— The offseason process for every team typically includes a preliminary breakdown of the opponents it will face during the coming season.
Maryland spent part of its offseason watching 2013 game tape of its 2014 opponents. Likewise, other Big Ten teams spent time evaluating Maryland.
And the common belief among those coaches is that the Terps have the talent to be a competitive team in the Big Ten during their inaugural season in the conference.
"Absolutely," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "Absolutely they can."
There is no denying this will be a challenge for the Terps.
The Big Ten is a true football conference, as Maryland coach Randy Edsall said at a PressBox event earlier this month. As many as five of the Terps' final seven opponents may enter the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, and Maryland will have to deal with the likes of Heisman contender Braxton Miller, potential top-10 NFL draft pick Randy Gregory and plenty of other talent such asWisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, who ran for 1,609 yards last year.
But Edsall said this is the deepest and most talented roster he has had since he took over at Maryland in 2011.
"There's no doubt, if you just take a look," Edsall said. "You know, you sit there going into the preseason — really the biggest thing for us is just continuing to get our guys better. I mean, when you look, there's not a lot of position battles, and the position battles you have, it's upperclassmen that are there."
One of the primary questions seems to be how Maryland will stack up physically in a conference commonly thought of for providing hard-nosed, physical, AFC North-like football.
"I think probably the perception — and this is my perception, too — is that they're probably a little more finesse-oriented than power-oriented coming in, and the Big Ten is typically a conference where you you've got to be able to be physical," said former NFL quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge. "Part of the whole personality I think of the Big Ten, even though they've got fast, explosive athletes, you've got to be able to play games in November and win games in November when the weather might be nasty and cold and windy, and you've got to be able to be a physical football team. …
"My biggest thing watching is how will Maryland handle that part of it? Will they have the physicality to match up week in and week out in the Big Ten? I think they'll have the skill and the speed … but it will be a different challenge [than the ACC]."
Nonetheless, the Terps are confident they will compete.
They have a sixth-year senior at quarterback in C.J. Brown. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are arguably the two best wide receivers in the conference, and they have several other receivers that have contributed in the past.
They also have four running backs Edsall said he is confident in, and Edsall said the offensive line, while still a question mark, made significant progress during the spring under new offensive-line coach Greg Studrawa.
Then, Maryland has returning defensive starters at all but one position in its front seven and has players with starting experience at all four spots in the secondary.
"I know they're an extremely well-coached football team," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "We've recruited against them some. I know they do a good job on the recruiting front, and I believe … it's a program that is up-and-coming. It has a very good talent base.
"They recruit well. And like I said, I know a number of their guys on their coaching staff. They do a heck of a job on that as far as how they coach, the detail they coach with, and I think they're a tremendous addition to our conference."
The last two seasons aren't necessarily the best means to gauge what Maryland can be.
Diggs and Long both missed the second half of last year because of broken legs. Brown dealt with injuries, including a concussion, last season as well. The Terps also lost some of their top defensive players to season-ending injuries, including cornerback Dexter McDougle, who was selected by the New York Jets in the third round of this year's draft.
Maryland still finished 7-6 and played in the Military Bowl, but the level of competition in the Big Ten likely will be stronger than it was in the ACC.
"The thing is, you are what you are," Edsall said. "And with records, you either win or you lose. But the biggest thing is, what you take a look at is the progress that's been made from Year One to Year Two to Year Three and now what we hope to be able to do here in Year Four.
"That's what you want to do. You want to continue to make progress and continue to build and develop guys, and that's what we've been doing."
The goal is a Big Ten Championship.
"We expect to go an upper-echelon bowl game this year, and that's kind of where we see ourselves," Brown said.
Is that realistic? The second half of the season will provide the best indicator.
The Terps conceivably could be favored to win each of their first five games, but after that comes a stretch against teams such as Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan.
However, coaches around the conference seem to think highly of Maryland heading into the year, and the Terps are confident they will be competitive despite the level of competition they will be facing.
"Being an older guy, I've seen [guys] grow up," Brown said. "And now, it's time for it to pay dividends, and I think it [will]. … The confidence level is definitely high."
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