Welcome to the new era of the Big Ten, and lucky for those of you who decided to enjoy your summers we’ve spent hours pouring over available film and speaking to writers, players and even head coach Randy Edsall. It’s allowed us to get as familiar with a team who isn’t all that familiar to most of the conference as possible.
B1G East Predictions: Indiana
That said, Maryland is a bit of a mystery team heading in to its first season in the Big Ten. Not just because most have never seen them on a field before, but because this team was a bit of Jekyll and Hyde last season.
In some respects this team has the talent to compete with just about anyone in the conference, yet in some ways it lacks the proven production and consistency to be a true contender. So, do we see the Terps as a surprise team, or will the first season be a wake up call to what Big Ten football is all about?
Let’s look in to our Terps’ crystal ball and see what it tells us, shall we?
Aug. 30 – vs. James Madison: WIN
The Dukes feature former Georgia Tech quarterback Vlad Lee and a spread offense under new head coach Everett Withers (former Ohio State coach). So the Terps could be in for more than they bargained for in this one, that is until you realize how much of a gulf in talent there is between these two teams, especially on the defensive side of the ball. It will likely be close until halftime adjustments are made and then Maryland pulls away for the win.
Sept. 6 – at USF: WIN
Just like Randy Edsall was once a hot coaching commodity so was now USF head coach Willie Taggart. Both experienced a severe bump in the road in year one and USF will be looking right the ship quickly in year two under Taggart. It won’t happen in this one, as quarterback C.J. Brown puts on a master class in what USF hopes its QB, Mike White, will look like in another year or so.
Sept. 13 – vs. West Virginia: WIN
There’s little question that things have gone south for the Mountaineers since Dana Holgerson has taken over the program, with last season’s 4-8 overall record and 2-7 finish in Big 12 play. It will also be an important game considering it will be the 51st meeting of all-time between these two rivals. Maryland blanked WVU last season, winning 37-0, and you can bet Clint Trickett and the WVU offense is going to want to erase that memory. With this game at home and Maryland having the better offensive weapons all the way around I expect more of the same from the Terps, with a big win in this one.
Sept. 20 – at Syracuse: LOSS
Something strange happens when opposing teams enter the Carrier Dome, something that I just quite frankly don’t trust. Teams that should win struggle, while teams that should struggle seem to come out of nowhere for the the win. In Maryland’s case they appear to be the superior team on paper, and there’s the whole 20-3 loss at home towards the end of the season to think about as well. I just don’t trust picking this game as a win based on history alone.
Sept. 27 – at Indiana: LOSS
I consider this a cruel twist of fate for the Terps, and that’s because this game could be the difference maker between which one of these teams goes bowling at the end of the season. Going on the road in the Big Ten isn’t easy, but if there’s a place where that is the case it is Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. These two teams seem pretty even on most fronts, but Tevin Coleman is a breakout star for me this season and he’ll be the difference maker as the Terps lose their first Big Ten game in history.
Oct. 4 – vs. Ohio State: LOSS
Maryland gets a rude welcome to the Big Ten in 2014, there’s little doubt about that. About the only thing going for the Terps in this matchup is that this game is at home and Byrd Stadium is bound to be…O-H, I-O invaded. Sure, there will be intrigue about the Big Ten home opener, but the Terps have never seen a fanbase that travels like this one does. It will be an intimidating task on the field and in the stands most likely. It’s safe to say I don’t like this matchup at all for Maryland.
Oct. 18 – vs. Iowa: LOSS
After a needed bye week things don’t get any easier for the Terps, as the Iowa Hawkeyes come to town. If the Terps didn’t get the message of just how physical the Big Ten is going to be, they’ll get it this week, as Iowa is perhaps the most physically challenging team in the conference. They also happen to have one of the best D-Lines in the league and an offensive line that’s up there as well. Give me the team with the better lines every day of the week.
