B1G Monday morning: Let's bang the drum for Maryland (while we still can)
What’s a Terrapin got to do to get a little respect around here?
Evidently, bludgeoning 5 straight opponents for a program’s best start in 22 years isn’t enough to get the job done. Despite a winning margin of 24.8 points per game, Maryland is on the outside looking in at the dawn of the program’s biggest week in more than a decade.
The Terrapins haven’t been ranked this late in a season since 2013, when they opened October at No. 25 and promptly walked into a 63-0 whitewashing at eventual national champion Florida State.
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This version of Maryland is certainly better than that edition, which turned the fool’s gold of a 4-0 start into a 7-6 finish that culminated in a loss to Marshall in the Military Bowl. Unfortunately, the majority of AP pollsters don’t seem to notice the difference.
The Terrapins are, technically speaking, No. 26 in the nation. Maryland leads all teams in the “Receiving Votes” section of the AP poll. But it is completely inexplicable that the Terps find themselves behind the team ranked 25th: Louisville.
The Cardinals are also 5-0, but they’ve gotten there by beating the biggest bunch of stiffs this side of a funeral home.
Louisville has a 39-34 comeback win over a dreadful Georgia Tech team, a blowout win over FCS Murray State, a blowout win over perpetually bad Boston College, and a 13-10 win over a North Carolina State squad with the nation’s 91st-best scoring offense.
The Cardinals also have an apples-to-apples win shared by Maryland: a 21-14 squeaker over Indiana courtesy of a late goal-line stand and some curious play calling from since-fired Hoosiers offensive coordinator Walt Bell.
Those same Hoosiers went to Maryland this weekend, where the Terps applied a 44-17 drilling. And it wasn’t actually that close. Both IU touchdowns came in the fourth quarter.
Indiana’s performance was so dreadful that it was the last straw for Bell, who was canned on Sunday. That’s a pretty definitive beatdown.
Yet there are a majority of voters who find reason to believe Louisville is better.
Yes, Maryland’s schedule has been similarly bereft of good teams. The Terps have an FCS win, and all 4 FBS teams they’ve defeated are miserable: Charlotte, Virginia, Michigan State and IU. But unlike Louisville, Maryland doesn’t have a close outcome against any of the bad teams it has faced.
The fact these 2 teams are ranked in this order after sharing such dramatically different outcomes against a mutual opponent shows that voters either aren’t paying attention, or just can’t bring themselves to respect Maryland.
The latter development would be nothing new.
Maryland’s perpetual fight for respect
Maryland does not get the respect normally afforded to a Big Ten program. And perhaps that’s due in part to just about everyone having a hard time accepting Maryland as a Big Ten program.
When Maryland joined the B1G in 2014, the excitement was limited to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and those inside Maryland’s athletic department.
It was purely a business transaction. Culturally and spiritually, Maryland belonged to the Atlantic Coast Conference. And it still does. You wouldn’t want to order steamed crabs loaded with Old Bay anywhere else in the B1G.
But the transaction got Delany’s Big Ten Network on Washington, DC’s cable system. And it got the Terps out from a catastrophic amount of debt that would have eliminated athletic programs.
What it didn’t come with was respect from Big Ten peers. Just resentment.
Other Big Ten fans knew this wasn’t about bringing in a football program that would strengthen the league, and nobody’s fond of a mercenary.
Maryland’s performance since joining the B1G hasn’t enhanced the perception. The Terps went 4-4 in league play in their 2014 debut. It remains their best finish.
So, the Terps have been forced to earn their respect the hard way. And from the looks of it, there’s still another mountain to climb.
Locksley’s key to the Top 25
There’s 1 surefire way for Mike Locksley’s team to awaken the multitudes who continue sleeping on Maryland.
Win when they’re paying attention. And they’ll be paying attention this week when the Terps visit No. 4 Ohio State.
That means there is as much chance of this harming Maryland’s reputation as helping it. Maybe even more so.
The Buckeyes are 18.5-point favorites. And coming close to that spread would actually make this 1 of the closest games these teams have played at Ohio Stadium.
The results have been nothing but grim for the Terps. The Horseshoe is Maryland’s house of horrors. A veritable bowl of turtle soup.
- 2021: Ohio State 66, Maryland 17
- 2019: Ohio State 73, Maryland 14
- 2017: Ohio State 62, Maryland 14
- 2015: Ohio State 49, Maryland 28
Maryland’s defense, currently 5th in the B1G with 13.2 points per game allowed, is certainly better than any the Terps have brought here before. A more mature Taulia Tagovailoa, who leads the B1G in passing yards and touchdowns and is 2nd in passer rating, may finally be ready for this kind of spotlight.
Maybe that’s still not enough to close the Grand Canyon between these programs.
But it could be enough to give the Buckeyes a game that makes voters finally recognize these Terps are better than any we’ve seen in 20 years. And to make other B1G fans say, “Yeah. They belong.”
Around the B1G horn
Couldn’t watch every game? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
No. 2 Michigan 45, Nebraska 7
Give it up for Josh Fleeks.
Transformed from wide receiver to running back in light of the Huskers’ losing 2 backs for the season, Fleeks kept Nebraska from being shut out for the first time since 1996 with a 74-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Not such a meaningless touchdown.
It also did little to interrupt Michigan’s current historic run. The Wolverines have allowed 7 or fewer points in their first 5 games for the first time since 1941.
