For the second straight season, Maryland football is bowl-eligible.
The Terps beat Rutgers, 37-0, in the regular-season finale last Saturday to improve to 7-5, their first above .500 regular season since 2014. With another victory, fourth-year coach Mike Locksley can reach an important milestone: Maryland has not won more than eight games in a season since going 9-4 in 2010, Ralph Friedgen’s last year as coach.
Heading into conference championship weekend, there are 82 bowl-eligible teams for 41 games. The pairings will be announced Sunday after the conference titles are decided and the College Football Playoff matchups are set.
Here’s a look at where the experts are predicting Maryland to play this postseason:
The Athletic, ESPN and USA Today project: Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. NC State
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
When: Friday, Dec. 30, noon
This is the most popular projection for the Terps, and it would have them face an old Atlantic Coast Conference rival.
The last time Maryland squared off against NC State was the 2013 regular-season finale, a 41-21 win by the Terps in which quarterback C.J. Brown accounted for 397 yards and five touchdowns. The Wolfpack have dramatically improved since that first season under coach Dave Doeren, winning eight or more games in six of the past nine years.
Led by a dominant defense, NC State climbed as high as No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll this season and finished 8-4 despite losing starting quarterback Devin Leary to a torn pectoral muscle in mid-October. That includes victories over Florida State, Wake Forest and ACC Coastal champion North Carolina, as well as nonconference wins over bowl-eligible East Carolina, UConn and Texas Tech.
And while it’s not the basketball matchup Terps fans are clamoring for, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach projects Duke to face Maryland in Charlotte.
Sports Illustrated projects: Guaranteed Rate Bowl vs. Oklahoma
Where: Chase Field, Phoenix
When: Tuesday, Dec. 27, 10:15 p.m.
Maryland’s last three meetings against Big 12 opponents have gone pretty well. After the Terps beat Texas in back-to-back season openers in 2017 and 2018, they defeated neighboring rival West Virginia to open the 2021 campaign.
This matchup would pit the Terps against one of the sport’s blue bloods, although one that has fallen on hard times. After losing coach Lincoln Riley and likely Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams to Southern California, the Sooners fell to 6-6 in former Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ first season at the helm. Oklahoma still has a potent offense, ranking 13th in efficiency according to ESPN’s SP+, but Venables’ defense has been a major letdown, allowing 29.6 points per game.
The potentially high-scoring affair would pit two of the best Hawaiian quarterback prospects in recent memory in Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel and Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa. While Tagovailoa was a four-star recruit who followed his older brother to Alabama, Gabriel was a three-star prospect who got his start at Central Florida. In high school, Gabriel surpassed current Hawaii coach Timmy Chang and Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as the state’s all-time passing leader.
Other potential Big 12 opponents the Terps could face in this game are Kansas, which enjoyed a breakout 6-6 season behind star quarterback Jalon Daniels, and Oklahoma State, which started 5-0 before losing to TCU in overtime and limping to 7-5.
Action Network projects: Quick Lane Bowl vs. Bowling Green
Where: Ford Field, Detroit
When: Monday, Dec. 26, 2:30 p.m.
A second straight bowl game is a reason to celebrate, but a lackluster matchup against a Mid-American Conference opponent is probably not what Terps fans — or players — are hoping for.
Before a Pinstripe Bowl victory in 2021, the Quick Lane Bowl was the site of the Terps’ last bowl appearance, a 36-30 loss to Boston College in coach DJ Durkin’s first season. Plenty has changed since.
CBS Sports also projects Maryland to play in this game, albeit against Eastern Michigan. The Eagles won eight games for just the second time in program history, while the Falcons are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2015.
Bleacher Report projects: Music City Bowl vs. Arkansas
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
When: Saturday, Dec. 31, noon
Outside of a head-scratching 30-0 loss to Penn State, Maryland fought hard against the best teams on its schedule, including potential playoff entrants Michigan and Ohio State. Arkansas had a similar experience in the SEC, suffering close losses to Texas A&M, LSU and Missouri, while trailing by five entering the fourth quarter against Alabama.
The Razorbacks boast one of the best quarterback-running back tandems in the country in redshirt junior KJ Jefferson and sophomore Raheim Sanders, who helped Arkansas rank ninth nationally with 223.4 rushing yards per game. The defense is one of the nation’s best at pressuring the quarterback, ranking fourth in the country with 39 sacks. Linebacker Drew Sanders, an Alabama transfer, is tied for 11th nationally with 9 1/2 sacks and has forced three fumbles.