The football season has been a rough one for the Maryland Terrapins and, yet, they are in the same position as our Syracuse Orange -- still fighting for a postseason bowl berth.
With four games to go, Maryland (5-3, 1-3 ACC) is just a win away from becoming bowl eligible, however, if the Terps do not earn a victory Saturday at Bryd Stadium they will need to defeat either Virginia Tech and N.C. State on the road or take down Boston College in a few weeks to keep the season going.
Can Maryland squeak out one more victory on the season with it being this weekend's showdown with the Orange? I reached out to SB Nation's Testudo Times, and contributor Alex Kirshner, for the answers.
(They asked me questions too. Find my answers here.)
TNIAAM: It has been an odd season for you Maryland folk, as the Terps raced out to a 4-0 record, but, because a slew of injuries to a lot of key players its been difficult to snag anymore wins. Does this team have enough talent on the roster to win anymore games or, at this point, is all hope lost for the 2013-14 campaign?
TT: Thanks to a second-straight season with a freakish rash of injures, hope is nearly gone. Maryland's two best playmakers -- stud wideouts Stefon Diggs and Deon Long -- went out for the year a few weeks ago with similar leg injuries. Starting left tackle Mike Madaras decided to quit football just before Halloween. Would-be third wide receiver Marcus Leak and starting running back Wes Brown are sitting out the season for various non-injury reasons. The Terps' actual starting running back, Brandon Ross, has been dinged up, too, as has tight end Dave Stinebaugh. They played Clemson two weekends ago with zero starting skill position players in the lineup. No matter how much depth you have, it's impossible to compete when everyone goes down.
TNIAAM: Quarterback C.J. Brown is expected to start Saturday's game (though, with your luck this season he might trip and fall down some stairs and get re-injured) is he a guy that is going to light up the stat sheet? Or, is he more of a game manager for the Terps?
TT: Brown's season has been as odd as anyone's. Everyone in town was drinking his Kool-Aid after two extraordinary throwing and running performances in the schedule's first two weeks. The catch is that those came against Florida International and Old Dominion, who are both pretty terrible. He was only OK in wins against UConn and West Virginia, and he's either been disastrously bad or injured in every other game. Things have gone slowly downhill since the start of September for the whole team but especially Brown. I tend to believe that Brown is a good college quarterback, but he's not going to have tons of success for the rest of 2013. He's fragile, and the personnel deck has been badly stacked against him. I'd be fine with him managing the game and not turning the ball over at all. Any dual-threat excellence will be a bonus.
TNIAAM: With all the injuries, it does look like Maryland is healthier off the bye week. Besides the quarterback position what are the key returners to the lineup that could be a big impact in Saturday's game?
TT: Running back Brandon Ross, linebacker L.A. Goree and safety Anthony Nixon are all effective players who missed the game against Clemson. Nixon should help a bit, as Maryland's secondary has been especially depleted without him. Goree and Ross both play positions where the Terps' depth has helped them, but it will be nice to have them back. Ross and No. 2 back Albert Reid have been a quality backfield duo.
TNIAAM: Lets talk defense -- because IMO that's going to be the biggest key to victory for both squads Saturday -- how physical is it? What is it's strength? What is it's weakness?
TT: The Terps were generating a lot of turnovers early in the season, but that halted as the competition got stiffer and the starting corners and linebackers started dropping like flies. Although they got to Tajh Boyd and Co. a little bit, that's been an issue. More broadly, backup cornerbacks Will Likely (a freshman with lots of upside) and Isaac Goins (who's better suited as a specific-package guy) have been vulnerable. Sammy Watkins destroyed this secondary, a group that really hasn't been the same since No. 1 corner Dexter McDougle went down for the season in Week 3.
5) Enough with the football talk, lets talk about you guys being traitors and leaving the ACC for the Big Ten next season. Are you guys excited about the move? Sad about it? Do you guys want some advice on how to make this transition since Syracuse did the same thing this season? (P.S., when you get to the Big Ten make sure to tell Rutgers to suck it.)
TT: That depends on who you ask. Younger fans (like me) appreciate the move as -- at the least -- a financial boon, a gain in football and a fairly lateral move in basketball, accompanied by heightened exposure and recruiting opportunities. Older fans with visceral ACC attachments, as a generalization, are likelier to see it as a cold money grab and will miss being part of a conference that has been pretty good to Maryland over the years.
I'm excited for the athletic transition, and I also think the university will benefit a great deal from its membership in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the Big Ten's renowned academic consortium. Change is never easy, but sometimes, you know, it works out.
An aside: I'm glad that Syracuse and Maryland crossed paths for one year. Our schools' intersection presented an opportunity for U-Md. to formally own up to the horrific exclusion of Wilmeth Sidat-Singh from a Terps-Orangemen game in 1937, a decades-overdue recognition that will happen on Saturday. It'll be fun to host the Orange at Comcast Center for hoops, too.
TNIAAM: On a more serious note, Syracuse fans like to travel. So, if any of our TNIAAM readers are in the area this weekend, where should we go for good food and beer? (Though, most of our "old-school readers/lacrosse fans" might have an idea since the Orange(men) visited the area a lot during the glory years.) However, for the young ones, what are the spots to hit up?
TT: Look to Route 1 for all your dining options. There, you'll find good food and drink at R.J. Bentley's or Cornerstone Grille and Loft, the two biggest student bars just off-campus on Route 1. They'll make you good food all day, and they fill up as the night gets older. For an older crowd, Looney's Pub (on the same road) is a good option, and so is the standard Buffalo Wild Wings near the Capital Beltway. Further down the road, in Hyattsville, I recommend Franklin's and Busboys and Poets.
There's more good food near campus than most students realize.
TNIAAM: Prediction time. This game opened with Maryland as 3.5-point favorites and since moved to 6 points (that's a big move). Agree with the latest line and what is your overall prediction?
TT: This feels risky, but I suppose I'll take the home team. I definitely wouldn't put money on the Terps covering a six-point spread, but a few returning starters and a home crowd should help them out. Give me Terps 27, Syracuse 24, in a somewhat ugly game.