Baltimore Sun reporters Don Markus and Jeff Barker and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Given the 2014 schedule announced Thursday by the Big Ten, how tough will Maryland’s road back to respectability become?
Don Markus: Maryland’s $52 million exit fee from the Atlantic Coast Conference after next season seems exorbitant, but its indoctrination into the Big Ten is pretty steep in its own right.
Everyone knew the Terps would be stepping up in class in football by switching leagues. The reality of such a move came into focus Thursday when the Big Ten announced its 2014 schedule.
As a whole, nobody should have been surprised after the Big Ten recently revealed its East and West divisions.
The Terps were placed in the East with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Rutgers and Indiana.
Except for the Hoosiers, who have made only one bowl game in the past 20 years, Maryland’s competition in the Big Ten’s East division is clearly tougher than what the Terps have faced in the ACC’s Atlantic division and for what’s in store this season with the addition of Syracuse.
But to see it on paper – or more precisely on a computer screen – really ramps things up when it comes to the pressure Maryland coach Randy Edsall will face in trying to make the Terps more competitive in their new league than they have been in his first two seasons in the ACC.
Given Edsall’s career record at Connecticut and Maryland for beating Top 25 teams overall (1-22) and winning league road games (7-26, including 1-7 with the Terps), he’s either going to have to turn things around on both counts or face continued criticism from the already dwindling fan base.
There was a time when I thought the Terps would have a chance in the Big Ten when it comes to football.
But looking at the schedule has made me reconsider.
When you think that Ohio State will likely be a top-five team when the Buckeyes come to College Park for Maryland’s home Big Ten opener, a dose of reality hits.
That game might be a blessing only for Maryland fans looking to make a lot of money by selling their tickets to Ohio State fans, as many will do. It will probably pay for the rest of the season and a few basketball games as well.
How about back-to-back road games to Wisconsin and Penn State? How about going to the Big House to play the Wolverines?
Those are three of the toughest places to play for coaches whose teams have had good road records. It won’t be a new experience – the Terps played back to back at Florida State and Clemson last year – but Stefon Diggs better have a lot more help surrounding him by then.
I have been on record saying that I think the Terps could win seven games next season – maybe even eight if everything falls right and they can keep C.J. Brown and at least one backup standing. I will not make the same prediction for 2014.
It's just reality being played out on the computer screen in front of me.
Maryland had scheduled a number of nonconference football games well into the future. What happens to those games now that the Terps are headed to the Big Ten?
Jeff Barker: Some will stay and some will likely have to be jettisoned.
I’d presume the West Virginia series will remain. That’s a healthy rivalry, and the Mountaineers are clearly a potent enough opponent to satisfy the Big Ten.
There’s long been talk on this blog about who is Maryland’s rival.
I’ve always felt West Virginia was a natural. There’s history (49 meetings dating to 1919), tight competition (West Virginia leads 26-21-2) and close proximity.
Sure, the Mountaineers have been, in a sense, spoken for. The Mountaineers annually played Pittsburgh each year in the "Backyard Brawl." But teams can have more than one rival. The Terps need a border-state rival now that it won’t be playing Virginia regularly anymore.
I’d think the planned Maryland-Texas games would also stay on the schedule. The series starts in 2017.
But future games against James Madison, Richmond and Howard? Some or all could get squeezed out, particularly since the Big Ten wants its members to transition away from Football Championship Subdivision opponents.
I’ve heard Maryland fans complain about soft nonconference home games for years -- in football as well as men’s basketball. Terps fans will probably support the move to toughen the schedule.
These matchups often seemed to be about the bottom line – securing a payday for the visitors and (usually) a win for the home team.
Sure, FBS-FCS games can produce some memorable upsets. But they’re often lopsided. How much fun do you think Idaho State players had losing 73-7 at Nebraska last season?
Four Big Ten road trips are on tap for Maryland in 2014. What can Terps fans expect from each?
Matt Bracken: The Big Ten experience officially begins for Maryland fans on Sept. 27, 2014, when the Terps travel to Bloomington, Ind., for a date with the Hoosiers. Going to Indiana will be a good way for Maryland to ease its way into the Big Ten schedule. For Terps fans looking to see a win, this road trip is almost certainly the best bet. I've never been to Indiana for a football weekend, but Bloomington is an indisputably beautiful, quintessential Midwestern college campus. As a basketball-obsessed school that averaged just 44,802 fans at Memorial Stadium in 2012, Indiana has quite a bit in common with Maryland.
Next up on Maryland's inaugural Big Ten road slate is a date with Wisconsin on Oct. 25, 2014. Madison is another place I've been to once before, but unfortunately not during a football weekend. My buddy Chris Korman (The Sun's business of sports and Triple Crown reporter) covered Indiana for several years at the Bloomington Herald-Times and made every Big Ten road trip. Years later, Madison still stands out to him as No. 1 on the list. It's a football-crazy capital city with great bars, restaurants and overall enthusiasm for the game. It's hard to predict what the Badgers will look like two years from now -- will former Utah State coach Gary Andersen continue to build on what Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema started? -- but there's no question that a weekend in Madison is a trip worth booking.
On Nov. 11, 2014, Maryland officially restarts its long-dormant "rivalry" with Penn State. I'm not sure how or if State College's gameday atmosphere has changed post-Sandusky scandal. But three years ago I made the trip with some college friends to PSU for what proved to be Rich Rodriguez's last stand with Michigan, as Matt McGloin lit up the Wolverines, who were coming off a bye week. The lead-up to the game, however, was a blast. The Nittany Lions fans were great hosts, and like most Big Ten campuses, there's no shortage of quality bars and restaurants in State College. This is an easy trip for local Terps fans to make.
The final road contest for the Terps is set for Nov. 22, 2014 in Ann Arbor. Believe it or not, Maryland-Michigan might be the Wolverines' most high-profile home game of a 2014 schedule that also includes Appalachian State, Miami (OH), Utah, Minnesota, a potentially probation-ravaged Penn State and Indiana. Keeping in mind that (1) a late-November Saturday in Ann Arbor will most likely be frigid, and (2) I'm not exactly an unbiased party when it comes to my alma mater, this is a trip that Maryland fans must eventually take. Ann Arbor is an East Coast-influenced Midwestern city with ridiculously good food, a ton of varied bar options, and lots of interesting cultural offerings. And of course, the Big House is a sight to behold for any sports fan.
So there are your options for 2014 road trips, Terps fans. Big Ten football awaits.