Complete Big Ten preview for 2018.
The Big Ten heads into the 2018 college football season with five candidates to reach the playoff. After winning the conference championship last year, Ohio State is the favorite in the Big Ten to win the league title once again. However, rival Michigan and division foes Penn State and Michigan State aren’t far behind. In the West, Wisconsin is a clear favorite over Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue. The Badgers face a tougher schedule than they had in 2017, but coach Paul Chryst’s program has the returning talent to push Ohio State or any of the teams from the East in the Big Ten Championship.
Saquon Barkley is someone else’s problem now, but opponents should still be wary of this offense, especially if Trace McSorley displays the kind of accuracy he showed while completing all 12 of his third-down passing attempts vs. Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. Penn State is going to get its points. But can a graduation-depleted defense stop opponents from getting theirs? That’s what will determine whether this team earns its third consecutive New Year’s Six bowl berth.
OSU ended last season with a win over That Team Up North and a defeat of USC in the Rose Bowl, but the 55–24 setback at Iowa still can’t be explained. Plus, the late-season momentum was offset by the loss of a multitude of key players, QB J.T. Barrett atop the list. The Buckeyes will march onward with a new quarterback, a roster loaded with hungry talent and a defense that still plans to come after people.
This is a pivotal season for coach Jim Harbaugh, whose struggles against his three main rivals are well documented. His fourth Michigan team will once again be outstanding on defense. If the offense, a trouble spot in recent years, shows any improvement, this team can compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff — even against a difficult schedule that includes the usual suspects from the Big Ten East as well as Notre Dame (on the road) and Wisconsin (the top team from West). However, if the quarterback play remains an issue and the offensive line doesn’t progress, it will be more of the same in Ann Arbor.
Head coach Tom Allen landed Indiana’s best recruiting class in years and has upgraded the program’s athleticism. But depending on freshmen to win against Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State is not a winning formula. With questions at quarterback, the offensive line and across the defense, the ceiling for this team could be six wins.
Coach DJ Durkin’s endless enthusiasm was tested last year. Injuries crippled a promising team that upset Texas in the opener. The Terrapins got pounded by the Big Ten’s biggest bullies. Now there’s a second straight top-30 recruiting class in tow, five new coaches, a new state-of-the-art indoor practice/sports medicine facility in New Cole Field House, and a whole new offense with some healthy quarterbacks. Big Ten foes may not have to “Fear the Turtle” just yet, but they’ll have to start paying attention.
Michigan State bounced back from a 3–9 season to reach double-digit wins for the sixth time in eight years. With 19 returning starters from a team that went 10–3, the Spartans are a dangerous contender in one of the best divisions in college football and will continue to be a problem for Penn State and Michigan. A return to the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2015 is unlikely but not impossible. No one is expecting Michigan State to leapfrog Ohio State, but that’s the way coach Mark Dantonio likes it.
A bowl game is the hope for coach Chris Ash’s third season — a goal he is not shying away from. But if bowl eligibility does happen, it will likely be achieved early. Six of the first seven opponents Rutgers faces were a combined 20-52 last season, including three that lost 10 games or more. The closing five-game stretch of Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State — a combined 52-14 last year — isn’t conducive to making bowl headway. In the end, it all comes down to offensive improvement and the play at quarterback for this team.
The defense has been the star for the first three years of the Paul Chryst era, a stretch that includes 34 wins. Now, the Badgers might have to light up the scoreboard if they’re going to make a run at the Big Ten title. A light non-conference schedule should give the defense a chance to grow, but that group needs to be ready for a Big Ten slate that includes road games against five bowl teams from a year ago.
There is a lot to like but also a lot to question about this Iowa team. QB Nate Stanley and TE Noah Fant both have star potential, the defensive ends might be the best in the Big Ten as a group and the kicking game is solid. On the other hand, the top two running backs have to be replaced, along with all three starting linebackers and an All-America cornerback.
