Infinite thanks to Noah, Todd, Andrew and Pete for their insights in this week's roundtable. We talk standard Maryland football fare here, but for the first time in a long time have immediate reason to talk basketball in this space, too. Let's do it:
Q. In one word, describe your feeling about the Terps heading into the final six football games?
Noah: Unsure. I don't have confidence in Maryland's ability to run the ball or pass-protect. There are a lot of toss-up games on the schedule with Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers and maybe even Penn State. These are all winnable games for the Terps, but I don't know which team we're going to get from week to week.
Todd: In last week's roundtable, I wrote that I think the upcoming game against Iowa is pivotal, and that view hasn't changed. As Noah points out, there are four games on Maryland's schedule that look like they could go either way. The Terps can take a lot of pressure off themselves by winning this weekend because they'd then only need to win one of the three toss-up games to get themselves bowl eligible because I think most of us are not expecting Maryland to upset the Badgers in Madison and no one anticipates beating Michigan State. So count me as cautiously optimistic.
Andrew K.: Hopeful. There have been periods where the team looked really good and times where they looked vulnerable. The last six games are against B1G foes and I think four are winnable, including Saturday's game. Having Cole Farrand at full strength and (hopefully) Matt Robinson back will give our defense a much needed lift. I feel we can score on any team out there, regardless of whether Brown or Rowe is at QB. But we won't win against the WVUs or Rutgers of this world if our defense doesn't execute.
Pete: I'm hopeful as well. I think Maryland's performance in the first half of the season and their schedule for the end set up nicely for a good chance at an eight-win season, which I would consider a success. The Terrapins rate fairly well in the advanced statistics -- better than most of the teams left on the schedule, at least -- and Michigan State is the only one that poses nearly as tough of a matchup disadvantage as Ohio State did.
Dave: Optimistic. I think they'll get to a bowl and have a great opportunity to beat some of the B1G's most historic programs in Michigan and Penn State. I just hope they can pull it off. They've done great on the road, for the most part this season. Hopefully they can keep it up.
Q. How familiar are you with Iowa - and how concerned for Maryland, if at all, are you about Saturday's game?
Noah: I have watched Iowa football for a long time, and they are always a physical football team. They love to run the ball, and they are consistently a solid football team pretty much every year. How consistent, you ask? They have at least six wins in 12 of the last 13 years. During that span, they went to two Orange Bowl games and won in 2009. Kirk Ferentz is one of only four coaches to ever win the Big Ten Coach of the Year award at least three times. He is a great coach, and Iowa has a very good team this year. I am very concerned for the Terps, even coming off of the bye week.
Todd: Well, this looks the first of at least two questions for which I have only a limited answer. I'm too immersed in other sports at Maryland to be overly familiar with any of their opponents (even in the sports I cover!). With that said, Iowa has always struck me as a program similar to Maryland. (I just looked this up. Here are Iowa's won - lost records for the last 14 seasons: 3-9;7-5;11-2;10-3;10-2;7-5;6-7;6-6;9-4;11-2;8-5;7-6;4-8;8-5) Maybe they're a bit better and more consistent than Maryland, but they're up and down enough to make me feel that I'm not too far out in left field. All this verbiage is intended to say that I think this should be a competitive and that it's not a stretch to think Maryland can and should be able to "PROTECT THIS HOUSE!"
Andrew K.: I watched half of the Iowa-Indiana game last week, and I wasn't overly impressed with the Hawkeyes. Bear in mind that Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld got banged up early and Indiana was reduced to a rushing offense. Even with Iowa knowing that, the Hoosiers (i.e. Tevin Coleman) still busted a number of huge runs. On offense Iowa has a two-QB situation similar to Maryland. In fact, their dual-threat QB is also named C.J.(Beathard). I'd prefer that Iowa play Beathard as Maryland's defense has had plenty of practice against his type of attack, but they'll probably go with Jake Rudock..
Pete: A number of my colleagues are Iowa fans, so I am familiar with their team. They have a fine defense and a...struggling offense. Kirk Ferentz is one of the most tactically conservative coaches in all of college football, so there's a good chance Maryland will be the beneficiary of a punt from inside the red zone or some other such nonsense.
Dave: I think it's pretty simple; if Maryland can run the ball, at all, they'll win. This could end up being a very B1G game for Maryland in that it could be low scoring and feature a lot of punting.
Q. For the Terps to win against the Hawkeyes, what has to happen?
Noah: They have to hit the home run ball on offense. Iowa gave up touchdown runs of 83, 45 and 69 yards to Coleman, and the Hawkeyes still won decisively, 45-29. The big play opportunities will be there if Maryland can get the ball into the hands of their playmakers like Diggs, Long and Ross. Iowa has a stingy defense, and in order for Maryland to win on Saturday, they will have to make sure that their offensive line holds up better than it did against Ohio State.
Todd: The first thing they have to do is score more points. I'm really convinced if they do that, they'll win the game. Since you're probably asking what Maryland needs to do to score more points, I'd say offensively, they need to start with a better game plan than I thought they had against Ohio State. If they are going to stick with Brown as the quarterback, they need to make him a threat running the ball. I'm just not convinced that a quality team feels threatened if Brown is mainly a passer. Next, as Noah said, they need to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers and let them make plays. Defensively, they need to be better on third down.
Andrew K.: Maryland will score on the Hawkeyes. The Terps will win if they limit their turnovers to a single miscue and play stout red zone defense. Iowa can probably move the ball fairly well on us, but if our defense comes up big in the red zone then the home team prevails on Saturday.
