at least when both conferences fill the bowl commitment.
Maryland’s best win came on the road at UCF, which finished 6-6. No other Terrapins defeated opponent ended with a .500 or winning record. Likewise, BC’s best wins came on the road at eventual 6-6 teams NC State and Wake Forest.
Whichever team wins, it will actually be a pretty big win compared to the remainder of the season. Unpredictability and high motivation in bowl games…yes, please!
— See the uniforms and the future of the Maryland football program
Boston College represents the past for Maryland, and it’s a part of that past the Terrapins would likely want to forget. BC went 7-2 in this series over the 9-year overlap when both were in the ACC, and Maryland would love the opportunity to stick it once more to the conference that lost them.
However, this game should be more about the future of the program under D.J. Durkin.
With no bowl practices last year and not being hired until mid-December, this is the first time the Terrapins and Durkin will have extra bowl practices to prepare the young players on this squad. Look for some new faces to see playing time as Durkin positions himself for his second full season in 2017.
Plus, the uniforms. Maryland is the Oregon of the East, except with a garish state flag to wrap themselves in depending on what the color palate of the day is. As long as it’s not the covered in blood all reds worn against Ohio State, it should be a pretty thing to watch, especially in contrast to BC’s classic style.
So there you have it. As a former presidential candidate would say, please clap (and please watch). Let’s see the B1G get off to a good start with a win in this first bowl game of 2016-17.