Maryland's last ACC football schedule finalized

Geoff Burke

We already knew, to some degree, what Maryland's last ACC football conference schedule would look like (or at least who their opponents would be). Now we know the dates, too, which means College Football's Most Awkward Farewell Tour is officially done and dusted.

Behold:

Aug. 31: Florida International Golden Panthers
Sept. 7: Old Dominion Monarchs
Sept. 14: at Connecticut Huskies
Sept. 21: West Virginia Mountaineers (in Baltimore)
Sept. 28: BYE

Oct. 5: at Florida State Seminoles
Oct. 12: Virginia Cavaliers
Oct. 19: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Oct. 26: Clemson Tigers
Nov. 2: BYE

Nov. 9: Syracuse Orange
Nov. 16: at Virginia Tech Hokies
Nov. 23: Boston College Eagles
Nov. 30: at N.C. State Wolfpack

Well, here's a surprise: the ACC did Maryland a bit of a favor with the bye weeks being so uniform. The first comes at the start of the year, right after their toughest non-conference game and right before their toughest conference game. The second comes smack-dab in the middle of the ACC schedule and is bookended by home games, giving Maryland plenty of time to rest up heading into the back stretch. If you could pick two weeks to have the two byes, you'd probably choose those two.

As expected, things will finish off with a road trip to N.C. State and the premier home games (Virginia and Clemson) are dispensed with early in the year, while the road game to VT is thrown in at the back end of the schedule to beef up the back stretch. Clearly there's no obvious opportunity of two or three games you can look at and think "That's where Maryland will get some momentum," which may or may not have been planned; either way, that'll make the year a week-to-week slog.

But I'll say what I said when it was first released: it's the ACC, so things aren't that tough. The road trip to FSU will be very difficult, as will the Clemson home game. But not a single other game on the schedule is genuinely frightening, not even the road game to State or VT. The Wuffies may not improve from last year when Maryland had them beat, given the loss of Mike Glennon, while the Terps should get better. And if Maryland's ever going to get a win in Lane Stadium, well, this'd be the time to do it, with the Hokies struggling a bit. (Not like they'll get too many other chances.)

Thanks to those uniform bye weeks, the year breaks down basically into three smaller four-game seasons. There's the non-conference slate, with two cupcake home games before a probably-should-win trip up to UConn. Then there's the West Virginia game in Baltimore, in which Maryland probably won't be favored but, with the 'Neers losing Geno Smith and Tavon Austin, isn't the most challenging game in the world. You'd think 3-1 would be the goal in that four-game stretch.

Then there's the first half of the ACC, which rachets up the intensity in a big way. A road game to FSU is probably a step too far for this team; ditto home to Clemson. But the two games in-between will both be winnable, so long as the team can keep mentally even-keeled knowing what bookends them. 2-2 there is feasible, but 1-3 wouldn't be a disaster.

The back end doesn't have the same high-end opposition, and in fact includes the easiest game on the conference schedule: BC at home. Syracuse at home, too, could prove to be very winnable. The road games aren't easy and, at least looking at it right now, Maryland would probably be expected to drop both. But so long as things are taken care of in the earlier two "seasons", 2-2 down the back stretch should be enough to get Maryland into the postseason and is certainly viable. So long as the basics are achieved, there's a path to six or seven wins in this schedule without stretching the imagination at all; start stretching, and things get juicier. The difficult part is that there's no obvious back-to-back-to-back stretch to build momentum; the easy and the hard are balanced, with the hard coming first. That can be challenging for a young team, and Randy Edsall will need to show he can keep the locker room's collective head right.

So: anybody have any way too early predictions?

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