We’re getting awfully close to finishing out schedule preview series ahead of this Maryland football season. Here’s what we’ve done so far:
Week 4: Bye
Week 12: Nebraska (Nov. 19, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, time and TV TBA)
The Terrapins have a relatively easy schedule this year, and part of that is that their crossover games to the Big Ten West are only of mild difficulty. Where last year brought undefeated Iowa and ranked Wisconsin, this year brings miserable Purdue, so-so Minnesota and West wild card Nebraska.
The Huskers had a weird and disappointing year in 2015, Mike Riley’s first year at the helm. After coming to Lincoln from Oregon State, Riley’s first regular season ended at a fairly disastrous 5-7, although the Huskers qualified for a bowl under a special rule and then had a nice win against UCLA.
What’ll the Huskers be this year? That’s up in the air, but they should be a little better than they were in 2015. And given that they’ll be playing this game in front of a home sellout against a Maryland core that hasn’t demonstrated any ability to win Big Ten games on the road, they’ll probably be significant favorites in this meeting.
How good is this team?
The Huskers were not truly as bad as 5-7 last season. And if they can cut one mistake or so per game, they’ll be right in the thick of the West division race.
Nebraska was one of the most on-and-off teams in the sport last year. They followed four of their six wins with losses immediately afterward, and they managed a 10-point loss one week to Purdue, which is a season-defining sort of thing college football teams should avoid doing. They also beat UCLA and played good teams like BYU and Northwestern really tight, and things could’ve been better. But they weren’t.
A lot of the core is back, and it stands to reason that this team isn’t far away from going 8-4 or 9-3 and emerging from the Big Ten’s lesser division.
Bill Connelly’s main point about the Huskers: “Nebraska was good enough to stay close in almost every game, but the Huskers were both unlucky and error-prone late in contests. Riley's experienced team has to clean that up.”
Who should I watch?
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has yet to put everything together, but he’s got considerable talent and can hurt teams with his arm and his legs. The downside: He’s thrown 36 interceptions in three seasons and is prone to making dumb mistakes.
Receiver Jordan Westerkamp is a trendy All-Big Ten pick, and he’s indeed good. He had 65 catches for seven touchdowns and more than 900 yards last year, and he’s quick and sure-handed, catching 66 percent of the balls thrown his way. Receiver and return man De’Mornay Pierson-El missed a bunch of time last year with injury, but he’s a lightning bolt when he’s on.
There’s some interesting talent in the defensive backfield. Safety Nate Gerry had four interceptions last year, and the unit returns four top regulars.
Snap prediction, way ahead of time: Does Maryland win?
Nope. Nebraska should be good, and Maryland needs to show improvement before it can reasonably be picked to win a Big Ten road game of this sort.