One of Iowa’s biggest strengths might be its schedule, which doesn’t include games against Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State – three of the Big 4 from the Big Ten East.
Nebraska has been largely absent from the national discussion since 2001, and the Cornhuskers haven’t won a conference championship since 1999. Without overstating things, coach Scott Frost and staff were miracle workers at UCF, taking a program from 0-12 the season before they arrived to 13-0, including a Peach Bowl victory against Auburn, last year, their second in Orlando.
Whether they can work such magic in two seasons again is uncertain. Nebraska had better than 4-8 talent a year ago, and much of it returns. New systems are in place all the way around, causing growing pains, and the schedule is daunting. But the Cornhuskers will be up-tempo, aggressive, physical — and competitive.
For the third time in four seasons, Minnesota figures to enter November still in search of an elusive sixth win — and bowl eligibility. A year ago, in coach P.J. Fleck’s first season at Minnesota, the Gophers lacked depth and talent and finished at 5-7, including 2-7 in the Big Ten. It marked the first time Minnesota had missed a bowl since 2011.
“The outside people are going to say, “What about your wins?”” Fleck said during the spring. “Again, I’m not worried about all that. I’m not worried one bit about any of the wins and losses. I’m worried about developing this football team.”
Fleck, who took Western Michigan from 1-11 to 8-5 in Year 2 in Kalamazoo, received a one-year rollover contract extension at Minnesota during last season and now has five years remaining to build the program in his image.
With 27 wins in the last three seasons and a new lakefront facility, Northwestern clearly has momentum. Keeping it likely depends on QB Clayton Thorson, who, if healthy, can take the Wildcats a long way. But his uncertain status and key losses at running back, safety and defensive tackle increase the degree of difficulty. Northwestern needs line play to excel and for its star power on defense to shine again. Although the schedule is tough, Northwestern misses both Ohio State and Penn State and gets almost all of its marquee opponents at home.
Coach Lovie Smith’s teams are 5-19 overall and just 2-16 in the Big Ten, including an unprecedented 0-9 in 2017. He has a six-year deal, so the administration is giving him time. The fans want to see some progress and some excitement. The schedule is challenging, with an early game against South Florida in Chicago, visits from Penn State and Iowa and trips to Wisconsin, Nebraska and Northwestern.
During the past two decades, the third year has been a charm for Illinois coaches. Ron Turner, Ron Zook and Tim Beckman earned bowl bids in their third seasons. If offensive coordinator Rod Smith continues to have a golden touch with quarterbacks, like he did at Arizona, the offense will improve. Enough to bump the win total to six? Probably not.
Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Coach Jeff Brohm exceeded those expectations by leading Purdue to its first bowl win since 2011. Veteran defensive leaders keyed the turnaround last year. Now, with so many of those players gone, the pressure is on the offense. Purdue could take a step back in Year 2 before it takes two steps forward in Year 3.
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Minnesota at Maryland
Maryland is eager to get back on the court after suffering a dramatic letdown in the final seconds of a loss to Michigan on Monday, and they are motivated to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The Terrapins will try to execute better and avoid a third consecutive loss when they host Minnesota on Thursday in a Big Ten contest.
Maryland was on the verge of winning its first Big Ten road game of the season after Kevin Huerter buried a 3-pointer for a 67-66 lead with 3.2 seconds left, completing a comeback from a 10-point deficit, but the Terrapins allowed an unguarded inbounds pass to travel into the frontcourt and fouled Michigan’s Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who knocked down two free throws. “We put that game behind us. We watched film yesterday, we learned from it. I was happy with the effort, disappointed with the outcome. It’s just one game,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday. “We’ve played some really good teams on the road our last three games. We finally competed in one of them. The key is how you handle things as you move forward.” The Golden Gophers bounced back from a pair of blowout losses by upending Penn State in overtime 95-84 on the road Monday. “To get a road win under adverse circumstances that we’ve had is terrific,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino told reporters. “Our guys showed unbelievable heart.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
ABOUT MINNESOTA (14-6, 3-4 Big Ten): The Golden Gophers played their last four games without center Reggie Lynch (suspended) and guard Amir Coffey (shoulder), and expect to be without the pair again on Thursday. Minnesota managed to replace the missing 24.2 points and 12.1 rebounds with big games on Monday from Nate Mason (25 points), Dupree McBrayer (24) and Jordan Murphy (22 points, 19 rebounds). “We needed to have a good week this week to keep pushing forward and we were going to break through,” Murphy told the Star Tribune after the win. “Today was a good indication of what we can be, even though we are shorthanded.”
