In just five games of Maryland football’s season, the team and its fans have experienced about as many ups and downs as one could ever imagine. After winning their first two road games as double-digit underdogs, the road-warrior Terps finally came crashing back down to Earth in Columbus, Ohio, losing to the Ohio State 62-14.
It’s only the second game in October, but Maryland’s game against Northwestern could be the deciding factor in whether this season ends up being considered a success or failure.
Maryland’s loss to Ohio State hurt, but all is not lost.
Losing 62-14 is never good, but it wasn’t totally unreasonable to expect something like this to happen. The Terps looked great at times to start the season, were pedestrian against UCF and appeared to have regained their form against Minnesota, but going into an environment like “The Shoe” and beating a top-10 team was a task on a whole other level.
There’s plenty to take away from that game, but perhaps most importantly is the status of once-third-string-now-starting quarterback Max Bortenschlager. Losing a third starting quarterback to injury could shake this team’s psyche all the way to its core, no matter how good Caleb Henderson is as a replacement.
As discouraging as the blowout loss may have been, Maryland’s special teams looked great and backups got valuable in-game experience, if you’re looking for silver linings. And while it’s always good to learn from mistakes, this game may be better served as a “burn the tape and move on” kind of game.
The health of Bortenschlager is of the utmost importance.
Despite losing Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, Maryland has shown that it not only can win without them, but win conference road games without them. It’s no secret that Bortenschlager isn’t the game-breaking type of player Pigrome and Hill can be, but he doesn’t have to be. A line like his against Minnesota—18-for-28 and three total touchdowns for only 154 yards—is enough to keep the Terps competitive in conference games. He left the Ohio State game with what appeared to be a head injury after being hit high and late while sliding. If he can’t go this weekend, it’s the Caleb Henderson show.
While Henderson was once a blue-chip recruit, nothing we’ve seen from him yet has pointed to him being able to replicate that kind of performance. At the same time, Bortenschlager has spent two years in the system, and has proven he can manage a game well enough to give Maryland a chance.
A six-win season could rely on the result of the Northwestern game.
Losing to Ohio State didn’t really change anything as far as the rest of the season goes for the Terps, as no reasonable person would have chalked that game up as a win. It did, however, show that Maryland might not be ready just yet to upset one of the big four in the Big Ten, which limits the ways in which the team can get to six wins this season.
Theoretically, Maryland could still make a bowl game with a 5-7 record because of its high APR scores, but backing in like that feels incomplete. Luckily, the Terps only have to win three of their next seven games. On the other hand, four ranked teams are still on the schedule, with Michigan State entering the AP Poll this week at No. 21 and Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State all sitting in the top 20. The three most winnable games are this week at home against Northwestern, in three weeks when Indiana comes to College Park and in the first week of November against Rutgers.