Proximity, coaches could spur marquee matchup for Maryland-Penn State

CHICAGO — With the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, there is an undeniable competitiveness between the coaches, the players and the fan bases.

Their annual meetings are games that both organizations are passionate about, and each is played with a playoff-like intensity because of the mutual disdain.


Maryland football doesn't have anything like that — at least not yet.

The move to the Big Ten brings opportunities for improved recruiting, exposure and fan interest. It also gives the Terps annual football games against Penn State and an opportunity to build that sort of rivalry that they never truly had in the Atlantic Coast Conference.


"I could definitely see that happening," Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, a native of Cranberry Township, Pa., said at the Big Ten's media days. "That would be great for college football. That would be great for our school. That would be great for their school. So I definitely see that playing out."

The necessary elements are there. The schools are only 135 miles apart. They frequently compete for the same recruits. And their rosters are stocked with players who are familiar with one another and competed in high school.

There is also the coaching side to it.

James Franklin was Maryland's coach in waiting before leaving for the top job at Vanderbilt and later taking the reins at Penn State. Randy Edsall, who became the Terps' head coach weeks after Franklin left the program, was annoyed by some of Franklin's comments in May about recruiting in Maryland.

Edsall was asked Monday if he had talked to Franklin during the early portion of Big Ten media days.

"Just said hello, just like I did with all the other coaches around the table," Edsall said. "That was about it."

It will take some time to tell whether Maryland-Penn State develops into a rivalry. And, as Brown and Terps cornerback Jeremiah Johnson pointed out, that will ultimately be decided on the field.

"I've always felt like a rivalry is solely off of what happens on the field," Johnson said. "I think if it comes down to being an epic game or a tight game the whole game, then you can call it a rivalry. But for me, all the off-the-field stuff, it's not what makes the rivalry. I think it's more so the players, when you step on the field and say, 'Man, I don't like these guys' or 'I want to beat them,' and I don't think there's any animosity between the players."

Great rivalries also typically involve teams that consistently compete on the same level.

Ohio State and Michigan are usually contenders. So are Auburn and Alabama.

Maryland's football program doesn't have that caliber of resume. And Penn State has dominated the Terps. While the schools have not played since 1993, Penn State is 35-1-1 all-time against Maryland and won the past three games by a combined score of 166-27.

"I've stated on numerous occasions that it's more on us than anybody else, because when you take a look at the record, it's not very good," said Edsall, a native of Glen Rock, Pa. "There's been some great games played, but that's up to us to make sure that happens. And the best way you do that is going out and preparing yourself each and every day to be the best you can. If you do that and you go out and beat people, that creates the rivalries and creates the enthusiasm that comes with playing other teams."


Some in the media have talked about a potential rivalry building between Maryland and fellow Big Ten newcomer Rutgers, but that doesn't seem to have the same buzz at this point as Maryland-Penn State.

"I do think there's a regional aspect to it," Franklin said. "There's no doubt about it with those two schools. I think they're a great addition for the conference as a whole [for] a lot of different reasons, [and] I'm looking forward to competing with them in recruiting, looking forward to competing with them on the field."

Maryland and Penn State meet for the first time as conference foes Nov. 1 in State College. Both teams will have important games before that, and how they do in those will likely increase or decrease the level of interest in that meeting. But buzz seems to be building.

"I hope it happens," said ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge, who played quarterback at Penn State from 1979-82. "When I was at Penn State, we played Maryland every year. We played Rutgers every year. Penn State was the beast of the East when I was there, and I think having that little eastern flavor back in the Big Ten will be fun."


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