Widgets Magazine

Inside the shell: An overview of Maryland football

This is the first installment of The Stanford Daily’s four-part preview series on the Maryland Terrapins, who will face Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Dec. 30. Today’s piece will look at Maryland’s season as a whole, while future pieces will focus on the offense, defense and special teams.

How did Maryland get here?

This season was the Terrapins’ first in the Big Ten conference after they jumped ship from the ACC at the end of last season to become (along with Rutgers) the newest members of the Big Ten East. The Terps finished third in the Big Ten East with a 7-5 overall record (4-4 Big Ten) behind only No. 4 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan State. They earned the seventh bowl selection out of the Big Ten and will be making their second ever appearance in what is now the Foster Farms Bowl (they lost the 2007 Emerald Bowl to Oregon State at AT&T Park).

Big Ten East Final Standings
Team Conference Overall
No. 4 Ohio State 8-0 12-1
No. 8 Michigan State 7-1 10-2
Maryland 4-4 7-5
Rutgers 3-5 7-5
Michigan 3-5 5-7
Penn State 2-6 6-6
Indiana 1-7 4-8 

The road to Santa Clara

Maryland Terrapins 2014 Schedule
Opponent Result Opp. Record
James Madison W, 52-7 9-4 (FCS)
South Florida W, 24-17 4-8
West Virginia L, 40-37 7-5
Syracuse W, 34-20 3-9
Indiana W, 37-15 4-8
No. 4 Ohio State L, 52-24 12-1
Iowa W, 38-31 7-5
No. 18 Wisconsin L, 52-7 10-3
Penn State W, 20-19 6-6
No. 8 Michigan State L, 37-15 10-2
Michigan W, 23-16 5-7
Rutgers L, 41-38 7-5

In all, Maryland had an extremely vanilla season in that it was predictable, almost scripted— that is, it lost pretty much every game that it should have lost and it won pretty much every game that it should have won, according to the final Sagarin power rankings. The only exceptions to the rule were the 38-31 victory over Iowa and the 41-38 loss to Rutgers, neither of which was a ground-shattering upset by any means. Other than that, Maryland blew out outmatched teams, got blown out by powerhouses and played close games against other middle-of-the-line teams.

The only marquee opponents that the Terps played were the Buckeyes, Spartans and Badgers, all of which handled Maryland easily. While the Terrapins certainly exceeded expectations in their first year in the Big Ten by finishing third in what was expected to be a tough East Division, the results suggest that it wasn’t really an overachieving Maryland team, but an underachieving Big Ten conference as a whole that led to that result.

Signature win

Maryland’s signature win this season was likely the 38-31 victory over a 7-5 Iowa squad, which, again, reinforces the notion that the Terrapins haven’t exactly been world-beaters this season. In that game, sixth-year senior starting quarterback C.J. Brown was forced out of the game in the third quarter due to injury, forcing the Terps to slide in third-stringer Perry Hills, as their backup was also unable to play due to a torn ACL. After allowing Iowa to jump out to a 14-0 lead, the Terps quickly fired back with 24 points of their own to pull ahead and hold on through Brown’s injury (and subsequent return), staving off a final Iowa comeback attempt to hold on for the win.

Worst loss

It just goes to show again how closely Maryland has followed the script this season when you have to look to either a 7-5 West Virginia or a 7-5 Rutgers as its “worst loss.” Of the two, Rutgers has to take the cake here: The Scarlet Knights were 9-point dogs on the road and were playing against a Maryland team on Senior Day with the momentum of a nail-in-the-coffin-type win over Michigan in its back pocket. Maryland even led 35-10 at one point before the half before yielding touchdowns on four consecutive drives to a mediocre Rutgers offense that made the biggest comeback in program history to topple Maryland 41-38 and give the Terps a forgettable ending to their season.

The numbers

While the offense and defense will be fleshed out in further detail in the next few installments of this preview series, it’s worth pointing out that Maryland has been pretty average in terms of the stats, too:

64th out of 125 in scoring offense (29 points/game)

81st out of 125 in scoring defense (29 points/game)

106th out of 125 in total offense (352 yards/game)

95th out of 125 in total defense (438 yards/game)

…and a turnover margin of exactly 0.

The Terrapins are led by head coach Randy Edsall, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the program after spending the first 12 years of his head coaching career becoming the all-time winningest coach at Connecticut while supervising the program’s transition from the FCS to the FBS. Under Edsall, whose career record is 94-99 as a head coach, Maryland has definitely shown signs of improvement: In Edsall’s first season, the Terps went 2-10 before winning four games in 2012, seven in 2013 and seven so far in 2014.

How does Stanford match up?

While Maryland has been the model of consistency this season, its ceiling has seemed fairly low while its baseline has been fairly high. At the very least, however, given the talent on this year’s Stanford team, the Cardinal’s baseline should in theory be at that level or even higher. The Cardinal haven’t had a bad performance against any bad teams this season, and the season-ending upset of No. 8 UCLA just served to show that when this team is firing on all cylinders, its ceiling is extraordinarily high.

A cursory look at the stats would indicate that Stanford’s suffocating defense is set to have another trademark day against a Maryland offense that doesn’t bring too many playmakers to the table (as will be further explored in tomorrow’s piece). Meanwhile, Kevin Hogan and the Stanford offense, which roared to life in the dismantling of UCLA, shouldn’t in theory have too much trouble moving the ball, which starts up front with the run-blocking and pass protecting of the offensive line, which played arguably its best games of the season against Cal and UCLA down the stretch.

These discrepancies have been well-noted by oddsmakers, who opened Stanford as 14-point favorites over Maryland, making the Cardinal the most heavily-favored team of bowl season. It also doesn’t help Maryland’s case much that conditions seem to strongly favor the Cardinal:

Stanford is traveling 11 miles to the game, while Maryland will travel 2,425 miles.

The game will kick off at 10 p.m. ET, which is a logistical nightmare for Maryland fans trying to watch the broadcast on the East Coast and could affect stamina for Maryland players as the hours wear on. Stanford has played two games this season kicking off at or later than 9 p.m. ET, while Maryland’s latest kickoff of the season was at 8 p.m. ET.

And finally…

What is a terrapin?

It’s apparently a fancier name for a small turtle. They seem to have a lot of those in the Maryland area.terrapin_no_backgroud

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 honestly isn't quite sure what he does for The Stanford Daily anymore, apart from the fact that he still writes a lot about football, gets cranky at the sports editors and scares away the new freshmen. He also writes for (or has written for) The Bootleg, Sports Illustrated and MLB.com and has been a four-time Managing Editor at The Daily. After graduating in June with degrees in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science, he's begrudgingly staying on for his master's in Chemical Engineering as well. Please feel free to bother him at dhpark 'at' stanford.edu.