Leading up to the start of Maryland's football season on Sept. 3, we're doing an at-a-glance preview of every opponent on the schedule, running once each week.
Week 2: Florida International (Sept. 9, Ocean Bank Field, Miami, 7:30 p.m.)
After playing Howard in its season opener, Maryland football will make the first of two trips to the Sunshine State, first visiting Florida International on Sept. 9 before returning to play UCF a week later. This matchup will take place on a Friday under the lights, a cool change of pace in an early-season game.
This game will fulfill a two-game agreement between the sides, as the two teams played in College Park to open the 2013 season. Maryland emerged victorious with a 43-10 win, catching the Panthers at the beginning of a 1-11 season. Since then, the Panthers have finished 4-8 and 5-7.
Building upon the first win.
Maryland will beat Howard in week 1. The FCS Bison won’t enter that game with a realistic shot of winning, so the Terps should be feeling good heading into week 2. That won’t last all season, but there’s no reason the good vibes shouldn’t continue against FIU.
Let’s take a brief look at the Panthers.
How good is this team?
Not very. The Panthers’ best win in 2015, by S&P+ rankings (more here on those), was against Old Dominion. They finished in the middle of the pack in Conference-USA, and are on Maryland’s early-season schedule for a reason.
Who should I watch?
Wide receiver Thomas Owens led the team in receiving yards (638) and touchdowns (8) last year as a sophomore. If quarterback Alex McGough takes enough of a step forward, Owens should see those stats increase.
Running back Anthony James is also one to watch out for. He wasn’t the team’s No. 1 back last season and starter Alex Gardener is still returning, but James could end up as the more exciting back. He averaged 5.1 yards per rush on 48 carries in 2015, and advanced stats are kind to him. He’s explosive, says SB Nation’s Bill Connelly:
[His] 6.3 highlight yards per opportunity was well above average (anything over about 5 is pretty good, and anything over 10 means you're Dalvin Cook).
Snap prediction, way ahead of time: Will Maryland win?
Almost definitely. The Terps lost their second game of the season to an upstart Bowling Green team last year. This won’t be a similar experience.