Oct. 25 – at Wisconsin: LOSS
Technically this is Maryland’s second Big Ten road game, but there’s little comparing what Memorial Stadium brings versus Camp Randall in Madison, Wis. Sure, there have been trips to Clemson and Death Valley, but this is a whole new experience that’s at least on par if not more difficult than going to Clemson. It doesn’t help that the Terps are going to have to find a way to stop a Heisman Trophy frontrunner in Melvin Gordon or his excellent backup Corey Clement. Wisconsin gets an easy W in this one.
Nov. 1 – at Penn State: LOSS
Hey Big Ten, what the hell did Maryland do to deserve this? I mean, seriously. This schedule goes from tough game to tough game, to tough game without end in sight. Luckily this could be a coin flip kind of game because Penn State has a lot of questions to answer heading in to this season just like Maryland. Unfortunately for Terps fans, this one is on the road. Hey, at least the old rivalry will be renewed, right? Oh, and it will be a last second field goal that does the Terps in, just reigniting the rivalry in year one.
Nov. 15 – vs. Michigan State: LOSS
Finally, the Terps return home to Maryland…too bad its for a game against the reigning conference champions and our preseason No. 1 team in the Big Ten East. Michigan State is head and shoulders above the Terps in their first year as B1G members. Sorry, this could be an ugly one, depending on how Maryland’s defense responds against power run games in the conference.
Nov. 22 – at Michigan: WIN
Seven straight losses doesn’t feel good, but by the time this game comes around the Terps could be just sick enough of losing to find a way to pull a major upset. Then again, Michigan wasn’t exactly a power in the Big Ten last season…so is this pick really that big of an upset. So, why pick the Terps on the road at the Big House? One word: OHIO. I see Michigan taking a look ahead to the game against Ohio State, and Maryland is dangerous enough to pounce on that mindset. Look for this to be a touchdown or less type win for Maryland, a well-needed one no doubt.
Nov. 29 – vs. Rutgers: WIN
Nothing like seeing a fellow newcomer at home to end the regular season, huh? This should be a conference game the Terps are favored in and should win in my book. They’ve got the more dynamic passing game, the more dynamic secondary and potentially the equal of the Scarlet Knights up front on the defensive side of the ball. Playing this one at home and going in to the offseason with two Big Ten wins is about as good as it could get given the schedule.
Overall Record: 5-7
Big Ten Record: 2-6
What does Terps victory over Texas really mean?
The Maryland Terrapins did it again — knocking off a favored and ranked (if you want to pay attention to those things) Texas Longhorns football team.
Much like last season, it was a fight to the very end and it was Maryland coming out on top again. The Terps survived for a 34-29 win in Landover, Md. this time around.
But, spoiling Tom Herman’s debut last season was one thing, winning in 2018 felt totally different.
After all, it came on the heels of one of the craziest offseasons one could imagine. There was the tragic death of a teammate following an intense workout and then the suspension and investigation in to the head coach.
It also came as the debut of Matt Canada as a head coach at any point in his long career in college football.
So, of course, getting this win was an emotional moment for the Terps. But, there is a large question at hand — what does this win really mean?
Last season’s win in Austin proved to mean little more than a glimpse of what could’ve been.
Injuries to both quarterbacks that played this Saturday crushed any momentum that was being built. So too did other injuries on both sides of the ball.
The good news on this Saturday was that Maryland’s quarterbacks escaped this one without injury. Kasim Hill, who came on for injured Tyrell Pigrome, looked every part of the star people expected last season.
He finished this game completing 17 of 29 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Pigrome was 3 of 4 for 22 yards in his limited action.
Maryland found a balanced run game too, with no one rushing for more than 31 of the 143 yards put up as a team.
The Terps defense gave up plenty of yardage — 405 to be exact — but they also found ways to make positive contributions when it mattered most. There were the three turnovers created. There were the seven tackles for loss as well.
Maryland didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher either.
