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 1: Howard (Sept. 3, Maryland Stadium, time TBA)
The Terrapins' 2016 season starts with a Week 1 game against Howard. It'll be DJ Durkin's first game as Maryland's head coach, so it'll be about as meaningful as a game against an FCS opponent can possibly be.
In Durkin's office in February, we asked him what the game might feel like:
I don't know. That's a good question. Obviously I'll be excited for that. I think football's one of those sports where if you count up all the practices, all the workouts, all that you do, the days you put into it for the amount of game opportunities you get, it's a very lopsided number. You look at basketball, baseball and how many games they play compared to how many practices. Football's one of those sports where you have to enjoy the grind, enjoy the hard work, enjoy what goes into it and really have an appreciation for it.
And then, on the flip side, man, you have to make the most of those opportunities. You're only guaranteed 12 of them, and if you do well with those 12, you might get a 13th or a 14th or whatever else it is. I'm hoping by that point, our guys, based on how hard we've worked and what's gone into it, coaches, players all alike, that we've sold out and invested everything we have, every ounce of everything we have to get to that point – to where, now, it'll be, "Let's go let loose and have some fun." That's how I want that to be.
Maryland should be roaring and ready to go, no matter the caliber of the opposition.
Yet the Terps are paying the Bison a $350,000 guarantee to make the trip from the District, and Maryland isn't doing that out of the goodness of its heart. Maryland wants an easy game, and playing one will be the goal when Howard visits town.
Don't get hurt, get some reps in and don't lose.
It's fairly regular for Maryland (and other teams) to start the year with a home game against somebody from the FCS. The Terps did so in 2015 (Richmond), 2014 (Richmond) and 2012 (William & Mary), and they played their second game of the year against a non-major team in both 2010 (Morgan State) and 2013 (Old Dominion).
Here's what you should keep in mind about the Bison:
How good is this team?
It's complicated. The Bison aren't a top-division football program, and they're not entering this game with any legitimate hope of winning.
The Bison play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which houses the country's historically black college and university (HBCU) teams. (You should read some of Bill Connelly's work on HBCU football here and here.) It's not easy to build a winning program at an HBCU, because the schools are woefully underfunded.
The Bison haven't won a bunch of games over the years, and they went 1-10 last year. Howard finished second in the MEAC in 2012 but hasn't been better than 6-6 since.
Who should I watch?
The Bison lose leaving receiver Matthew Colvin, a 6'1 senior who had six catches for 83 yards and a score against Delaware State last year. Colvin's three touchdowns led the team, which only found the end zone 15 times in 11 games.
There wasn't a lot of offense here to begin with, so now the Bison need to find some. Watch for rising sophomore running back Ricquaz Brannon, who had a team-best 341 yards on 101 carries last season.
Snap prediction, way ahead of time: Will Maryland win?