Maryland football has come away with a win in four of its first six games to kick off the season. The Terps had their best start since the 2016 season by going a perfect 4-0 over the opening four contests, while also sweeping their nonconference slate for the first time in five years.
Michael Locksley’s program took down West Virginia, Howard, Illinois and Kent State to start out 2021, but the Terps hit a bit of a rut in the road during their past two weeks of competition.
Maryland has since lost to the likes of then-No. 5 Iowa and then-No. 7 Ohio State, giving up at least 50 points in the process during each game. The offense has also slowed down immensely, totaling its two-lowest scoring outputs of the year, with the Terps putting up 14 points against the Buckeyes and just 17 points against Ohio State most recently.
It’s been an injury-ridden first-half of the season for Maryland, and now entering its bye week, the program has six games remaining on the 2021 schedule.
Later in the week, we will look at some of Maryland’s top performers through the opening half of the campaign, but for now, let’s take a look at the Terps’ Big Ten slate the rest of the way as the team looks to capture at least six wins for the first time since 2016.
At Minnesota (Oct. 23)
Record headed into Week Seven: 3-2 (1-1 Big Ten)
Coming out of the bye week standing at 4-2, Maryland will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Oct. 23 on the road. After losing star running back Mohamed Ibrahim in the first game of the season, Minnesota has fought its way to currently stand tied for second place in the Big Ten with a 3-2 record.
The Golden Gophers started out with a solid effort against the preseason Big Ten favorite in Ohio State, falling by a score of 45-31 back on Sept 2. Minnesota then built off that effort and won two of its next three games, with the victories coming against Miami (Ohio) and Colorado. The most recent Golden Gophers’ win was over Purdue on Oct. 2, in which Minnesota eked out a 20-13 win on the road.
Minnesota has a legitimate shot to fight for the second spot in the Big Ten west the rest of the way, and they aren’t so far off from Maryland talent-wise, especially in the running game and on defense. Redshirt sophomore running back Trey Potts has been a workhorse, getting 34, 26, 27 and 15 carries over the past four games, respectively, but he has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to an undisclosed ailment. It’ll be interesting to see how Minnesota’s run game develops off that injury moving forward.
Maryland needs to be prepared for Minnesota’s defense that hasn’t been too beatable through five games this season. The Golden Gophers concede just under 20 points per game, and they are the second-best Big Ten team in regards to limiting its opponents’ rushing yards (77.0 per game).
Indiana (Oct. 30)
Record headed into Week Seven: 2-3 (0-2 Big Ten)
After taking on Minnesota in the program's third Big Ten road game of the season, Maryland will return to College Park for the first time since the opening day of October to take on a struggling Indiana program that sits near the bottom of the Big Ten east.
The Hoosiers came into the season with decent expectations, but the program has failed to compete with the top teams in the conference through five games. Indiana’s lone two wins in its 2-3 record came over the likes of Idaho and Western Kentucky. The three losses, though, show how the Hoosiers dipped in the standings this season. Indiana has lost to then-No. 18 Iowa, then-No. 8 Cincinnati and then-No. 4 Penn State, and the combined scoring margin is 86-30 in favor of its opponents in those contests.
Indiana hasn’t necessarily been able to hang around with an array of highly talented teams, and the Hoosiers have a tough task with No. 10 Michigan State next Saturday.
All-in-all, this is a very winnable matchup for Maryland especially if the Terps can find their passing game. Through five games, Indiana ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten regarding its passing defense. And then on the offensive side of the ball, the Hoosiers average just 122.2 rushing yards per game, and that’s good enough for second-to-last in the conference.
Penn State (Nov. 6)
Record headed into Week Seven: 5-1 (2-1 Big Ten)
Maryland will then have its sixth home game of the season come against Penn State, a team that is ranked at the No. 7 spot in the nation in the most recent AP Top 25 poll.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are out to prove a lot of people wrong in 2021. The program out of Pennsylvania has five wins over the course of six weeks with two of those wins coming against ranked teams.
