Syracuse comes back home for a matchup with one-time (one-year) conferencemates, the Maryland Terrapins. Everyone else in the ACC hates them -- and don't worry, we do too -- but the athletic department seems pretty keen on getting some additional exposure in the Maryland-D.C. area, so we'll do this a few times with the Terps.
Below, Alex Kirshner (who you should follow on Twitter) from SB Nation's Testudo Times, stops by to chat with us about all things Maryland football. On top of his responses here, you can also check out ours over there to tell the Terps everything they have to know about Syracuse.
Soooo, how are the new digs in the Big Ten so far?
The conference is doing great, thanks for asking. From what I've seen, Big Ten teams have been more or less unbeatable in out-of-conference play so far. If Maryland can muster nine or 10 wins, they'd have to be a shoo-in for the College Football Playoff. Either that, or we'll wait and see. I think most Maryland fans are comfortable with the new league, but we'll know more about the real comfort level once the Terps actually start playing Big Ten games. That'll start next week for them, in Bloomington, and it'll really kick into gear when Ohio State visits College Park a few weeks later. Maryland could really use an emotional home win against either the Buckeyes or Michigan State to win over some hearts and minds. -
How's the fan base feeling after last week's loss to West Virginia? Was tough to gauge the Terps through the first two wins, and seems even tougher now.
It's tougher for me to get a read on the fans than on the team. Internet commenters certainly aren't happy, but the data say SB Nation commenters are a reasonably small minority. That was quite the whirlwind for a Week 3 college football game, but then again, it was a close result, and West Virginia's going to beat a lot of teams this year (I wouldn't be especially surprised if the Mountaineers beat Oklahoma this week). Randy Edsall's been behind the 8-ball for a while from a PR standpoint, and fans have said some not-so-nice things since Saturday, but it's still relatively early. Patience is the word, or at least it ought to be.
Explain this thing, please.
I'm embarrassed, because I've completely missed the boat on this. It looks cool, doesn't it? This was a hot topic of conversation on both campus and the Internet recently, and I completely whiffed in terms of keeping up. One of the great professional and personal disappointments of my life.
Has SUNJ gotten on your nerves already?It usually doesn't take very long...
Oh, absolutely. Very much so.
Obviously C.J. Brown's a credible dual-threat, but is he running the ball more cautiously this year given his career history of injuries?
Not at all. Brown's been running with abandon, and he's looked great doing it. He had a 75-yard touchdown jaunt against West Virginia and ripped off another 37-yard job down the right sideline on a nifty fake. At the end of the first half, he almost got decapitated on a slide and briefly had to come out of the game. Brown's rushing game is outstanding for a quarterback; the problem is that his throwing hasn't been nearly up to par. If Brown can throw the ball with even average efficiency, he'll be a wonderful all-around quarterback going forward.
The rest of your schedule looks daunting (for a Big Ten slate). Which remaining game scares Maryland fans the most?
There are a bunch of comparable threats. The road games in Ann Arbor, Madison and State College will all be huge challenges, as will the home dates I mentioned with OSU and MSU. Maryland's not going to run the table in those games, but if they could find two or three wins somewhere out of that pool, they'll be in solid shape.
Who's the unsung Terrapin Syracuse fans really need to familiarize themselves with?
Look out for outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue. It isn't clear if he'll start, because he's really Maryland's third OLB on the depth chart, but the two starters, Matt Robinson and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, were both injured by the end of last week's game. Through three games and two starts, he's got six tackles for loss, all in the run game. Ngakoue's just a sophomore, so there's reason to think he's got room to grow. He's already hugely disruptive against the run, which helps against a team with a ground game like the Orange's.
Okay, be honest: Who's going to win on Saturday and why?
Three factors have me shading Orange on this pick. First, it's a road game, and the Terps haven't won road games with even passing regularity under Edsall. Second, Vegas likes Syracuse (though it's a virtual toss-up), and I tend to side with the sportsbooks. Third, the Terps don't have a single truly healthy starting linebacker right now, which simply can't be helpful against a team that's been so effective running the ball so far. So I'll take Syracuse, 27-23. We'll see, though. I lean toward Maryland having higher upside if firing on all cylinders, and maybe the Terps will come out gunning.