Maryland football’s fifth season in the Big Ten is approaching. The Terps haven’t proved much so far in their football journey to a new conference, but some of their best highlights came in their first go-round.
Maryland football’s move to the Big Ten took effect in 2014, and opinions were mixed.
Here’s how fans from our site took the news as it happened:
The comments ranged from “the move is total bullshit and I hate it” to “My head is still spinning but Woo-hoo!” We don’t really need to rehash this debate, though.
Maryland’s first season in the Big Ten came at an extra-weird time for the program.
The Randy Edsall Experiment was entering its fourth season. Year 1’s spectacular failure of a 2-10 season begat some improvement in a 4-8 campaign. Then Year 3, Maryland’s final in the ACC, was a solid 7-6 showing. Not amazing, but steady improvement at least.
Maryland’s short-term future in the Big Ten seemed actually fine.
It was easy for fans to predict some unwatchable games after the switch to (at the time) a clearly more powerful football conference. I was a Maryland sophomore at the time, and that was the vibe I got from almost anyone I talked to. But the projections for the Terps weren’t, like, that bad.
The Big Ten was either really nice or mean to the Terps, giving them home games against Ohio State and Michigan State and road trips to Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin right out of the gates. A strong, top-40 caliber team might only go 7-5 without some bounces. But with a bounce or two and another road upset, a healthy Maryland team could threaten to reach 9-3. There is quite a bit of opportunity here, but now would not be a good time for another swath or injuries or any other causes for regression.
Pete Volk, our site manager at the time, had a similar outlook:
I’ve gone back and forth on this, but anywhere from four wins to nine is possible. Unfortunately, I’m thinking 6-6 at the moment, with losses likely coming to Syracuse, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan. In most other divisions in the country, this is an eight- to nine-win team. The schedule is just too tough, however, so we’ll have to wait and see.
So here’s how the actual football season went:
Maryland started the season with wins at home against James Madison and at USF. A loss to West Virginia and a win over Syracuse seem par for the course. Nothing too crazy in the first four weeks.
A couple blowouts at the hands of Big Ten powerhouses feel familiar. Ohio State came to College Park and stomped the Terps in a 52-24 blowout on Oct. 4, while Wisconsin hosted Maryland for a casual 52-7 Saturday afternoon football game on Oct 25. These kind of losses had already become a seasonal ritual to Maryland fans thanks to games against Florida State and Clemson in the ACC, and they’ve been a constant in the years since.
But it wasn’t all bad!
Maryland beat Penn State AND Michigan.
In the same season! In football!
It’s hard to exaggerate how weird it would sound if you told an incoming Maryland sophomore that the Terps had in fact defeated both the Nittany Lions and Wolverines in the same season. But back then, these weren’t the Michigan and Penn State you’ll see potentially contending for the College Football Playoff. Scholarship reductions from the Jerry Sandusky scandal had knifed through Penn State’s roster, while Brady Hoke’s tenure at Michigan was cratering.
So on Nov. 1, 2014, Maryland went into Beaver Stadium and eked out a 20-19 win. There was this:
But there was also a fun football game.
Maryland outscored Penn State 13-3 in the fourth quarter, and a fumbled snap doomed the Nittany Lions as they attempted to mount a late drive.
The Michigan game had a somewhat similar script. Maryland trailed 16-9 entering the fourth quarter, then rode to victory on the strength of two touchdown runs at the Big House.
Those two wins were sandwiched between a bye and a loss to a Michigan State team that finished in the top 10, which is fine.
The season ended with one bad loss and one explainable one.
Maryland led Rutgers 35-10 with 2:52 to go in the first half at home in the final week of the regular season. A 31-3 Rutgers run in front of a speechless crowd stole Maryland’s chance at an 8-4 debut in the Big Ten. Stanford, the No. 14 team in S&P+, then crushed Maryland, the No. 51 team, by a score of 45-21 in the Foster Farms Bowl. Mismatches happen sometimes in bowl season, and this was a bad one. Another 7-6 season would have to do.
ICYMI, things got worse afterward.
Edsall only made it halfway through the 2015 season, and DJ Durkin’s teams haven’t turned recruiting success into wins yet. Maryland’s record in the Big Ten is 10-24. The Terps are still winless against ranked conference foes, while Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State are top-15 teams. Unless the Big Ten finally does the right thing and abolishes divisions, things are always going to be tough for Maryland in East division.
The Terps have a shot to get bowl-eligible again in 2018. For now, that’ll have to be enough.
What memories do you have from the 2014 season? Let us know in the comments!