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Maryland football to play Auburn in Music City Bowl

The Terps will head to Nashville to take on the Tigers.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Maryland at Ohio State
Maryland head coach Mike Locksley’s squad will play in its third straight bowl game when it faces TEAM in the BOWL on DATE.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maryland football will play Auburn in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, it was announced Sunday afternoon. The game, held at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, will kick off at 2 p.m. ET and air on ABC.

“The Music City Bowl elevates our program,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said Sunday. “It’s a December 30th bowl game, it’s one that I know our players are excited about getting down to Nashville, which is a great football city. ... I know it’s a great bowl game and it’s a great opportunity against an SEC opponent.”

In the days leading up to the announcement, Locksley and his staff were able to narrow potential bowl sites down to a few options and began to assemble preliminary scouting reports on possible opponents. Conference championship results and the College Football Playoff selection committee’s final rankings opened up Nashville as Maryland’s postseason destination.

“If you look at the pecking order in which they are able to select, it speaks volumes to what the Music City Bowl thought about our program to pick us,” Locksley said. “They had opportunities to pick others and they chose to pick us.”

The Terps will play in a bowl game for the third consecutive season for the first time since 2006-08. They were victorious in each of their last two bowl appearances, blowing out Virginia Tech in the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl and defeating NC State in last year’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

Maryland started the season 5-0, but stumbled during a four-game losing streak. However, it bounced back by winning two of its final three games, with a narrow loss to Michigan — the top-seeded team in this year’s College Football Playoff — wedged between victories at Nebraska and Rutgers.

The Terps will face the Tigers with a chance to win eight games in consecutive seasons for the first time in 20 years.

Auburn ended the regular season with a 6-6 record, as it was an up-and-down campaign for first-year Tigers head coach Hugh Freeze. The final two weeks of his team’s season were dramatic, falling to New Mexico State before being stunned by arch-rival Alabama on a late-game touchdown. Four of Auburn’s losses came against ranked conference opponents.

The Terps and Tigers have played three times, with the most recent matchup coming in 1983. Auburn leads the all-time series, 2-1.

Last year, Maryland played its bowl game without top receivers Rakim Jarrett, Dontay Demus Jr. and Jacob Copeland and tight end C.J. Dippre, as well as cornerback Deonte Banks. No players have announced they will skip this year’s bowl game yet, although seven have declared their intentions to enter the transfer portal. Notable entries include linebacker Jaishawn Barham, tight end Corey Dyches and defensive backs Gavin Gibson and Corey Coley Jr.

“The portal window’s opening up tomorrow, and so, you know, there’s still a lot of moving pieces there,” Locksley said. “But we’ll have a good amount of our guys prepared to go down there, play and put on a great show.”

Maryland’s offense is led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who stands alone as the Big Ten’s all-time career passing yards leader. Tagovailoa stated after the team’s regular-season finale that he plans to play in the bowl game, which would be his final performance in a Maryland uniform.

“Have not had an opportunity to speak to a bunch of these guys, but it was of my understanding that Taulia wants to and expects to play,” Locksley said.

Unlike a season ago, few Terps grade as high-caliber 2024 NFL draft prospects. Safety Beau Brade has garnered the most attention as a potential middle-round selection, but hasn’t acknowledged his postseason availability.

Every season Maryland has qualified for a bowl under Locksley, the Terps’ head coach has proclaimed that he will treat the game like the beginning of the following season. His message Sunday was no different, noting the value of extra practice time and a chance to showcase emerging players.

“This is really the start of the [2024] campaign for the Maryland football family,” Locksley said. “You know, we’ve got some young players that will have opportunities to come in and kind of make a name for themselves.”