Senior day is always interesting for college football teams. Some teams are sad to see their seniors move on, and concerned about what the future holds. Some teams are ready to move on, and hopeful about a more promising future.
On Saturday, Maryland will hold its senior day with a mixture of both mindsets. In reality, the Terps are truly in limbo, not only unsure about what might unfold against No. 10 Ohio State on the field, but even more uneasy about what comes next.
Here are 5 things to look for in Saturday’s game:
1. Tyrrell Pigrome can take a step toward securing the No. 1 quarterback job for next season.
The redshirt sophomore will be making his third college start and first of the 2018 season following the announcement earlier in the week that redshirt freshman Kasim Hill will miss the last two games after tearing his ACL last Saturday at Indiana.
In truth, Pigrome might have been the starting quarterback against the Buckeyes even if Hill had not been injured and there simply had been a switch for the second half at Memorial Stadium.
Pigrome picked up where he left off in his last start, against then-No. 23 Texas in Austin in the 2017 season opener, before he suffered a season-ending torn ACL that cost him the last 11 games.
Against the Hoosiers he completed 10 of 13 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. It was reminiscent of his 9 of 12 for 175 yards and two touchdowns — plus 11 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown — against the Longhorns.
It has been apparent for quite awhile that Matt Canada’s offense is really better suited for Pigrome than it was for Hill, especially with the kind of running backs Canada has at his disposal. A strong performance against Ohio State will erase all doubt.
2. Even if Ty Johnson and Javon Leake are healthy enough to play, Anthony McFarland Jr. should get at least 20 carries.
By the end of last week’s game in Bloomington, Canada had no choice but to give the ball to McFarland. Not only was the redshirt freshman ripping off large chunks of yardage, but Johnson and Leake were both out of the game with injuries.
By the time he finished, McFarland had rushed for 220 yards on 29 carries. It was the most yardage rushing for a Maryland freshman in program history, and McFarland can add to his freshman season record of 734 yards against the Buckeyes.
Neither Johnson nor Leake were listed on the depth chart earlier this week, but Canada said that both Johnson and Leake will be gametime decisions and that he was hopeful that both would play.
Given what McFarland has done this season, it’s clear that he is now the team’s No. 1 back. Unless it’s apparent that he is not going to be able to get any momentum going against an Ohio State run defense ranked eighth in the Big Ten, give him the ball.
3. Whether Ohio State brings more fans to the game than Maryland.
A few years ago, the cover of the Indiana media guide showed a home game with the stands bathed in red. It made for a great picture, except for one problem: It was shot when the Buckeyes were in town and most of the fans were rooting for them.
In a season when the average attendance at Maryland Stadium might be the lowest in decades, having Ohio State playing there will certainly make it feel a lot more like a college game atmosphere than for Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois or Rutgers.
While it might be close in terms of which school will be better represented at the noon kickoff, it’s probably easy to predict which will have more fans left for the start of the second half. Even if it’s a close game, the Buckeyes should have more since they actually like to stay for an entire game, a concept Maryland fans have yet to grasp, win or lose.
4. If the Maryland defense can get to Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr.
Coming off one of their worst games defensively this season, in terms of containing the quarterback, the Terps will have an even bigger challenge on their hands with Haskins, the much celebrated former Maryland commit.
Considering the problems Indiana’s Peyton Ramsey presented for Maryland’s front seven last week, especially in the second quarter when he helped the Hoosiers build a 21-6 lead, Haskins could be in for another big afternoon.
Knowing that he only needs to throw three more touchdowns to break the record J.T. Barrett set last season, and get just 51 yards to break Joe Germaine’s 20-year-old record for a season of 3,030 yards passing, Haskins can make history in his own personal homecoming.
But as much as Ramsey seemed rarely to get flustered by the Terps, Haskins has shown a propensity to get into trouble at the first sign of pressure. The one thing Maryland has been great at this season is intercepting passes, leading the nation with 17.
If Maryland wants any chance to upset the Buckeyes to become bowl eligible, forcing Haskins into bad throws is a must.
Canada has done an admirable job keeping his team focused and playing together, first after taking over when DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave in August and, more recently, when Durkin returned for a day before being fired.
There are many who believe the 46-year-old offensive coordinator deserves a full-time shot at the job. But if anything, the inconsistent play of the offense, particularly with Hill’s struggles before getting hurt, have held Maryland back at times.
If the first 10 games have produced mixed results — and mixed opinions about Canada’s candidacy for a full-time coaching gig — the next two weeks will certainly be a showcase of sorts for Canada either at Maryland or elsewhere.
If Pigrome suddenly emerges as a star and is able to help engineer at least one upset, or at least help keep the Terps competitive, it might be enough to get the last two years of Canada’s contract extended and the interim label removed.