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There’s a lot for Maryland fans to be happy about right now. If you care about this sort of thing, the men’s and women's soccer teams and vaunted field hockey squad are primed for deep postseason runs. The basketball team starts the season in four days, and will do so in the spot they like to be in—the one below the radar. They also just landed Baltimore shooting guard Nick Faust for next season.
Which brings us to a little sport called football. The pigskin, as I like to call it.
Since no one seems to be following the Terps football team this year, let me bring you up to speed. With their 62-14 smearing of Wake Forest last Saturday, the Terps football team advanced to 6-2 and made themselves bowl-eligible. That is good news.
As with the sports mentioned above, there is plenty to be excited about with this team. Freshman quarterback and fine young Irish lad Danny O’Brien is improving every game, to the point that he is now a front-runner for ACC rookie of the year. The Terps rank in the ACC’s upper echelons in several major statistical categories.
They’re not perfect, not by a long shot. But charismatic playmakers on both sides of the ball—Torrey Smith, Kenny Tate, Tony Logan, Alex Wujciak, Adrian Moten, Joe Vellano, and of course, The Baltz Man—make this an exciting team to watch.
Perhaps the best news of all—oh, it’s the best all right—is that Ralph Friedgen should keep his job. And hey, the ACC is down, but in the BCS system, who cares right? They still get automatic bowl bids, so what’s the difference? Eh? Am I right?
I like this team. I will remember this team. I want this team to be successful.
And now for the "but."
But. They haven’t beaten anybody yet. And don’t give me Navy. Yeah, yeah, Ricky Dobbs, so on and so forth, I get it. But come on. That’s not an impressive signature win—Navy hasn’t been near the AP top 25 all season. The only two ranked teams Maryland has played—Clemson and West Virginia—beat the Terps by a combined score of 62-24.
Take it from someone who was at the Navy and West Virginia games and watched the entire Clemson game on the TV. Against their three stiffest opponents, they looked sloppy, overwound, even scared. Their playmakers bailed them out with Navy. But just barely.
With O’Brien coming on, the Terps have evolved since losing to Clemson three weeks ago. There’s more poise there. More resolve. Maybe I'm just being a stupid know-nothing sentimental fan by saying this, but it seems to me like this team is starting to believe in itself.
They still haven’t beaten anyone. And that needs to change this weekend in Miami.
According to various news reports, the ‘Canes will likely be without star QB Jacory Harris (concussion) or RB Damien Berry (nagging injuries). But they’re still a good team, and still a Big Name. They were ranked until they puked on themselves in Charlottesville last week. And they’re playing at home. And they’re playing for a bowl berth.
Maryland’s struggles against tough opponents—especially on the road—make this is a real test. Miami’s recent downturn also makes this win a relatively attainable proposition.
Florida State and N.C. State are still on the calendar, so this won’t be the Terps’ last chance for a big win, but with those two trending upward, it is probably their best. And what are Maryland's chances of beating the Noles or the Pack if they can’t choke out the reeling Hurricanes?
Bottom line: a good team beats Miami this Saturday. I think Maryland is a good team. They should win this game not because they should. They should win this game because they can.
It would be the icing on the cake of the best week so far on the 2010-2011 Maryland sports calendar.
And if they can’t do it, well, there’s always the Meow Mix Bowl.