Maryland football’s 2018 non-conference schedule comes to a close this Saturday against Temple. After that, the Terrapins have a game against Minnesota and bye week before settling in to the buzzsaw that is the team’s annual Big Ten East schedule.
We’re assuming Maryland’s gonna take home an easy W this weekend. Temple has played two football games this year, and underperformed preseason projections in each. So this seems like as good a time as any to examine Maryland’s non-conference scheduling practices. Here’s what the Terps have on the books for the future:
at West Virginia
at Virginia Tech
at Virginia Tech
There are a few basic things Maryland needs in a non-conference schedule.
Strength of schedule shouldn’t be a huge concern for Maryland football. Having Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State on the schedule every season takes care of that. (And also, short of contending for the Playoff—which, LOL—when is strength of schedule that important?) Maryland needs enough wins to make a bowl game and generally seem respectable to the general public, who wouldn’t notice a horrible advanced stats ranking under a 7-5 finish.
Until further notice, Maryland should plan to have two easy wins on the schedule every year. Do not play Northern Illinois (too late, they’re on Maryland’s schedule for 2019) or Eastern Michigan. If you’re scheduling a game against a no-name, it better be one you can win.
If attendance is a problem (it is), that’s not something non-conference scheduling can fix by itself. Having an entertaining program with an enjoyable gameday experience that keeps the massive lopsided home losses to a minimum should take care of that. Having worthwhile games for fans and being good at football are separate problems.
So: Maryland should find two opponents every season that it thinks it will beat when that team comes to town in five to 10 years. These games are for fun. Practice, almost. So try to make sure they will be bad when they get to Maryland. For example: Maryland’s playing Buffalo and Charlotte to start the 2022 season. That schedule just needs one more ingredient.
2. Home games against teams fans actually want to see
Give the fans some games they’ll actually want to go to. This is complicated, because following that to the letter would seem to violate directive No. 1. But there has to be wiggle room here.
Scheduling home-and-homes with programs like Texas is risky. Hit your opponent when they’re at a downturn and you come out with wins over a big-name program. Get them while they’re operating at max capacity and your home crowd could be in for a horror show.
Instead, home-and-homes with programs that are somewhat “on Maryland’s level” is the way to go (no, I don’t really know what that means either, but we’re moving on). Maryland’s going to lose games with this option, but that’s the risk you have to be willing to take in order to watch some good football games.
One of these per season is likely to satisfy the requirement here and the one above.
3. Away games in places fans can travel
So, not Bowling Green, basically.
4. Games that aren’t at FedEx Field
There’s an argument for playing at M&T Bank Stadium, I imagine. But just stay away from Landover.
So which teams satisfy those vague requirements I just made up in 10 minutes?
Note: this does not take into account minor details like:
- Would this team want to play Maryland?
- Does this team have its schedule booked for the foreseeable future?
Do a home-and-home! Fans wouldn’t have to plan a big road trip around it, and it would be a fun switch from College Park. There’s no doubt it’d be risky, though. Navy could have cleaned Maryland out if the two teams played in many recent seasons.
Virginia, West Virginia & Virginia Tech
Wow! Already on the books! Nailed it! (Also: Maryland and VT fans will be very well-acquainted in 10 years.)
Also already on the books, and while no one wants to travel to upstate New York, this seems fine.
A home-and-home could be feasible, and could make for a fun road trip, especially if it’s during Labor Day Weekend. And it’s Duke, so Maryland fans are going to get weirdly into it.
Matt Canada isn’t there anymore, so the Panthers shouldn’t be busting out some top-10 offense. Could be fun, and isn’t too far away.