The final stretch of Maryland's 2015 Big Ten football schedule is a bit easier than the first, but it's still going to be a tough stretch. The Terps play Wisconsin and Michigan State, two teams that had an easy time with Maryland in 2014, along with games against Indiana and Rutgers.
Below are capsules on each team's season, with information on what they bring back in 2015 and coaching staffs. I've included Football Outsiders' F/+ rankings as well. For reference, Maryland returns five starters on offense and four on defense. Maryland ranks No. 54 in overall F/+, No. 58 in offensive F/+, No. 66 in defensive F/+ and No. 7 in special teams F/+.
November 7, College Park: Wisconsin Badgers
2014 record: (11-3, 7-1 Big Ten)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense
F/+ rankings: 18th overall: 18th offense, 18th defense, 86th special teams
Wisconsin was two close losses away from a very different sort of 2014 season. A four-point neutral-site loss to LSU started the season, and after three easy wins against sub-par competition they lost by six points on the road to Northwestern. The Badgers then went on an absolute run, winning their next seven games and, in the process, winning the Big Ten West. They were stomped by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, but beat Auburn in overtime in the Outback Bowl. Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon is gone at running back (as are three of their starting offensive linemen), but Corey Clement looks ready to just step right in and take those carries.
Then, head coach Gary Andersen abruptly left for Oregon State. The Badgers brought in former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as his replacement, and the team should be returning more closely to their power-running roots. Chryst posted a 19-19 record in three years at Pittsburgh, making three bowl games, yet never cracking .500 in conference play. He brought offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph with him over from Pitt, and retained defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (who did an excellent job in 2014). With a number of key players leaving and a staff turnover, there's a chance Wisconsin could have a down year. The Badgers have the parts in place to run Chryst's system, however, so it could just be more of the same.
November 14, East Lansing: Michigan State Spartans
2014 record: (11-2, 7-1 Big Ten)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense
F/+ rankings: 11th overall: 12th offense, 23rd defense, 18th special teams
Michigan State lost two games in 2014: at home against national title winner Ohio State and on the road against runners-up Oregon. The Spartans had a very solid season, culminating with a dramatic comeback Cotton Bowl victory against Baylor. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun and quarterback Connor Cook are both returning for one final season, but running back Jeremy Langford, wide receiver/cornerback Tony Lippett and two other starters in the secondary are all leaving.
There's one even larger departure the Spartans will have to deal with: defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, now the head coach at Pitt. Narduzzi had been with Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio since 2004 (at Cincinnati), and helped build the Spartans into one of the nation's most consistent defensive forces in the country. Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel, who were assistants on that Cincinnati staff that followed Dantonio and Narduzzi to East Lansing, will hold co-coordinator duties this season. Former Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and former Randy Edsall UConn offensive coordinator Dave Warner head into their third season running the offense, after making significant strides in 2014.
November 21, College Park: Indiana Hoosiers
2014 record: (4-8, 1-7 Big Ten)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense
F/+ rankings: 86th overall: 87th offense, 72nd defense, 89th special teams
In 2014, Indiana won at home against Indiana State, North Texas and Purdue ... and beat Missouri on the road. It was one of the more puzzling results of the early college football season, and didn't exactly get clearer as the season went on (Maryland beat them in Bloomington 37-15 the very next week, as you'll recall). The Hoosiers' offense ran through running back Tevin Coleman, now departed for the NFL, but UAB transfer Jordan Howard is a talented back who should be able to step in and take those carries.
Fifth-year head coach Kevin Wilson enters 2015 on the hot seat after posting his worst conference record (1-7) since his first year on the job. The Hoosiers are 14-34 during his tenure, with a 6-26 record in conference play. Indiana has made just one bowl game since 1994, and this year may be Wilson's last opportunity to do so. Former position coaches Kevin Johns and Greg Frey run the offense together, while co-coordinators Brian Knorr and William Inge oversaw significant improvement in their first year running the defense.
November 28, Piscataway: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2014 record: (8-5, 3-5 Big Ten)
Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense
F/+ rankings: 63rd overall: 55th offense, 70th defense, 66th special teams
Right, Rutgers. Maryland gets a chance to avenge last season's heartbreaking defeat with another season-ending clash, this one in New Jersey. It was one of the Scarlet Knights' best wins of the year, along with a home victory against Michigan, a bowl win against North Carolina and a road win versus Navy. Rutgers has to replace a lot from last year's team, including quarterback Gary Nova and three starters on the offensive line.
Former Greg Schiano assistant Kyle Flood has been the Scarlet Knights' head coach since Schiano left for the NFL prior to the 2012 season. Flood has led them to three straight bowl games in three different conferences, and has compiled a 23-16 record with the school. Former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen enters his second season as Rutgers' offensive coordinator, while defensive coordinator Joe Rossi (formerly in charge of their special teams) also heads into his second season in charge of his unit.