All of those were positive developments for a defense that badly needed to prove it could contribute positively to the 2018 season.
Kicker Joseph Petrino hit a pair of short field goals as well
Many are adding all of that up and spinning tails of Maryland’s rise. There’s no doubt that this win and the two over Texas in this series are important, but they aren’t the end all, be all that some writers are making it out to be.
Then there is the factor that far too many of my fellow brethren in the sports writing world care about the AP Poll and Coaches Poll. Clearly Texas is not one of the 25 best teams in America and the Longhorns probably should never have been thought of that highly to begin with.
So, what does it really mean? For me, this win is telling in that Maryland has become a program capable of playing with teams that are hanging around the fringes of quality.
One could chalk last season up to a fluke or to Texas just getting used to Herman and his style. But this second win? It showed that Maryland isn’t afraid of the name brand in front of them — they can play with anyone on their best day.
Ultimately, this win will be looked back on as a promising start and unless they do something with it, that’s all it will be.
There are still 11 more games to help define the 2018 season.
How the Terps build from this start and work going forward will matter way more than what took place on the 1st of September.
Terps brass own up to mistakes in Jordan McNair death
Jordan McNair didn’t have to die.
It has been the thought of many people, including his family for much of the summer.
On Tuesday afternoon both University of Maryland president Wallace Loh and Director of Athletics Damon Evans made that thought their public statement.
The duo took to the podium in College Park, with the media expecting answers and progress reports on two key investigations. What they got was refreshing honesty in a world where legalese and non-committal statements are the norm.
Loh opened up the press conference by stating bluntly that Maryland accepted full responsibility — both legal and moral — for the death of McNair.
While the words in front of the camera were nice, Loh and Evans also noted that what they were saying publicly was no different than what they were saying to the family of Jordan McNair.
The duo traveled to Baltimore to speak with the family on Tuesday and looked them in the eye and accepted responsibility as a university and athletic department for what happened to their son.
Words will never bring back their son, as Loh and Evans noted. However, their honesty and accepting of responsibility in an unequivocal manner is a step in the right direction for healing for the McNair family.
I mean, how many athletic directors and university presidents lay it out like this:
It was the right — and hard — thing to do though. It was also the measure of the character of Loh and Evans, both of which have come under serious question in the wake of the last few days of reporting.
It wasn’t just Loh who went with honesty as the best policy. The same went for Evans when he stepped to the podium. He got legitimately chocked up when talking about McNair’s death and the expectations that were not met by the football program in general.
They weren’t rehearsed tears or fake emotions. It was easy to tell that Evans was deeply hurt and saddened by the pain that McNair’s family expressed while meeting in person.
Evans also made a clear statement with the announcement that Rick Court, who was at the center of the allegations in McNair’s death and the ESPN report last week, was no longer on staff. At first it wasn’t clear that Court was gone, but Evans named him after being asked directly by a reporter who the “member of the football staff” was that had been let go.
Later it was reported that Court and the Terps came to a settlement and he resigned his position late yesterday.
Once again, the right thing was done and it was done swiftly based off of the preliminary progress report that Loh and Evans have received.
Maryland is also putting in place a four-person committee to investigate the claims in the ESPN article. It will be tasked with finding the truth, but also doing it in a timely manner.
The Terps emphasis on truth over speculation from external forces is also the right thing to do — both for Durkin and most importantly for McNair’s family.
What that truth ends up being and what happens once it is all made public, we don’t know today. The proof that the words spoken today will have lasting meaning will be in how things change around the athletic department.
But, if there can be any good in McNair’s death it will be in that this is prevented from ever happening again.
It’s the right thing to do to honor a young man who had no business dying and to help a grieving family get some measure of closure to this painful chapter in their lives.
Maryland Terrapins Football Preview: 5 Impact Players for 2018
Maryland has a lot of raw potential, but which players will have the biggest impact on success or failure in 2018?
