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3 ways of looking at the enormous spread favoring Maryland against Rutgers

This is ... unusual.

maryland football-rutgers-spread-odds-bets Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland is about a 23-point favorite ahead of Saturday’s game against Rutgers. Your familiarity or lack thereof with betting lines has already determined your reaction to that sentence. If you’ve been following Maryland football closely, you probably know that’s, well, a giant spread compared to what the Terps usually get.

Maryland hasn’t been favored by this much over a Power 5 team IN FIFTEEN YEARS.

The last time a betting line favored Maryland by a number in the 20s was in 2003, when the Terps played Duke at home. That Duke team ended up going 4-8, while Maryland finished 10-2 with a No. 17 ranking in the AP Poll and a victory over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

That was a team you could credibly call the Terps’ best in the past two decades. Sports Reference’s Simple Rating System would agree with you. An effective defense led the way, limiting opponents to 16 points per game with future pros Domonique Foxworth, D’Qwell Jackson and Madieu Williams on the roster. Maryland didn’t cover, but won 33-20.

In that 15-year stretch, Maryland’s been favored by double-digits against 2016 Rutgers, 2016 Purdue, 2008 NC State, 2004 Georgia Tech, 2004 Duke, 2003 North Carolina and assorted early-season non-conference games.

This line is even extreme by Maryland-Rutgers standards.

Maryland and Rutgers are each fighting on an uphill climb to become competitive in the Big Ten. Maryland’s dealing with its own problems as DJ Durkin remains on leave while an investigation into the team’s player treatment practices wraps up. While each team has had its fair share of on-field issues since joining the Big Ten East, this Rutgers team likely takes the cake.

The Scarlet Knights are 119th in S&P+. That’s the worst ranking for a Power 5 team this season by six spots. (Before Maryland fans gloat *too* much, the Terps finished 114th last year.) Maryland sank in the most recent edition of those rankings, by are still comfortably ahead at No. 68.

In the last four meetings between the teams:

  • 2014: Maryland was favored by 7.5 and lost 41-38.
  • 2015: Maryland-Rutgers was a toss-up, meaning neither team was favored, and Maryland won 46-41.
  • 2016: Maryland was favored by 15.5 and won 31-13
  • 2017: Maryland was favored by 4.5 and lost 31-24.

Maryland’s usually the favorite, but this kind of line is still new.

Vegas sees this as an early-season cupcake game, planted right in the middle of conference play.

Maryland was favored over Bowling Green by 14 points and Temple by 15.5, so this doesn’t even compare to anything Maryland’s faced this season. The best recent approximation of this matchup, according to the spread, might be Maryland’s 2014 game against James Madison and 2016 game against Towson, when the Terps were 24- and 28-point favorites against FCS teams. Just appreciate that for a second. Maryland and Rugers seemed to be on similar courses as recently as last season, and now oddsmakers think this lowly of the Scarlet Knights.

Should you go with Maryland and the points?

S&P+ actually projects a much different margin for this game: still in favor of Maryland, but only by 18. If the offense we saw against Minnesota and Bowling Green shows up, the Terps could still be a good bet. Rutgers just lost to Illinois by 21, and can’t stop anyone. If you have faith in Maryland’s offense to explode against a defense that is bad in most areas, but especially bad at preventing big plays, the argument for picking the Terps with that giant spread is there.

Historical odds from Covers.com