No. 6 Penn State 41, Northwestern 13
Backdoor Cover King James Franklin remains the hero of some bettors and the bane of others.
His Nittany Lions covered the spread against West Virginia by scoring a touchdown with 6 seconds left. And Penn State didn’t clear the 27-point spread against Northwestern until backup quarterback Beau Pribula’s 30-yard touchdown pass on a feigned quarterback draw with 2:20 remaining.
Maryland 44, Indiana 17
Indiana’s offense was dead in the water until backup quarterback Brendan Sorsby tagged in for Tayven Jackson to lead the Hoosiers to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Prior to the change, Indiana hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown since the first quarter of last week’s game against Akron.
And that’s among many reasons Walt Bell was kicked to the curb in Bloomington, replaced by analyst and former Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey.
Minnesota 35, Louisiana 24
A week after getting outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter at Northwestern, the Gophers opened the second half on a 21-0 run until the Ragin’ Cajuns finally added another touchdown with 3 minutes to go.
Athan Kaliakmanis was efficient — 12-of-14 for 146 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception, meaning only 1 of his passes actually hit the ground.
Minnesota managed to grind out 201 rushing yards despite the absence of Big Ten rushing leader Darius Taylor — who is still the Big Ten rushing leader despite playing 1 fewer game than the field.
Purdue 44, Illinois 19
Now this is what a Ryan Walters defense is supposed to look like. And it’s probably because Walters called the plays on defense for the first time this season.
The Boilermakers finished with 7 TFL and 5 sacks while limiting Illinois to 2-of-13 third-down conversions.
Purdue, which was the B1G’s most penalized team, only drew 3 flags for 15 yards. And that means Illinois now holds that distinction after being flagged 9 times for 82 yards.
Bret Bielema’s team is the Big Ten’s biggest dud.
Rutgers 52, Wagner 3
Rutgers allowed 23 passing yards, which was the lowest total by an opponent against the Scarlet Knights since Army passed for 16 yards in 2009.
The Scarlet Knights were a perfect 5-for-5 on fourth-down conversions, though that begs the important question of “Why did you fail to convert so many third downs against Wagner?”
Iowa 26, Michigan State 16
In true Hollywood (I guess?) style, Iowa broke open a tie game on Cooper DeJean’s 70-yard punt return with 3:45 remaining, then helped offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s drive for 25 points per game on a Drew Stevens field goal with 59 seconds left.
But the most significant moment of the game likely happened much earlier, when Hawkeyes quarterback Cade McNamara was carted off with a leg injury. Iowa appears likely to need Deacon Hill to go the rest of the way this year.
Hill went 11-of-27 for 115 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Michigan State’s notoriously porous pass defense, which is not a good harbinger of what may be to come for Iowa.
Week 5 MVPs
1. DB/PR/Wizard Cooper DeJean, Iowa
DeJean had a game for the ages in the most Iowa fashion.
In the second quarter, DeJean kept Michigan State off the scoreboard by intercepting Noah Kim in the end zone. And in the fourth quarter, he put Iowa on the scoreboard with a thrilling 70-yard punt return that gave the Hawkeyes the lead.
HAWKEYES TAKE THE LEAD. 🙌
📺: NBC pic.twitter.com/B6UEmFlLcN
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) October 1, 2023
2. QB Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Tagovailoa tossed a 62-yard touchdown pass on Maryland’s first play from scrimmage and never stopped rolling from there.
Tagovailoa completed 71% of his passes (24-of-34) for 352 yards and 5 touchdowns, finishing 1 passing TD short of Frank Reich’s single-game Maryland record. But Tagovailoa made up for it with a rushing touchdown, giving him a hand in 6 Terrapin TDs.
Taulia x 6⃣ 🙌
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) October 1, 2023
3. WR Tai Felton, Maryland
Felton was the beneficiary of Tagovailoa’s largesse. He had career-highs in all 3 categories: 7 catches for 134 yards and 3 touchdowns. And all of it happened on his mother’s birthday.
What did you get your mom this year?
"We can do anything we want to do. This is about us, and just holding our standard."
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) October 1, 2023
4. WR Roman Wilson, Michigan
How often do Michigan Men think about Roman Wilson?
We’re thinking it’s a lot. Wilson had 4 receptions for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns at Nebraska. That may not seem like a lot statistically, but if you saw the touchdowns you’d understand.
This is his 2nd-best touchdown reception:
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) September 30, 2023
5. DT Zane Durant, Penn State
Penn State’s defensive front was extraordinarily dominant against Northwestern, allowing 2.8 yards per play. Nobody embodied that better than Durant, who finished with 3 of Penn State’s tackles for loss and 1 of 7 Nittany Lion sacks.
In fact, it was Durant’s sack that knocked Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant out of the game.
Durant also threw in a quarterback hurry for good measure.
Zane Durant slammed the door shut on Northwestern's goal line opportunity to force a field goal
— Lions247 (@Lions247) September 30, 2023
Play of the week
For the 3rd straight week, a Wolverine earns play of the week honors.
Because, well, we likely won’t see a better play all season than this preposterous Roman Wilson touchdown catch.
Wilson somehow reached around the body of Nebraska defensive back Issac Gifford without making contact to draw offensive pass interference, grabbed an underthrown JJ McCarthy pass, and secured the ball against the back of poor Gifford’s helmet. Gifford couldn’t have been in tighter coverage, and the poor guy will live forever on the wrong end of this highlight reel.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 30, 2023