No matter what happens in Maryland's game against Wisconsin on Saturday, it's exceedingly likely that the Terps will not be involved in postseason play this year. They've lost five games in a row, and the list of teams that lose five consecutively and then win four consecutively is not a long one, to be sure.
But a loss to Wisconsin - on homecoming weekend in College Park - no less, would resign Maryland (2-6, 0-4 Big Ten) to complete meaninglessness in its final four games.The abstract idea of maybe getting to a bowl is worth a bit of enthusiasm, and Maryland would no longer have that.
Here's a look back and then a look ahead:
What we saw last week – Maryland vs. Iowa
1. Turnovers, still happening. Maryland coughed up three interceptions and a fumble on Saturday, bringing its season turnover total to a simply mind-boggling 28. That's 127th out of 128 FBS teams and a full seven turnovers more (in eight games!) than next-worst Vanderbilt, at 21. When the obituary on this season is written, Maryland's incompetence in securing the football will feature in the opening paragraph.
2. Perry Hills, still running. The interceptions have become a constant overhang on Hills's, year, but he did good things on the ground for the third-straight game. He cleared 100 rushing yards again, and he's now out-rushed Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott, Penn State's Saquon Barkley and Iowa's Akrum Wadley in consecutive outings. That Maryland has managed to lose each of those games speaks to the kind of season this has become.
3. Maryland's coaches, quitting. In the final five minutes on Saturday, Maryland was almost assuredly going to lose. The Terps trailed by 16 points when they faced a fourth-and-4 at their own 26-yard line with four minutes on the clock. Down by two possessions, Maryland's odds were effectively nil but not actually zero, given that a pair of touchdowns sandwiched around a defensive stop could tie the game. Interim coach Mike Locksley decided to punt. And when Maryland got the ball back and came to face a fourth-and-10 two minutes later, Locksley punted again. It was surrender, but it allowed Maryland to stay within two scores of a top-10 team and not be utterly routed. At least there's that.
What we're looking for this week – Maryland vs. Wisconsin
1. More trouble finishing drives. Wisconsin is quite good at keeping teams out of the end zone once they get inside the 40-yard line. Heading into this weekend, the Badgers had allowed three points per trip within that yard marker, the No. 2 team in the country. Maryland entered scoring an even four points per such trip, No. 112 in the sport. When Maryland gets near Wisconsin's end zone, it's very likely it won't actually get in.
2. Maryland won't be able to throw much. Not against Wisconsin's pass defense, which is a top-25 group against the pass by both S&P+ and raw yardage. Statistics suggest the Terps should forget the passing game and pound the ball between the tackles all afternoon.
3. An edge on special teams. The one phase of the sport where Maryland's been better than its competition should be a particular advantage against the Badgers. Wisconsin averages 9 yards per punt return (No. 58 nationally) and 16.5 (No. 124) on kickoff returns. Kicker Rafael Gaglianone is a poor 11 of 18 on field goals. Meanwhile, Maryland's got Brad Craddock kicking and Will Likely (21.7 yards on kickoffs and 20.5 on punts) to provide the upper hand.