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Maryland football has one Big Ten upset win, but Ohio State is a different obstacle

Our weekly outlook on the Maryland football program.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The first month of the 2017 Maryland football season has prompted a range of emotions that usually takes a full year to achieve. The Terps have two upset road wins and two quarterbacks out for the season, along with seemingly everything in between.

Maryland took down Minnesota in the final minutes on Saturday, moving the Terps to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten. The fact that they’ve reached that mark with three starting quarterbacks in four games says a lot about this team, and what it’s made of.

Maryland’s one-week turnaround was incredible.

Against UCF, the Terps were outscored 38-7 in the final three quarters without Kasim Hill. Sophomore Max Bortenschlager looked overwhelmed. Every other unit on both sides of the ball folded. Everything went wrong for nearly three hours straight.

It’s hard to take all of those things, plus the official diagnosis of Hill’s torn ACL, and flush them completely. It’s even harder to concoct a game plan for a new quarterback with different skills than his counterparts in one week’s time. It’s another thing to actually compete with an undefeated conference foe on the road seven days after such a discouraging loss.

To actually win that game as a 13-point underdog, and do so by scoring more points than the opponent had allowed all season, is borderline unheard of. It’s something Maryland teams just don’t do.

Conference play looks much more manageable now.

Maryland fans’ expectations for the season have been in flux for a month now. Six-win aspirations spiked up to eight, then plummeted to four, and are probably somewhere in the middle now.

Bortenschlager’s performance Saturday couldn’t have been predicted from his first two extended outings at Maryland, in which the Terps had scored 14 points in seven quarters. He went from looking like a quarterback who’d struggle to lead his team to a Big Ten win to actually doing that in one week.

Four of Maryland’s last eight games are against teams currently in the top 10. Barring a stunner, that leaves the Terps with home games against Northwestern and Indiana and road trips to Michigan State and Rutgers (in Yankee Stadium). If six wins and a postseason return is the goal, then it certainly seems attainable. A week ago, it didn’t.

Ohio State is still on another level.

The No. 10 Buckeyes’ version of a slow start includes a 4-1 record and a 56-0 throttling of Rutgers, with the only loss coming to now-No. 3 Oklahoma. The quarterback Ohio State fans have wanted replaced by [name redacted] at points this season will be playing his 41st career game on Saturday. Ohio State’s 1,000-yard feature back from 2016 is now in a rotational role as he recovers from injury, and his true freshman replacement is averaging over 100 yards per game.

According to S&P+, the Buckeyes have been just as dominant as expected. They entered the weekend ranked second overall behind Alabama, with the No. 4 offense and No. 9 defense in the country. Those numbers should be even higher after their performance last week.

In this weekend’s game, which will be nationally televised on FOX, Ohio State has opened as a 31-point favorite. The Law of Gus Johnson suggests it should be closer than expected, and Maryland’s results in its first two road games are certainly encouraging, but staying competitive in Columbus would take an even better performance than the Terps put forth in beating Minnesota.

If they do keep it close, though, it probably wouldn’t be the craziest part of their season.