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Maryland football faces another tough schedule in 2019

Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

We’ve been previewing Maryland football’s 2019 season all summer at Testudo Times, focusing on every position group with several deep dives along the way. Now let’s take a look at the schedule, which features a mix of new and familiar foes.

Maryland played eight of the 12 teams on its 2019 slate one year ago, posting a 2-6 record in those games. With the schedule as a whole looking just as tough as last season’s — 17th-hardest in the country, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index — a return to the postseason is far from a sure thing. Bill Connelly’s S&P+ projects the Terps to win 4.9 games, while FPI has Maryland at 4.1 (these systems rank Maryland 67th and 68th, respectively).

But there’s also a lot of opportunity on this schedule, as plenty of games look like relative toss-ups at this point. We’ll spend the rest of the week taking a closer look at each of these contests. For now, though, here’s a quick look at what lies ahead.

(Editor’s note: We’re using FPI rankings here instead of S&P+ because they’ve been updated more recently. Even though Bill Connelly left the SB Nation network, we’ll still use S&P+ when we can during the season.)

Big Ten East

Sept. 28 vs. Penn State (14 / 12)
Oct. 5 @ Rutgers (NR / 92)
Oct. 19 vs. Indiana (NR / 47)
Nov. 2 vs. Michigan (No. 7 Coaches Poll / No. 5 FPI)
Nov. 9 @ Ohio State (5 / 13)
Nov. 30 @ Michigan State (20 / 14)

Division play has been an uphill climb ever since Maryland changed conferences — the Terps are 5-19 against the Big Ten East in the last three seasons. Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan are perennial top-15 squads, while Michigan State has a way of turning its up years into division titles. As usual, Maryland will need an incredible performance to knock off one of them, and it’s not like the other two are automatic wins.

However, this year’s division slate looks to have more opportunity than last year’s, if only slightly. Maryland will likely be favored against Rutgers no matter where the game is held and playing Indiana at home should be a notable boost. The Terps play two of the big three at home, and a lot will have happened by the time they visit Michigan State. Still, there won’t be any cakewalks here, and a slip-up at the wrong time could change the outlook of the season.

Back on the schedule

Sept. 14 @ Temple (NR / 76)
Oct. 26 @ Minnesota (RV, No. 28 FPI)

Maryland went 1-1 against these foes in back-to-back games, bouncing back from a home drubbing against Temple to rout Minnesota following a bye week. This year, there’s much more of a gap, as the Terps visit Philadelphia on Sept. 14 and Minneapolis on Oct. 26. And if anything, they’ll be favored to go 1-1 the other way.

Minnesota was among the most inconsistent teams in the country last season, suffering three lopsided losses (including to Maryland) but winning four of its last six and closing with two blowout wins. With P.J. Fleck entering his third season and a core of underclassmen returning at the skill positions, the Golden Gophers are an appealing team in 2019. It’ll be interesting to see how they match up with Maryland nine weeks into the season.

Crossover opponents

Oct. 12 @ Purdue (NR / 62)
Nov. 23 vs. Nebraska (RV / 31)

Replacing: Iowa, Illinois

While Minnesota sits slightly higher in FPI, Nebraska is more of a trendy pick in the Big Ten West. After a solid in-season turnaround, the Huskers enter the second year of the Scott Frost era 26th in the coaches’ poll (nine points short of being ranked). Come November, it’s possible they could be a top-15 team or fighting for bowl eligibility. If you’re picking this game now, though, Nebraska is probably a slight favorite.

The Terps cruised to victory against Illinois last season and they easily dispatched Purdue in the teams’ last meeting in 2016. But with the Boilermakers showing promise last season, Jeff Brohm staying in West Lafayette and the Terps hitting the road for this game, it’s looking like a toss-up.

Start of the season

Aug. 31 vs. Howard (FCS)
Sept. 7 vs. Syracuse (22 / 49)

Replacing: Texas, Bowling Green

Maryland beat Howard 52-13 (and led 45-0) in the 2016 season opener and shouldn’t have a particularly tough time with the Bison on Aug. 31. There won’t be nearly as much nervousness among Terps fans as there was when Maryland visited Bowling Green last season.

Then there’s Syracuse, who essentially fills the spot previously occupied by Texas. If you haven’t heard, Maryland upset the Longhorns to start each of the last two seasons. Syracuse looks like it’ll come in with a similar profile, sliding into the preseason coaches’ poll at No. 22. With the game at home on Sept. 7, the Terps should have some sort of a chance, but there will surely be some pressure as well.