Aug 28, 2012

2012 ACC Previews: Maryland with Testudo Times

We’re previewing the 2012 college football season with the help from Today we talk with Testudo Times about Maryland’s chances at the postseason.

The Terrapins look to get back into bowl contention in 2012, but must weather a difficult schedule to do so. Their most difficult test comes in the fourth week of the season when they travel to West Virginia. Other road games include conference matchups with Boston College, Clemson and North Carolina.

2011 Record: 2-10

2011 Bowl: N/A

2012 Bowl Projections:

Orlando Bowl History:

1980 Tangerine Bowl vs. Florida, 20-35
1983 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Tennessee, 23-30
2006 Champs Sports Bowl vs. Purdue, 24-7

Q&A with Testudo Times

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

Massive letdown.

Does new DC Brian Stewart get a gift with nine returning starters, or is he still facing an uphill battle given last year’s struggles defending the run?

It’s a gift, I think, because one of the reasons Maryland struggled so much against the run last year was due to injuries to their front seven. Kenny Tate missed almost the entire year, both Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford missed three games and then played injured, and linemen Isaiah Ross and Justin Anderson missed the whole year as well. All five of those players are back healthy, which is a huge boost. Plus, Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis return, so just about everyone is back. As an added bonus, now most of Maryland’s backups in the front seven have been through the fire, too, so there’s some real depth there.

Problem is, we’re already starting to see some of those injuries pop back up. Andre Monroe, who was likely to be Maryland’s starting strong-side end in the new 3-4 scheme, is out for the year, while both Ross and Tate have picked up knocks as well. To make matters worse, starting safety Matt Robinson is injured, and his backup A.J. Hendy is out for a few weeks, too. There’s some real roster juggling going on at the moment, and it’s killed some of the good vibes. If they can get those guys back quickly and stay relatively injury-free from here on out, Maryland’s front seven is probably the strongest area of the team. If not, it’ll be another battle.

How much will the arrival of Mike Locksley impact the offense in Randy Edsall’s second year?

Gary Crowton didn’t exactly cover himself in glory, so the hope is that Locksley will just be sensible. He’s not a mastermind and I don’t think Maryland really wanted a mastermind anyway, but he did fine as an offensive coordinator at Illinois and even got them to a Rose Bowl, mostly by not being stupid. Crowton by comparison had huge ideas about the game but didn’t seem competent enough to actually pull any of them off. Locksley’s scheme is similar in that’s it’s a multiple, spread option-based attack, but he’ll scale it down significantly and make everything simpler and, hopefully, more common-sense.

Unfortunately, with the injury to C.J. Brown at quarterback, it looks like Maryland will go into the year with a true fresman starting at QB in Perry Hills. Fingers crossed, but that’s a tough situation for anyone, and it may put a significant damper on Locksley’s immediate influence here.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

At West Virginia, in my book. Maryland plays Clemson (on the road) and Florida State (at home) in back-to-back games late in the year, both tougher in a vacuum, but by then I’m hoping that Maryland will have picked up the two new coordinators’ schemes and found their footing at QB. I’m not expecting a win in either game, but it shouldn’t be too bad. The road game against West Virginia comes early in the year, Maryland’s fourth game, and I’m thinking they won’t have down the new schemes or know who they’ll lean on at QB at that point. This is a very young team, as well, and their first exposure to a really tough place to play like Morgantown won’t be easy.

Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.

Best case, they squeeze out six wins and fit their way into a bowl game. Were Brown healthy and the defense not already seeing significant injuries, I’d say as many as seven or eight wins was unlikely but a possibility, but as it stands that’s just asking too much. Worst case … well, if I’m being entirely honest, a 1-11 (or even worse) type of year isn’t out of the equation. I’d be surprised if it happened, but I think Maryland was better last year and they went 2-10 then. Switch in a true freshman QB, and, well, who knows? Nothing’s guaranteed this year.

One Question In The Other Direction

Maryland’s fanbase was pretty salty back in 2010, when the Terps went 8-4 but were passed over in the bowl selection process by four ACC teams with worse records, including two 6-6 teams, ending up in the lowest-tiered ACC tie-in. I won’t complain about missing a trip to Shreveport or El Paso, but it did hurt our pride a little. Actually, the bowl Maryland fans were most hoping for was the former iteration of the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, then called the Champs Sports Bowl, but it instead went to N.C. State, who had the same record but lost to Maryland in the last week of the season. (Don’t worry, no hard feelings.)

Obviously, records aren’t the be-all end-all of the bowl process, nor necessarily should they be. But what is a factor? What, for example, could’ve caused Maryland to slip so far down the totem pole back in 2010?

Answered by Director of Digital Media Matt Repchak

So we’ve talked before (most recently in the Pittsburgh preview) about what factors play into the selection process, and it mostly comes down to performance on the field and excitement off the field. Of course, you read that and you probably think I’m spinning, because a Maryland team that finishes with the same record as a team they beat sounds like the top pick. But since we’re focused on creating a compelling matchup for traveling fans, for local Orlando fans and for a television audience, there are occasionally some other things at play. For us, it begins and ends with one factor: West Virginia.

The Terps’ traditional rival finished the season at 9-3 while all other BE teams were 7-5 at best. That made them a virtual lock for that side of our game (technically we could have taken 7-5 Notre Dame but didn’t feel that was appropriate at the time). Selecting Maryland to play the Mountaineers would have given us a rematch of a regular season game. That isn’t absolutely out of the question, but it depends on how the first game went. In this case, although Maryland and West Virginia have a storied history, the 2010 game was one-sided, with WVU jumping to a 28-0 lead en route to a 31-17 win. I think our selection committee felt that NC State (who hadn’t played the ‘Eers since 1979) offered a more compelling game.

I can’t comment on the rest of the bowl games and why Maryland slipped any further once we passed. Sometimes fan interest can move the needle in either direction. From a positive perspective, the Terps separated themselves from the pack in 2006 with some relentless campaigning. If I recall that season, Boston College, NC State and Clemson were all also on our board but the Terps brass and fans made their excitement for Orlando loud and clear, even going so far as to put up billboards in Central Florida after their selection. We always want teams who want to come pay here and fans who want to come watch them.

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