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Maryland football has nothing to lose in its final regular-season game

Our weekly outlook on the Maryland football program.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the season, it’s much easier to be excited about Maryland basketball than Maryland football—and understandably so—but the Terps still have one game left. After a closer-than-many-may-have-expected loss at Michigan State, Maryland is slated to close out the regular season against Penn State this coming Saturday.

Last Saturday’s 17-7 loss to the Spartans was frustrating to watch. There were hardly any explosive plays, the wind, rain and snow made passing a near impossibility and, as such, it was a low-scoring affair. Max Bortenschlager was pulled at halftime in favor of Ryan Brand, but took the reigns back in the fourth, engineering the Terps’ only scoring drive of the afternoon.

A 3:30 p.m. ET game against Penn State hangs in the balance, and while a win would potentially make Maryland eligible for a bowl game berth based on their Academic Progress Rate, it seems unlikely against the No. 10 Nittany Lions.

Maryland’s comeback had some life, but it was too little too late.

On the Terps’ final two offensive drives, they more than doubled their offensive yardage from the first three quarters. The first of those two ended in Maryland’s only touchdown, a four-yard Lorenzo Harrison run. If not for several questionable penalty calls, the Terps would have been driving for the tie in the game’s waning minutes. Instead, Maryland needed a touchdown and a field goal to tie.

Facing fourth down with just over two and a half minutes left, head coach DJ Durkin smartly elected to kick a short field goal, which—if made—would have given his team the chance at recovering an onside kick and scoring again. Unfortunately, Henry Darmstadter pushed his attempt wide right, and any chance Maryland had at a win was effectively gone. Though they couldn’t complete the comeback, the Terps showed toughness and an unwillingness to give in to a ranked team on the road in nasty weather.

That kind of fight will be paramount if the Terps are to beat Penn State.

With 5-7 being the best-case scenario for Maryland, a conventional six-win bowl berth is officially out of the question. A five-win bowl berth is also uncertain, but technically still possible. And with a win against one of the most explosive teams in the country seeming unlikely, Durkin knows his squad will have to play with similar heart to pull off the upset.

“Our bowl game will be next week, at home,” Durkin told the media after the Michigan State game.

Maryland and Penn State have played two one-point games and one not-so-close game in the Terps’ three seasons in the Big Ten. After escaping NCAA-imposed sanctions earlier than initially scheduled, the Nittany Lions have returned to national prominence over the last two seasons. Maryland may be without its first and second-string quarterbacks and a handful of other key players, but has nothing to lose in this game.

If the Terps can find the heart and execute the game plan to perfection, then maybe, just maybe, an upset is in the cards. If not, the basketball team has looked pretty good so far, and spring football practice is only a few months away.