Who are the Maryland Terrapins under head coach D.J. Durkin? Are they the group who made a bowl appearance in his first season and were able to run over just about everyone…or are they the snake-bitten and injury-riddled crew that got pounded on in 2017?
It’s an important year for the Terps, and with back-to-back Top 30 recruiting classes, a lot is expected of this program going forward. Can promise turn in to production? That may depend on what happens with a few players.
Who are those players that will likely have the biggest impact on the 2018 Terps season? Let’s take a look at the names you should be paying attention to in 2018.
Jesse Aniebonam, DE
Aniebonam went in to last season hoping to build off a 2016 that saw him 46 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. Instead, he played just part of the season opener with Texas and was never seen again on the year thanks to an ankle injury. Without him, the Terps managed just 16 sacks on the season in 2017, good for 13th in the Big Ten.
If Maryland wants to actually get back to a bowl game in year three of the Durkin era, it needs the defense to stop giving up 30-plus points per game. Aniebonam’s return should help despite the loss of two productive linebackers behind him.
Byron Cowart, DE
If you are sensing a theme, you would be right — Maryland has to get better on the edge against teams that have killed them there the past two seasons. Cowart was once a 5-star recruit (Rivals and ESPN’s No. 1 overall recruit in the country) and a gem for the Auburn Tigers. That was 2015, and Cowart hasn’t really been the force most people believed he would be. A transfer to Maryland seems to have rejuvenated his career and he looked like a potential star throughout much of spring ball.
Pair a potential talent like Cowart with a ready-made star like Aniebonam and the Terps suddenly have one scary defensive line for opposition to deal with — something they haven’t really had in Durkin’s two years in College Park.
Kasim Hill, QB
As intriguing as Tyrrell Pigrome was in the opener last season against Texas, Hill is the better fit for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s philosophy. The freshman (because he will most likely get last season back) is a better mix of pass-first, run-second for Canada’s more pro-orientated philosophy.
Hill came in to the Texas game and calmly led the Terps to a massive road upset of the Longhorns in the middle of a chaotic game. We’ll see if Hill or Pigrome win the job in fall camp, but if you’re looking for a player to lead this team with the coaching staff that is now in place, Hill is the one I would look to as the better fit.
All I do know for sure is that this season has to be the one where at least one quality quarterback stays healthy…right?
Rayshad Lewis, WR
While there is a ton of potential on Maryland’s offense, it is going to be hard to make up for the loss of D.J. Moore to the NFL. Enter a veteran transfer in former Utah State wide receiver Rayshad Lewis, who came to the Terps following a breakout true freshman season with the Aggies. He had 40 catches for 476 yards with seven starts.
If he can handle the increased level of competition and size, Lewis could be exactly what the doctor ordered in helping to replace some of production lost by Moore’s departure. He won’t be the only one counted on, as Tavion Jacobs and Jahrvis Davenport are seniors, but only but Jacobs has proven himself. He’s the only one returning to the team that had a touchdown reception (5 to be exact) in 2017 (to go along with 47 receptions).
Oh, and did we mention he is the son of future NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis? Ya, that should make him an intriguing figure to watch to say the least.
Tre Watson, ILB
It’s not often an impact player comes courtesy of another Big Ten program, but when the Terps lost two quality starting linebackers, Tre Watson (formerly of Illinois) became a big piece to solving the defensive woes in College Park.
Watson had over 100 tackles for the Illini in 2016 and picked up 65 tackles in nine games for Lovie Smith’s crew last season. He will have some help with rising junior Isiah Davis alongside him, but Watson has a chance to get out of a bad situation and become a star quick in the defense the Terps run.
There’s a lot of talk about talented underclassmen, but getting a true veteran leader like Watson could be a real quick difference maker for a defense in desperate need of exactly that.
Maryland Terrapins Football Preview: Reasons to be optimistic in 2018
After a 4-8 season in 2017, why should you be optimistic about the 2018 Terps?
