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Maryland football’s next win might not come until Rutgers, but that’s all the Terps need

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The Terps are about to play three of the best teams in the country, so Rutgers is their best chance to get that sixth win.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football had a real chance to beat Indiana and gain bowl eligibility on Saturday night, but the Terps couldn’t keep their halftime lead. At 5-3, they still just need one more win to secure their spot in a bowl game. It’s pretty clear where that victory is going to have to come from.

The loss to Indiana is surely deflating for the Terps and their fans, who saw a chance to grab that elusive sixth win (which would make them bowl-eligible) slip right through their hands.

Back in September, I traced what Maryland’s path to the postseason would have to look like. The Terps did what they needed to do at the beginning of the season. They took care of business against a cupcake FCS squad (Howard), a cupcake FBS team (FIU), another Group of 5 team that actually seems good (UCF) and then beat Purdue (by a lot).

This meant the Terps just needed two more conference wins. They grabbed one against Michigan State last week, which ends up being very important.

Maryland’s entering three straight weeks of PAIN.

Here’s what the Terps’ schedule looks like until they play Rutgers at home in the season finale.

Date Opponent Opp. S&P+ Rk Win
Probability
Proj.
W-L
Proj.
Margin
Proj. Score
5-Nov at Michigan 1 2% L -36.4 5.1 - 41.5
12-Nov Ohio State 5 11% L -21.4 16.5 - 37.9
19-Nov at Nebraska 22 21% L -13.8 21.1 - 34.8

(Numbers don’t include Saturday’s games.)

In all likelihood, this is gonna get ugly.

Before Saturday’s games, Michigan was No. 1, Ohio State No. 5 and Nebraska No. 22 in S&P+. There’s no way around it. Barring an amazing upset, these teams are gonna take it to Maryland pretty hard. This isn’t a knock on Maryland. The Terps are in year one with a new coach and a promising recruiting class is on the way. They simply aren’t in the same class as the Michigan’s and Ohio States of the world. This is an objective fact, even if it’s one DJ Durkin will try to ignore for the next few weeks. Just look at those win probabilities and projected margins above.

If the Terps let Indiana’s 101st-ranked rushing attack rack up 414 yards, what are they going to do against players who can do this?

(Honestly I just wanted a reason to include that GIF, so even if it doesn’t totally flow, let’s just go with it. OK? OK.)

If Maryland does win against Michigan or Ohio State, Route One would be in for a couch burning of epic proportions. A win over Nebraska probably wouldn’t have quite the same sexiness to it, but that too would be cause for celebration.

Nonetheless, the most likely scenario here is that Maryland brings a 5-6 record into its Thanksgiving-weekend game against Rutgers. Still, things would be simple. The Terps beat Rutgers and they’re bowl-eligible.

Rutgers is really, really bad

The Scarlet Knights are the 116th team in the nation, according to S&P+. For reference, Purdue, which Maryland beat by 43 points, is 112th. Maryland plays Rutgers at home in the season finale, and there’s no reason the Terps shouldn’t be able to take care of business here.

I cannot overstate this. Rutgers is just plain bad at football. Here’s what the Scarlet Knights have done so far this season:

Via Google

A win isn’t certain because “anything can happen in college football” and all that, but Maryland legitimately is head-and-shoulders above this Rutgers program. That’s maybe not a great achievement, but clinching a spot in a bowl game would be something worth celebrating. Rebuilds are hard, and making a bowl game has to help rejuvenate a largely apathetic fanbase and keep the recruiting momentum Durkin and his staff have.

After each week’s slate of games is finished, SB Nation’s Jason Kirk updates his bowl predictions. Even though Maryland’s lost three times now, he still projects the Terps to land in the Pinstripe Bowl against North Carolina.

That’d still be a pretty sweet deal for a program that went 3-9 last season.