With all the parity in the ACC in recent years, everyone seems to have a "sexy" pick for the Atlantic division in 2009. Certainly FSU has the talent year in and year out to win. Clemson is always a team that contends. NC State and Tom O'Brien are on everyone's "watch" list this year. Then there is Wake Forest, they show us what fundamental football can do. Of course Boston College has been the divisional champion two years running. The parity is incredible.
However, there is one team missing. Where are the Terps?
No one is talking about Ralph's reptiles. In 2008, the Terps were an afterthought when the season began. Coach Friedgen had his troops poised to win the division only to finish 1-3 in the last four conference games, including a blow out loss to FSU at home.
When Ralph Friedgen arrived on the scene as head coach in 2001, he took a 2000 squad that was 5-6 and transformed them into the ACC champions. In 2001, 2002 and 2003 the Turtles went 31-8! That is a winning percentage of 79.4! What happened?
No one knows. The Turtles have simply not gotten back. There are many "reasons" fans give us but in the end, it comes down to wins and losses.
Friedgen enters his ninth year as head coach and the pundits do not give the Terps much of a chance. In fact, since the end of the 2003 season, Maryland is just 18-22 in conference play. With nine starters coming back, fewest in the ACC, things could get rocky for the Terps in 2009. The offensive line is being overhauled and the defense just has four starters back. Keep in mind this was a defense that was not feared by any stretch of the imagination.
There is a lot of talk about coaches this year in the ACC. Will Bobby Bowden retire? Jimbo Fisher is waiting to take over. What were the Tigers thinking? With all the people they could have hired, why did they hire a receiver's coach? How long will 'Cane fans except average seasons before Shannon is shown the door? How long do you thing Paul Johson can run that gimmick offense? Al Groh better win this year or he is gone. How long before Duke's Cutcliffe does what Jim Grobe did at Wake? Of course there are more, but no one talks about Ralph Friedgen. I am not sure this is a good thing.
I get a sense that Maryland fans have given up and are waiting on the "new coach." Do not get me wrong, I know the fans want to win and there is no question about that. Coaches at the same school for more than ten years is a thing of the past. Bobby Bowden and Frank Beamers are "freaks" if you will. That type of coach does not exist today. Mark Richt is the dean of SEC coaches. He enters his ninth year at Georgia. In the ACC, if we omit the two legends, there are three coaches in their ninth year: Groh, Grobe, and Friedgen. Care to take any wagers on which two are on the endangered list entering this year?
In today's world of instant gratification and coaches leap frogging after nine wins; a coach with tenure of 10 years is rare. Fearing the turtle is not something teams will be doing a lot of this year. In the end, Maryland will have a new coach in 2010.