Each week until the start of football season, we'll be going through Indiana's opponents one by one and looking at whatever we find interesting and/or hilarious about them. And as always, the kick was good. This week: Maryland.
GAME 8: MARYLAND TERRAPINS
Last year's record: 3-9
2015 Final F/+ Ranking: 76
Head Coach: D.J. Durkin
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
When: October 29, time TBA
(Before we begin, our deepest condolences to the families and teammates of Michigan State punter Mike Sadler and Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, who were killed in a car accident over the weekend)
1. Oregon East?
Maryland has always seemed like a school with some of the most potential of any mid-tier Power 5 team. They're the only Power 5 school in their well-populated state, located right near the fertile recruiting ground of Washington DC and just down the road from Baltimore. Their alumni base is huge and features an ESPN personality in Scott Van Pelt who goes all out for the Terps (much like Sage Steele with the Hoosiers). And while the Terps have struggled on the gridiron in recent years, they did make a BCS bowl in the early 2000s. The state has two NFL teams in it, and the DC area loves its football, so if the Terps do return to glory, the fans will definitely come to College Park.
Most importantly, however, Maryland has the backing of athletic apparel company Under Armour, whose founder, Kevin Plank, is an alumnus. Plank has made it clear recently that he would love to turn Maryland into an east coast Oregon. Maryland's athletic department has been on rocky ground over the last few years - they had to spend a lot of cash to leave the ACC, while at the same time, they were cutting athletic programs left and right to avoid budget shortfalls. Now, as the B1G TV money starts to roll in, this won't be as much of a problem for Maryland.
While it may take time for the Terps to break past the OSU/MSU/Michigan juggernaut atop the conference, the pieces are in place for an eventual run. They just need the right leader to get them there.
2. A new coach with experience under Meyer and Harbaugh
That right leader, however, was not Randy Edsall. After leading UConn to a BCS berth, Edsall left for Maryland in 2011. It was an uneasy relationship from the beginning - he'd replaced popular alum Ralph Friedgen as coach, and awkwardly declared Maryland his "dream job" during his introductory presser. After four and a half seasons where Edsall never finished with a better record than 7-6, he was fired midseason last year. Even the promise of top local QB recruit Dwayne Haskins couldn't keep Edsall around, and Haskins will now of course be attending Ohio State.
The Terps went in a different direction for their new coach, snagging one of the hottest coordinator names to be their new head guy. D.J. Durkin spent last year revitalizing the Michigan defense. Before that, he was running Florida's defense, and also spent time at Stanford in the late 2000s. Thus he's spent time under both Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, and has a fantastic resume for a guy who's not yet even 40.
Durkin is a young, energetic coach who's in a great spot - he fits in right with the "sleeping giant" potential that Maryland football possesses. Terps fans may have to be patient this season, but the schedule could also break in their favor.
3. Indiana beat the Terps on the road last year. Can they win this year in the comforts of Memorial Stadium?
Last season, Indiana traveled to College Park with absolutely no room for error if they wanted to make a bowl game. The Hoosiers started off slowly while the Terps jumped to a 21-3 lead. But this is Indiana football, where leads can change rapidly, and the Hoosiers outscored Maryland the rest of the way by the margin of 44-7, ending up with a 47-28 victory. In that game, Terps QB Caleb Rowe only played one half of football before leaving with a concussion, while normal starter Perry Hills was out of the game due to mono. Both Hills and Rowe will return this season, but gone is Terps RB Brandon Ross, who ran for 250 yards against the Hoosiers in the losing effort last year.
Maryland starts Durkin's tenure out with a very favorable schedule - they have a good shot to go 4-0 after games with Howard, FIU, UCF, and then two whole weeks to prep for Purdue. As a result, the Maryland-IU contest will be very important for the bowl chances of both the Terps and the Hoosiers. Whoever wins should be in good shape to get to six wins; the loser may need an upset or two.
The Terps still have Will Likely, a Patrick Peterson-esque cornerback and return specialist who has one of the best names in college football, but Maryland's fortunes this year may depend on how well a 3-9 squad that replaces much of its o-line and half of its defense adapts under Durkin. His defense came together quickly at Michigan, posting three straight shutout victories early in the year - including one against Maryland. If a similar progression happens in College Park, the Hoosiers are in trouble.
That being said, Durkin's Michigan defense played one of its worst games against Indiana last year, as the Hoosiers were one of only two teams that scored more than 27 points on the Wolverines all season. Of course, this was with entirely different personnel, but it goes to show that Kevin Wilson has been successful in attacking his defense in the past.
4. Let's hear from our readers
We here in the B1G love our rivalry trophies. Since IU and Maryland now play every year, I asked our readers if they had any suggestions for a trophy between the schools. Here were some of your best ideas:
@crimsonquarry GLASS SPHERE FULL OF SALTWATER AND MAYONNAISE— PITT BSKTBL SHOUTING (@N_THEYSTAYTHERE) July 21, 2016
Guess it would make sense for an Indiana-Maryland rivalry trophy to be shaped like a basketball.
@crimsonquarry a bowlful of ranch dressing mixed with Old Bay— Scoop K (@smk73) July 21, 2016
Both are fine when separate. But together? I don't know if it would work.
The 2002 Memorial Dixon-Jeffries Bucket https://t.co/EiuZVjqGJQ— Andrew Emmer (@AndrewEmmer) July 21, 2016
BLOCKED AND REPORTED FOR SPAM
harambe https://t.co/gTpMkI7WHB— Kyle Robbins (@kylerrobbins) July 21, 2016
I imagine the trophy would look something like this:
Mike Miller is not only the Hoosiers beat writer for the H-T but he's also a Maryland native, so I trust his judgment on this one. As for what we would call this thing, there's only one option:
Next week on the CQ Summer Preview Series: Rutger commenters fail to understand satire again