Perhaps you’re not as excited since it’s only April. But since Syracuse won 10 games last year, and I run this place, we’re talking about them anyway. The Orange have plenty of challenges ahead — some of those greater than others. Today, we take a look at the next team up:
School: University of Maryland
#BRAND Slogan: #FearTheTurtle
Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: “B1G-ish” or “Hopefully this goes better than Mike Locksley’s last head coaching job.”
Recommended Blog: Testudo Times
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Mike Locksley, 1st year. Locksley went from playing at Towson to being an assistant there, then working his way through various jobs before winding up as Maryland’s running backs coach in 1997. He coached the Terps ‘til 2002, then left to Florida for two seasons before heading to Illinois through 2008. That led him to getting his first head coaching job at New Mexico... where he went 2-26 in two seasons and four games, then got fired. Naturally, he went back to Maryland and proceeded to go 1-5 as an interim head coach in 2015. Recent years saw him taking Nick Saban’s coaching career reclamation course at Alabama.
2018 Record: (5-7) (3-6)
Recapping Last Season: Maryland’s entire 2018 was under the dark cloud of tragedy and controversy following the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and subsequent investigation into head coach DJ Durkin. Durkin was suspended in August and finally fired in October (a day after being reinstated for some ridiculous reason). Matt Canada led the team to just five wins, though that list did include beating Texas in the opener. The Terps also took Ohio State to overtime in late November (but lost, 52-51).
Despite having (acclaimed offensive mind) Canada at the helm, Maryland finished last year with the 95th-ranked total offense and 68th in terms of scoring offense. That said, most of the struggles came from the passing game (122nd in the country). The Terrapins’ rushing attack was actually among the nation’s best, averaging over 230 yards per game (17th overall). Freshman Anthony McFarland averaged nearly eight yards per carry while topping the 1,000-yard mark. Senior Ty Johnson and sophomore Javon Leake both averaged over 7.67 yards per carry as well.
Maryland was pretty average on defense, sitting around the bottom half of the country in most major categories, though were also nearly respectable against the pass (42nd overall). The Terps picked off 18 passes last year, which was tied with Syracuse and several other teams for fifth-best in the FBS — though 14 of those were by seniors. Last year’s sack leader was Byron Cowart, with just three of the team’s 18 total. He won’t return, along with 7.5 of last year’s sacks split between a handful of seniors.
2019 Season Outlook:
Despite losing a decent amount of production year-over-year, Maryland also brings a lot on offense, in particular. Plus they’ll welcome some notable transfers as well: QB Josh Jackson and WR Sean Savoy (both Virginia Tech), and tight end Tyler Mabry (Buffalo). Jackson’s the key piece of the puzzle, really, if the Terrapins are going to rebound at all from last year, it probably starts with a more capable passing game and the balanced attack that brings when paired with the strong run game. McFarland and Leake are both back, though with a younger offensive line in front of them.
Despite a relatively optimistic outlook on offense, the Terps will be greener on defense while replacing four of last year’s top eight tacklers. But second-leading stopper Isaiah Davis comes back, as does top defensive back Antoine Brooks. They’ll be joined by a host of other experienced players, including grad transfer (from Ohio State) Keandre Jones to help improve on what went right last year while stemming the losses from last year’s capable pass defense.
Schedule-wise, things are similarly difficult to what Maryland saw lat year. Still, a brutal November of Michigan, at Ohio State, Nebraska and at Michigan State could derail even a vastly improved squad. Add in a road game against Minnesota and tough early home dates against Penn State and Syracuse, and it’s not hard to see how things could fall apart despite getting better.
Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 7
Location: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, College Park, Md.
Odds of Orange Victory: 60 percent
Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:
A lot hinges on Jackson, but if the run game can perform at the sort of level we saw last year, they have a shot to pick off SU early — especially if the Orange experience some ill effects of losing Chris Slayton in the middle. Still, with the Maryland secondary lacking last year’s punch and the Terps failing to have much of a pass rush, Tommy DeVito and the Syracuse passing game should be set up pretty well. The Orange’s own defensive line could also have a field day against the Terrapins’ line, to help matters more for SU. This won’t be an easy game, but it’s one that Syracuse should be able to come away with.