COLLEGE PARK — Saturday night's game against Michigan kicks off Maryland's second year in the Big Ten Conference, but it also begins a daunting stretch of games that could prove telling about the course of the Terps' season.
After playing No. 22 Michigan, Maryland has matchups at No. 1 Ohio State, versus Penn State in Baltimore, at unbeaten Iowa, versus No. 19 Wisconsin, at No. 2 Michigan State, and versus Indiana (4-0) before finishing up with a Thanksgiving weekend tilt against a discombobulated Rutgers program.
That's not an easy stretch, even for an upper-tier team, not to mention a Terps squad coming off a 45-6 loss at West Virginia last week.
But much like coach Randy Edsall, most Terps are sticking with the mantra of "one game at a time" in preparation for a much-improved Wolverines team under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh.
"Honestly, I haven't thought about who we're playing next," quarterback Caleb Rowe said. "Right now, it's about winning football games, and Michigan's the next one. I think all of our guys believe that. I don't think anyone's thinking about the following week. We're all thinking about Michigan and trying to win at home under the big stage."
For some, though, it's hard to ignore the stiff slate that looms ahead of the Terps. They need to win at least four more games to reach bowl eligibility, and a game against Michigan that looked winnable when the season started has gotten much more difficult based on the improvement under Harbaugh. Plus, the quality of the defenses in the Big Ten poses a number of challenges for an uneven offense.
Five of Maryland's upcoming opponents rank in the conference's top six for total defense, with Michigan leading the way. That's the type of competition in the Big Ten East division that the Terps will have to overcome in an attempt to reach their third straight bowl game under Edsall.
"It's definitely on my radar," running back Brandon Ross said. "Personally, I look at it as a challenge being able to prove yourself against a proven defense, a defense that's doing real good like Michigan's doing. You definitely have that in the back of your mind."
The start of Big Ten play offers an opportunity to build off any positives from a 2-2 start in nonconference play and a chance to work through any of the negatives. With league playing getting into full swing, the Terps know what looms ahead.
"Tone, it kind of changes, but you always have to play with a great intensity, which we have to get better on as far as what happened last week," middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. "We have to be better than what we did, but the tone, it doesn't really change much. You always want to play with a high tempo and things like that."
Locksley details Prince, Garman's progress
After Mike Minter's labrum injury forced Maryland to re-shuffle its offensive line before the West Virginia, the Terps reverted back to the one they expected to have when camp opened in August. The results were mixed, with the unit allowing its first sacks of the season and allowing the Mountaineers to put pressure on the quarterback, but Ross racked up 130 yards.
Redshirt freshman Damian Prince made his first career start against at right tackle against West Virginia, and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley only expects the former five-star recruit to improve.
"For a first start, I thought he did a pretty good job," Locksley said Wednesday. "There's some things that he could be a lot cleaner on, not just Damian, but as a unit. I thought Damian competed, played a whole game there at right tackle, didn't have a whole lot of mistakes, played with some good energy and effort. It's a good game, a good start for him. Obviously something we hope he can build on."
Prince, a 6-foot-3, 328-pound Forestville native, will have his hands full this week against Michigan's defensive front.
Locksley was also able to comment on backup quarterback Daxx Garman's Maryland debut for the first time Wednesday. Garman, a transfer from Oklahoma State, made his first appearance for the Terps late in the third quarter of the loss at West Virginia. He broke the Mountaineers shutout with a 46-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport, but also took a late sack and threw an interception on the last play of the game.
It's been an uphill battle for Garman to get up to speed, but Locksley said he's continuing to see progress from the senior.
"I definitely have seen Daxx become more comfortable in our system," Locksley said. "Of the three guys, he's our one guy that's had the least experience in it, and I see the improvement day-to-day, week-to-week. He came in and did a good job on a vertical route, hit Jahrvis for his first touchdown. He also took a sack in quick game where we've done a pretty good job of getting rid of the football and not taking sacks. So definitely, up-and-down but I have seen the improvement of him having a little more comfortable in the system."
Weather cancels pregame show
The Big Ten Network postponed its scheduled "BTN Football Pregame" broadcast at Maryland because of the forecasted inclement weather from Hurricane Joaquin, Maryland announced Wednesday morning.
The network made its decision because of "safety concerns for the fans and the production crew and the uncertainty surrounding the storm's path." Hurricane Joaquin reached hurricane strength Wednesday morning. Its forecast is uncertain.
Maryland plans to follow its in normal protocol for severe weather, a school spokesman said Wednesday. The Terps' matchup with Bowling Green in early September had a lengthy weather delay because of lightning in the area.
The Big Ten Network hopes to return to College Park in the future for another Maryland even.
Big Ten Network studio host Dave Revsine, president Mark Silverman, analysts Howard Griffith and Christy Winters-Scott, and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson were scheduled to participate in a panel at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism on Thursday night, but that event is canceled.
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