Wins over then-No. 12 Wisconsin, Ball State, No. 22 Auburn, Villanova and Indiana fill out the entire of the Nittany Lions resumé so far in 2021. The only loss that Penn State was its latest game, which came against then-No. 3 Iowa in a 23-20 tight defeat on the road.
This is easily going to be one of the most difficult home matchups the Terps have this year. Penn State is the real deal, and it will bring a combination of a solid offense and defense to College Park in early November. Penn State has the sixth-best passing defense and fourth-best rushing defense in the Big Ten.
Maryland will need to watch out for the duo of quarterback Sean Clifford and wide receiver Jahan Dotson. That combination is one of the best in the conference, as Dotson has totaled just under 500 yards and six touchdowns in six games in 2021.
At Michigan State (Nov. 13)
Record headed into Week Seven: 6-0 (3-0 Big Ten)
At the start of the season, it seemed a meeting against the Michigan State Spartans could be a winnable game for Maryland. However, all of a sudden this matchup has turned into something that will need to be a massive upset for the Terps if they want to come away with a road win in the middle of November.
Michigan State is the fifth Big Ten team within the top-10 in the AP Top 25 poll at the No. 10 spot, just ahead of the likes of No. 11 Kentucky and No. 12 Oklahoma State. The Spartans weren’t picked by many to be a top-25 program, and they have exceeded any and all expectations through six games this season. Michigan State is one of the only three teams in the entire Big Ten that is undefeated with a 6-0 record.
The Spartans have just one of their wins come against a ranked opponent, though, with that victory coming over then-No. 24 Miami in a 38-17 win in mid-September.
Head coach Mel Tucker has done a phenomenal job with this team and running back Kenneth Walker III has forced himself into the running for the Heisman trophy. Walker has an astonishing nine touchdowns and 913 rushing yards through six games. Maryland will certainly have its hands full on the road when it has to go to East Lansing.
Michigan (Nov. 20)
Record headed into Week Seven: 6-0 (3-0 Big Ten)
Senior Day for Maryland will see the Terps take on one of the best teams in the Big Ten in its final home game of 2021. The Michigan Wolverines may not be as elite as an Iowa or Ohio State, but Jim Harbaugh’s squad has worked itself towards the top of the conference standings with a perfect 6-0 record and a No. 8 ranking in the country.
Michigan’s offense has been the main storyline of its season so far as the program has scored at least 30 points in five out of its six games. And even though the Wolverines haven’t captured a win against a ranked opponent as of yet, it’s taken care of business leading up to its next game that will come against Northwestern on Oct. 23. They have beaten Rutgers, Wisconsin and Nebraska out of the Big Ten.
Cade McNamara doesn’t lead the most efficient passing offense, however, the Wolverines’ defense is their bread and butter. They have the fourth-best passing defense being just one of four Big Ten teams to concede less than 200 passing yards per game. The rushing defense should be feared, too, as Michigan’s run defense also ranks in the top-five in the conference.
Keep in mind, the Wolverines also have the most efficient running game in the Big Ten (246.5 rushing yards per game) with a lethal duo of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins carrying the ball right into the heart of its opponent’s defense in every Michigan win.
At Rutgers (Nov. 27)
Record headed into Week Seven: 3-3 (0-3 Big Ten)
In Maryland’s quest for six wins and a bowl game, a meeting with Rutgers in late December in Piscataway, New Jersey, may very well be the Terps’ best opportunity to capture a win. The game will be the last of Maryland’s regular season and it offers a chance for Locksley’s team to finish off the season strong.
Rutgers’ rebuild under head coach Greg Schiano is going fairly well, as the Scarlet Knights stand with an even 3-3 record. Rutgers had three straight wins to kick off the season, claiming victories over Temple, Syracuse and Delaware before getting stomped out by three ranked Big Ten teams over the course of the next three weeks.
The Scarlet Knights offense has stalled in the last three defeats and they have scored exactly 13 points against each of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.
This game, along with Maryland’s upcoming games against Minnesota and Indiana, will be the best shots for the Terps to come away with a victory. The Big Ten meeting does come on the road, where Maryland has struggled, and it will need to find a way to win in enemy territory if the Terps want to push their record to around six wins.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Trey Potts is now ruled out for the rest for the season.