Nine Reasons the Terps WILL Make a Bowl Game This Season
This prediction may go above and beyond the term bold. But I have complete confidence that there is a great deal of truth in it. While lumbering their way to a less-than-impressive 2-3 start, Ralph Friedgen's Maryland Terrapins are still poised to play some bonus football come season's end.
P.S. I would go for 10, but it would be a stretch.
1) The 4-3 Is Taking Shape
First-year coordinator Don Brown's new defensive scheme looked like a poor choice in the Terps' first four games and even for part of the team's first half against Clemson last week.
However, it appeared as if something clicked in the heads of Maryland's D-Unit during that game. Clemson's potent offense, including Heisman Award candidate C.J. Spiller, was held in check, especially during the fourth quarter. Momentum has things looking up for Friedgen and company.
2) There Is (Finally) a Legitimate Passing Game
While it has certainly taken long enough, Terrapin faithful can rest assured that number 10 kind of knows what he is doing.
In the team's first five games, Chris Turner has seemingly transitioned from a head-shy guy who constantly looked over his shoulder into a confident team leader. He has already amassed nearly 1200 yards and six passing touchdowns.
While those stats do not jump of the page at first glance, especially when mentioned in the same breath as five interceptions, all should note that Turner lost his favorite targets on offense: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Danny Oquendo, and Dan Gronkowski. He has found his new options and appears to be getting comfortable wearing that captain's C on his chest.
3) Darrius Heyward-Bey is NOT irreplaceable
While DHB was certainly a Terrapin great, Chris Turner seems to be getting along just fine without him.
Turner's new favorite option Torrey Smith is on pace to dwarf Heyward-Bey's numbers from last year. In just five games he has 449 receiving yards and three touchdown catches.
Smith provides just as legitimate a deep-threat as DHB, averaging a hair under 22 yards per catch. His 64-yard touchdown reception against Middle Tennessee State should be a sign of things to come.
4) Very Special Teams
Apologies for the picture, but that's not the point.
Torrey Smith is a SPECIAL player. He's got incredible speed and is more than just a target of Chris Turner's.
Smith is also a returns specialist and is a threat to bring the ball back for a score every time the opposing kicker touches the ball. He proved that against Clemson.
Last season he averaged 26 yards per kick return and amassed over 1,000 return yards on the season. He is currently the team's No. 2 leader in total touchdowns with five (behind Turner with seven) and will continue his growing role as an offensive dynamo.
5) Strong Start in ACC Play
A win is a win; that's what many say.
However, an ACC win is a little more than that. In defeating Clemson, regardless of luck versus skill, Maryland put itself in position to do damage in conference this year.
The win gives players, coaches, and fans confidence, and is a major morale boost in general. A strong start to ACC play is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Terps. The energy around the Maryland campus right now is overwhelmingly positive as the red, black, and gold are ready to forget their early season woes.
6) The ACC is Weak this Year
Everybody knew this one was coming.
The ACC is not a strong conference this year. Sure, BC, Miami, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech are all really good. However, the Terrapins only have to play two of those teams, both at home.
Boston College is beatable, and while Virginia Tech is a stretch, surprise victory is not out of the question, especially if the ball is rolling well at that point for Maryland.
Teams like Virginia, Duke, and NC State should not be too large an obstruction in the grand scheme of things, and it should not be hard for Ralph Friedgen to steer his team to a Bowl-Eligible record and an ACC mark of over .500.
7) Depth at Running Back
Yes, Da'Rel Scott is really good. But so is Davin Meggett.
Scott, who broke a bone in his forearm in the game against Clemson, is pacing the team with just under 300 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.
And while his unreal start to last season made such numbers look like chump change, the drop is partially due to Meggett's growing role in the backfield.
Meggett has gotten roughly 40 percent of all carries. His increased workload has translated to two touchdowns and a lot more planning for defensive coordinators. He is also a viable receiving option, with 10 catches for 88 yards thus far.
Expected to see more time, especially in Scott's absence, is true freshman Gary Douglas. Though his contributions have been minimal to date, Friedgen would not put him on the field unless there was something special about his play.
8) Fridge Lost Weight
Consider the above a "before" picture.
While still Large-and-in-Charge, head coach Ralph Friedgen is providing an inspiration to his players. His quest to lose weight is demonstrative of hard work, dedication, and will power. It will inevitably rub off on the kids. Right?
If not the above, Fridge says that his efforts have left him 100 pounds lighter and much more energized. An energized coach is a good coach.
Because he will not be lumbering along the sidelines, the now-nimble Fridge will be able to fire up his squad a little more than in years past. And even if the difference is insignificant, at least fans have the comfort of knowing that their team's coach won't drop dead at halftime.
9) The Maryland Mystique
Nobody can deny that Maryland Terrapin teams have a certain aura about them.
When fans feel teams bite the big one, they pull out a win over a ranked opponent. When they're confident, they lose to Middle Tennessee State. It seems as if there is a Terrapin paradox of some sort.
That paradox, however, is simply routine spontaneity for Maryland. There is no norm, betting the spread is a bad idea, as is putting your money on anything game-related.
Anything can happen.
Anything includes plowing through the ACC schedule. Anything could also include going 0-for the rest of the season.
Who knows what will really happen? I sure don't.