When D.J. Durkin was hired in December of 2015 to lead this program, it was clear that there would need to be a cultural shift in the Maryland Terrapins program.
As 2018 approaches, we are also entering a pivotal season — season No. 3 — of the Durkin era.
Two seasons in and we’ve seen the potential and the need for continued roster building in big ways. Year one ended with a Bowl berth and three Big Ten wins. Year two ended with just two wins in conference and a 4-8 overall record.
It means this season will tell us which direction was real. So, given that 4-8 season in 2017, why should anyone be optimistic about the 2018 Terps season?
Let’s take a look at some of those reasons.
Durkin Has an Eye for Talent
For some schools, recruiting rankings really matter. For others, recruiting rankings don’t tell the full story. For Maryland, the truth lies somewhere in the middle and that’s not a bad thing.
In the first two complete recruiting cycles for head coach D.J. Durkin, the Terps have shown an ability to be a school that can compete for Top 25 positions. More importantly though, Durkin and his staff have shown that the hype can be backed up by play on the field.
While we only saw one full game and parts of two others from Kasim Hill, it was abundantly clear that the rankings and hype surrounding him was warranted. Same from Tyrrell Pigrorme, who was bombing Texas’ defense in Austin prior to a season-ending injury in the third quarter.
There’s also the fact that players who weren’t highly regarded when Durkin came in and are becoming stars. Seniors like Ty Johnson, Jesse Aniebonam and Darnell Savage weren’t that known coming in to their recruiting class, but have become very productive players.
With a two-deep that is full of seniors, it is clear that Durkin understands the talents he has and knows how to maximize what is in front of him. Three years of work behind the scenes could well pay off for those seniors.
Defensive Line Talent
One of the most puzzling stories of the Durkin era has been the inability of the defense to become a quality unit. That could be on the way to changing in a big way in 2018, and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time.
We’re optimistic about the defense this season for one reason — the defensive line. Durkin has made it a great priority to get bigger, faster and meaner up front in his first three recruiting classes. This season he has three really talented players in the front four.
Adam McClean will take his freshman experience and be a good player up the middle, while 2016 star Jesse Aniebonam is back after missing almost the entire 2017 season and they add in 2015’s No. 1 overall recruit (according to ESPN) as a transfer — Byron Cowart.
Having three players that opposing teams need to pay attention to, not just keying on one is going to be huge. It also should be a huge help to an intriguing linebacker group that includes productive Illinois transfer Tre Watson and hybrid nickleback Antoine Brooks.
Running Game Depth
When the Terps were at their best in 2016, they were burning teams on the ground offensively. Look for a return to that formula in 2018 in part due to D.J. Moore’s graduation at wide receiver and in part because running back may be the deepest and most dangerous position on Maryland’s roster.
First, former 1,000-yard rusher Ty Johnson returns for his senior season after rushing for 875 yards last season despite teams keying on him after both quality quarterbacks went down. Then there’s a bit of thunder with Lorenzo Harrison in the mix, as he rushed for 622 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season.
Now, add in one of the top 2017 recruits, Anthony McFarland, and you have a three-headed monster that East division teams are going to have to worry about. Both Johnson and McFarland are capable of busting the big run, but do so in different ways. Johnson is more of the every-down type of back, while McFarland is an absolute speed nightmare for opposing defenses.
That three-headed monster is one way for the Terps to keep pressure on opposing defenses.
With Matt Canada at offensive coordinator, a good run game is Maryland’s best friend. The odds of it happening seem really good on paper.
Overall Reason to be Optimistic
As we described above, the formula to win more than you lose in the Big Ten seems to be in place for the Terps on paper. You know, play strong defense up front and be able to run the ball on offense.
If the talent can equal production on both fronts, Maryland may be in business in a way that will surprise some. You have to love the combination of skill sets at running back and you have to love the fact that Durkin hasn’t been afraid to go after talent on the defensive line.