This week at Testudo Times, we’re taking an in-depth look at Maryland’s schedule as the college football season approaches. It’s another tough slate, checking in as the 17th-toughest in the country, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
Maryland opens their season against Howard and Syracuse before visiting Temple to end non-conference play. After a bye week, the Terps open Big Ten play by hosting Penn State and traveling to Rutgers and Purdue. Conference play continues with a home game against Indiana, a trip to Minnesota and a homecoming date with Michigan. Mike Locksley’s inaugural season will conclude with three challenging games, as the Terps travel to Ohio State, host Nebraska and end the 2019 season at Michigan State. A rare second bye week comes in between games against the Buckeyes and Huskers, though it doesn’t make this final stretch any easier.
Here is what you can expect from these Maryland opponents, including a few of our predictions.
Nov 9: at Ohio State
Maryland almost pulled off its biggest upset in over a decade against the Buckeyes last year in College Park, falling one two-point conversion short of an overtime win. It will be much tougher to get revenge in Columbus.
Outside of last year’s thriller, Ohio State has dominated the Terps since they joined the Big Ten, winning the other four matchups by an average of 39 points per game. When the Terps last visited the Horseshoe, the Buckeyes obliterated Maryland, 62-14.
Like in College Park, it’s also the start of a new era at THE (trademark pending) Ohio State University. Urban Meyer retired due to health issues after last season and offensive coordinator Ryan Day was promoted to head coach. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins is gone as well, with Georgia transfer Justin Fields taking his place after being granted immediate eligibility.
Fields had mixed reviews during the spring, but is surrounded by a bevy of talented skill players. J.K. Dobbins is back for his junior year after rushing for 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, including a career-high 203 against the Terps last season. The Buckeyes lost three of their top four players in receivers from last year, but still bring back K.J. Hill with Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor primed for breakout roles.
On defense, Ohio State will look to rebound after a disappointing 2018. Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley arrived from Michigan and the NFL, respectively, to serve as co-defensive coordinators, and will have plenty of talent to work with. Chase Young will wreak havoc in backfields for another year before departing for the NFL, and Tuf Borland, Pete Werner and Brendon White return at linebacker, with each recording at least 7.5 tackles for loss last season. Safety Jordan Fuller is back to in the secondary, and is looking to lead the team in tackles for the second straight season.
FPI win probability: 8.6%
Lila: As insanely talented as Ohio State is, I think Maryland has a chance in this one. The Terps had much less talent last season and were one pass away from knocking off the Buckeyes. That game and play still haunts this team, and I think it will push them to leave Columbus with a close victory.
Cody: Drawing Michigan and then playing at Ohio State is not the best scenario for the Terps. Although I don’t think new head coach Ryan Day will see the success that Urban Meyer did, the Buckeyes continue their dominance over Maryland and win by a couple touchdowns.
Sean: Last year's game against the Buckeyes was the closest Maryland has ever played Ohio State. The previous four matchups were decided by an average of 39 points per game, and with this game being in Columbus, I think the home team wins by a comfortable margin once again.
Thomas: This was so close to being an upset in College Park last year, and even though the talent gap might be narrower, this game will still be in Columbus. I have to take the Buckeyes here.
Will Maryland pull off the upset in Columbus?
This poll is closed
Nov 23: Nebraska
For the first time since joining the Big Ten, the Huskers will visit Maryland Stadium for the first time. The two teams’ only meeting came in 2016, with Nebraska prevailing 28-7. The Terps will have two weeks to prepare in a game that could be crucial for both squads’ postseason implications.
It’s Year 2 for Scott Frost in Lincoln, and expectations are high. After starting 2018 with a program-worst six straight losses, Nebraska finished the season winning four of its last six, with both losses coming by fewer than five points. Combine the strong finish with the way Frost’s team exploded in Year 2 at UCF, and the Huskers have been touted as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten West.
Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez will look to build on a record-setting freshman season in which he set Nebraska class records for completions (224), completion percentage (64.6), passing yards (2,617), passing touchdowns (17), total offense (3,246) and total touchdowns (25). Maurice Washington should get the lion’s share of carries out of the backfield after running for 455 yards and three touchdowns last season, and wide recevier JD Spielman and tight end Jack Stoll are the top returning receiving threats.
On defense, leading tackler Mohamed Barry is back at linebacker after recording 112 tackles last season. The Huskers return five other starters on defense, including All-Big Ten cornerback DiCaprio Bootle.
FPI win probability: 35.9%
Lila: I always go back and forth with Nebraska as to whether to believe the hype around Scott Frost. Last season’s start was pretty atrocious for the Cornhuskers, but I think this could be the year they find their groove. I predict Maryland drops this one, but only by a touchdown or two.
Cody: Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers come to Maryland with second-yard quarterback Adrian Martinez, who averaged more than 295 yards of total offense as a true freshman. After posting a 4-8 overall record last season, Nebraska will be poised to rise to the top of the Big Ten West and attempt to take down a Big Ten East opponent in College Park. I’ll take the Terps in a close contest.
Sean: In Scott Frost's first season at UCF, he led the Golden Knights to a 6-7 record. A 13-0 "national championship" season immediately followed. While I don't think the Cornhuskers run the table this year, I do think they make a marked improvement over their 4-8 record in 2018, and that will include a win over Maryland in College Park.
Thomas: The way my picks have shaken out, Maryland would enter this game 5-5, needing a senior-day victory to clinch bowl eligibility. I think they get it by taking advantage of Nebraska’s run defense (112th in S&P+ last year).
Does Maryland end its home schedule on a high note?
This poll is closed
Nov 30: at Michigan State
Maryland will end its 2019 with the least aesthetically pleasing opponent on its schedule. As their offense has sputtered in recent years, the Spartans have mastered the art of winning ugly. Last year, they dominated the trenches in a 24-3 victory that came just days after DJ Durkin was reinstated and then fired.
Head coach Mark Dantonio shuffled his offensive position coaches in the offseason, hoping to spark improvement in what was a lethargic offense last year. Any improvement will start with senior quarterback Brian Lewerke, who is just one of 10 quarterbacks in Spartans history to throw for 5,000 yards. Connor Heyward, who ran for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns against the Terps last season, should be the feature back. At wide receiver, Cody White and Darrell Stewart Jr. return after each recording more than 400 receiving yards last season.
Defense is the Spartans’ calling card, and Michigan State will have another impressive group this year. The Spartans return all four of their starters on the defensive line, led by Kenny Willekes, who had 78 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 2018. Joe Bachie will be the leader at linebacker after recording a team-high 102 tackles last year, and cornerback Josiah Scott and safety David Dowell are standouts in the secondary.
FPI win probability: 9.7%
Lila: Michigan State looks a lot better this season than in past years, with a dominant defensive line and talent all around. Maryland will be quite worn down by this point in the season after an insanely hard stretch, not to mention the team will be away in very cold weather. I see the Terps dropping the final game of the regular season.
Cody: Michigan State’s defense is going to contend for the title of the best defensive unit in the Big Ten this year. The Spartans offense is back and healthy, returning a large portion of their line and quarterback Brian Lewerke, who battled a shoulder injury last year. I think Michigan State beats Maryland, who ends the regular season with a loss on the road.
Sean: Michigan State doesn't win pretty, and their offense is anything but aesthetically pleasing. However, the Spartans have shown the ability to defend their home field, and that'll continue in East Lansing to cap off the regular season.
Thomas: The Spartans aren’t the kind of team that’ll blow you out, but I think they control this game at home. After such a tough finish to the season, I’m not sure how much Maryland will have left to grind it out with them.
Does Maryland end the 2019 regular season with a win?
This poll is closed
On the record
Lila: 7-5, 4-5 Big Ten (with a win over Ohio State)
Cody: 7-5, 5-4 (with wins over Penn State and Michigan)
Sean: 4-8, 3-6
Thomas: 6-6, 4-5