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College Sports

Terps have opportunity to land in respected bowl game

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland players could be lined up, face-to-face against some of the best players in the SEC with an opportunity to compete against a talented team from the unquestioned top conference in college football.

Likewise, fans could have the chance to see Terps coach Randy Edsall standing across the field from a high-profile coach such as Auburn's Gus Malzahn, pacing the sideline inside of a crowded, energetic stadium and watchingas Maryland tries to prove it belongs on the same field with one of the better teams in the country.

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That opportunity is within reach.

Maryland enters Saturday's game at Michigan at 6-4, including 3-3 in the Big Ten. Wins against Michigan and Rutgers in their final two regular-season games could earn the Terps a chance to face a high-profile team such as Auburn in a respected bowl game like the TaxSlayer Bowl — formerly the Gator Bowl — on Jan. 2.

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"Obviously our main goal was to win the Big Ten and then obviously after that to go a big-time bowl," Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown said. "We've got an opportunity to do that if we win the last two games, and there's not a lot of people that gave us a chance to do that, especially sitting where we're at right now and sitting in a position that we control our own destiny."

The projections vary.

The most optimistic — from CBS Sports — has Maryland landing in the Citrus Bowl to face a Malzahn-led Auburn team that was in the national championship game a season ago.

Others from ESPN, PhilSteele.com and Fox Sports predict the Terps to wind up playing USC in the Foster Farms Bowl, previously the Fight Hunger Bowl.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy projects Maryland to play Georgia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium while ESPN Big Ten writer Adam Rittenberg has the Terps going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, considered one of the lower-tier bowl games for a Big Ten team.

"I've noticed that a lot of people have been surprised when we've beaten good teams or if we're even hanging in there with good teams, and I think that's because they didn't expect us to be as good as we are," Maryland linebacker L.A. Goree said. "And that's at 6-4. But as far as bowl recognition, I think it's very important to go to a solid bowl. We all want to go somewhere hot, I guess, as hot as possible. And to be 8-4, that's a good record. We can take that, even though the losses we had were hard to swallow."

The quest for better bowl positioning will continue against Michigan.

After falling, 37-15, to No. 12 Michigan State last week, the Terps will face a Wolverines team that enters Saturday as a five-point favorite, according to ESPN.

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Fueled by a defense that is ranked eighth nationally, Michigan (5-5, 3-3) has won two straight following a 3-5 start.

While the Wolverines are ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense and have been held to 11 points or less in two of their last three games, Michigan's defense has limited three of the Wolverines' last four opponents to 13 points or fewer.

Led by former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Michigan is tied for second in the Big Ten with 20 sacks during conference play and has held opposing rushers to 2.8 yards per carry.

"They're aggressive on defense," Terps coach Randy Edsall said, "and they run to the ball very well."

One of the priorities for Maryland will be getting quarterback C.J. Brown more involved as a runner, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said.

Since running for 99 yards in the Terps' win over Iowa on Oct. 18, Brown has carried the ball just 21 times the last three games, not including sacks.

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The Terps also hope to be able to exploit a Michigan pass defense that is ranked 11th out of the 14 teams in the Big Ten in pass defense efficiency.

Doing so could put Maryland in a favorable position, especially considering the issues the Wolverines have had on offense.

"We'll worry about [bowls] once the season's over," Edsall said. "The only thing that's really important to us is Michigan and trying to prepare the best way we can to get that seventh win and our fourth win in the conference."

Terps Today

Who: Maryland (6-4, 3-3) at Michigan (5-5, 3-3)

When: 3:42 p.m.

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Site: Michigan Stadium

TV: Big Ten Network


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