What to expect from Maryland if there is a football season originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Big Ten apparently can't decide what it wants to do with the 2020 football season. Reports came out Friday that the Big Ten is discussing several options for the football season including a possible Thanksgiving start. Who knows if any of this will actually happen or if the schools currently slated to play will even be able to finish a full season, but you're a football fan and you don't want to have to wade through any of this mess. You just want to know if football is coming back and when. So, because the chances of having a Big Ten football season sometime in the fall are apparently greater than zero (even if it's close), let's talk about Maryland and what to expect.
Here's a quick disclaimer. If you were looking for a position by position breakdown of the Terps, or how Maryland's offensive line will defend against Ohio State's pass rush, this isn't the projection for you. College football is the most unpredictable sport there is and add in a season unlike any other, let's not waste our time dissecting how the Terps' secondary may stack up against Penn State's pass offense or if Maryland's run game can find success against Minnesota's defense.
The Big Ten released a conference only football schedule prior to the season being postponed. The schedule was released on Aug. 5 and the season was postponed on Aug. 11. I'm not quite sure what changed in those six days to convince the conference this was suddenly a bad idea or even what changed in the 17 days afterward that suddenly it is OK to have a football season again, but I digress....
Anyway, whatever the Big Ten may decide, chances are it will have to keep a conference-only schedule. The timeline is just too funky to expect teams to be able to lineup any non-conference opponents. With that in mind, let's look at what Maryland's schedule was as of Aug. 5:
Vs. Michigan State
At Penn State
Vs. Ohio State
Let's assume that if the football season does come back, this schedule will remain the same. It probably will have to be adjusted, but again, the Big Ten will probably have to keep a conference-only schedule so this is a pretty good estimation.
While college football may be unpredictable, Maryland football is not. The Terps have had a formula for their football seasons the past few years and it looks something like this: beat someone surprising early in the season and gain momentum, lose to someone surprising and lose all that momentum, beat Rutgers, suffer through the Big Ten East gauntlet.
Here's a look at how Maryland has started the last five seasons and how they finished:
2015: 2-1 start, 3-9 overall
2016: 4-0 start, 6-7 overall including the Quick Lane Bowl loss
2017: 3-1 start, 4-8 overall
2018: 3-1 start, 5-7 overall
2019: 2-0 start, 3-9 overall
Iowa is ranked No. 24 in the preseason AP poll making them the perfect sacrificial lamb for Maryland's start to the season. In 2019 it was No. 21 Syracuse and before that it was No. 23 Texas in 2018 and again in 2017. After the Iowa opener, Michigan State is in a downturn with Mark Dantonio out and then there's the traditional Rutgers bye week.
That's a 3-0 start for Maryland! Even if they drop one of those three games, at worst, the Terps are 2-1 and optimism will be growing in College Park.
But just as an Iowa upset is an easy call, so is the traditional letdown game and Northwestern certainly fits the bill.
In 2019, a 2-0 Maryland team lost to Temple in literally one of the most bizarre games I have ever seen. Northwestern's offense in 2019 was epically awful. This is tailor-made for a 3-0 Maryland team to lose the week before hosting Wisconsin.
From there, the gauntlet continues as the Terps are reminded that they play in arguably the best conference and division in college football. After Wisconsin, they play at Penn State, at Indiana, vs. Ohio State, at Michigan and vs. Minnesota. Let's throw the Terps a bone and say they can beat Indiana, though the Hoosiers beat Maryland last year, and there you have it, a 4-6 record after a 3-0 start for the Terps and finally we all start to feel a sense of normalcy in a year that has robbed us of that feeling for the past several months.
Now let's all keep our fingers crossed that there will at least be a basketball season.