Pete: If Maryland limits mistakes on the offensive end (looking at you, turnovers) and puts some pressure in the Iowa backfield, they should win. But it should be close.
Dave: To quote Pete - Run. The. Dang. Ball. Seriously, if Maryland can run the ball, they'll be fine. And limit turnovers. Worst case, Craddock will hit a 90 yard field goal to win it.
Q. Per the oddsmakers, Maryland's a slight favorite. Do the Terps get their first home win in the Big Ten this Saturday?
Noah: The bye week helps but I don't think so. I think that Iowa is too balanced offensively and they are a great defensive team as well. My prediction is Iowa over Maryland 24-20.
Todd: Thus far this season, my prediction record is unblemished. I think I'll keep it that way.
Andrew K.: The week off will give some guys a bit of time to heal. Given how well Indiana rushed against Iowa I think that Brandon Ross & Jacquille Veii will have big games. I am somewhat confident that the Terps grab their first B1G home win: 34-27.
Pete: Maryland 27, Iowa 20.
Dave: Having that week off helps. I think Maryland wins, 24-17.
Q. A little basketball now, since Maryland Madness is tonight: What do you do with your rotation to start the year if you're Mark Turgeon? It seems like Romelo Trimble, Dez Wells, Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz are more or less locked in as starters, but who plays center? How many men do you use off the bench?
Noah: Cekovsky and Dodd are the only two players over 6'10''. I don't think either of them are ready to play big time minutes at center. If I am Mark Turgeon, I put my most traditional power forward out there and try to box out as best he can with your big men. Maryland will have to rebound as a team, because this team doesn't seem to have any one player that can clean up on the boards. Offensively, you have players that can space the floor and score so you don't need a guy who is going to score 20 points down low. One of Maryland's problems throughout Turgeon's tenure has been their lack of depth and that issue has not been resolved. Except for maybe Richaud Pack, I'm not very confident in the Terps' reserves.
Todd: Lord, I know it's time for the Super B1G Maryland Madness but this is another question to which I've given maybe 20 nanoseconds of thought. Accepting the starting lineup you've posited, I'd have to say that either Cekovsky, Dodd or both are going to have to be off the bench a lot. I don't see a lot of rebounding or interior defense in your lineup. Unless Mark Turgeon has suddenly been possessed by Paul Westhead circa 1990, I'm not sure where he goes with this lineup. In addition to the two big men, I think we may see some Jon Graham for his bulk and work rate down low. I'd also have to assume we'll see a fair measure of Richaud Pack and possibly a sly helping or two of Dion Wiley.
Andrew K.: Cekovsky is probably going to start at center. Wait a second: Turgeon recently said he likes Dodd's progress and intimated that he could start. We'll see. But If Cekovsky and Dodd don't cut the mustard, then I can foresee Turgeon going with a small lineup for large parts of the game: Trimble, Pack, Wells, Smo and Layman. A lot will depend on who we're playing. In terms of our bench, it unfortunately depends on the advancement of freshmen not named Trimble. Fatigue might play a large part in games that are close down the stretch. If we get into foul trouble ... I don't even want to go there. While Dodd and Graham can give a few minutes, expect our starters to log 34-35 minutes a game.
Pete: It's hard to say because I haven't seen Michal Cekovsky play, but I'm certain Mark Turgeon will start the year with Damonte Dodd at center. I'll have more on the rotations later in the month, but I imagine most of the bench players will play -- Trayvon Reed was probably least likely to see minutes out of the whole group.
Dave: Starting the season, I think Dodd is at the 5 spot, with Wells, Trimble, Layman and Smotrycz rounding out the starting 5. I think Dodd is there because he knows his role, which is getting rebounds and protecting the rim. I really think Michal Cekovsky is going to come off the bench, but sometimes it will be to replace Layman or Smotrycz, because he has a great all around game, despite his 7 foot frame.
Q. A lot of students thought last year's Madness event at Cole Field House was stale. What would you like to see out of tonight's event, if anything, to make it worthwhile?
Noah: I am pessimistic about Maryland's upcoming season. Maryland Madness is supposed to represent the excitement and promise of a new season. There is only one thing that will make it worthwhile for me. I want a promise from Mark Turgeon that the men will make the NCAA Tournament. Will it happen? No. I think Maryland will miss the tournament again this year, and that is why you don't sign coaches to eight-year contracts.
Todd: I'd like to see the volleyball team shock Michigan State. I'd like to see one of the Gymkana kids come out wearing one of those fire retardant suits they use in Hollywood and well, you know... I'd like to see Alex Len come back and propose to Essence Townsend. I'd like to see Robert Carter shatter the backboard on a dunk. I'd like to see Lefty Driesell come out and cover the name of Gary Williams Court with a banner that renames the court Lefty Driesell Court and then hand Gary a bronze bust of Gary Williams. That's right: I want total anarchy!
Andrew K.: I'll pass, as I've never been a fan of "Midnight Madness."
Pete: Not Kid Rock not Kid Rock not Kid Rock not Kid Rock. (Ed note: Yeah, please, no.)
Dave: Hopefully an awesome alumni game. They need to revive the tradition of the head coach arriving in some awesome way. Gary arrived in a tank, awesome car and pesudo flew in a fighter jet. Bring stuff like that back and get the crowd more involved. I think the rap show will probably help with the younger folks, but things like that are good too. Get the students to the event. I think it all starts with that.