ABOUT MARYLAND (14-6, 3-4): Huerter hit the go-ahead 3-pointer on Monday, but was just 4-of-11 from the floor overall and is shooting 41.3 percent in the last five games to drop his season percentage to 50.5. “He’s got two hands on him the entire game,” Turgeon told reporters of Huerter. “Not one, he’s got two hands. It’s exhausting. We’ve got two guys that can score, and teams are just loading up on him. We’ve just to trust our teammates a little bit more.” Sophomore guard Anthony Cowan led the way with 24 points against the Wolverines and is averaging a team-high 16.4.
1. Murphy leads the Big Ten in rebounding with an average of 12.1, which ranks second in the nation.
2. The Terrapins outrebounded their opponents in 17 of the first 20 games and own a plus-8.1 average on the boards.
3. The schools split two meetings last season, with Minnesota earning an 89-75 win at Maryland on Feb. 22.
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ACC Games of the Week
Saturday lives for College Football and FanPicks has your fantasy football fix. If you are a fan of the Big Ten conference, then you’re in luck because we got the Big Ten Games of the Weeks contest. Only Big Tens matchups are allowed. With 6 games in line, there will be no shortage of draft picks. Check out all of the Big Ten Saturday games preview below and join the action for cash prize!!! >>>Click here to join the game<<<
Iowa Hawkeyes vs Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern looks to build on its first Big Ten win when it hosts Iowa on Saturday (Noon ET on ESPN2) The Wildcats kicked off conference play with losses to No. 5 Wisconsin (33-24) and second-ranked Penn State (31-7) before rebounding with a 37-21 road victory against Maryland, and they hope to notch back-to-back wins for the first time this season by knocking off the Hawkeyes for the second time in as many years.
The Hawkeyes hope to have ironed out a few wrinkles on offense during their bye week after beginning Big Ten play 1-2 for the first time since 2013. Iowa is averaging 24.7 points per game in conference action, but achieved its highest total of the season in the 45-16 win over Illinois on October 7 and looks to climb back into the race for first place in the West Division.
ABOUT IOWA (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten)
Nate Stanley threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns while Wadley rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Illini to finish with over 100 yards for the 12th time in his career. Running back James Butler practiced for the first time since suffering an elbow injury in the win against North Texas on Sept. 16, but likely needs another week to recuperate. Senior linebacker Josey Jewell continues to lead the defense and has 70 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception in six games.
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten)
Senior running back Justin Jackson racked up a season-high 171 yards and two touchdowns in the win against Maryland to break the Wildcats’ all-time rushing record previously held by Damien Anderson (4,485). Jackson needs 38 more yards to move past Anthony Davis (4,676) into eighth place on the Big Ten’s career rushing list. Charlie Kuhbander was named the Big Ten’s Special Teams Player of the Week after becoming the first freshman in Northwestern history to kick three field goals in a single game.
Purdue Boilermakers vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Two improving teams with bowl aspirations must put this one in the win column to reach their goal when Purdue visits Rutgers for Big Ten matchup on Saturday afternoon (Noon ET on Big Ten Network). Purdue attempts to even its league record after playing No. 5 Wisconsin tough in a 17-9 loss last week and starts a stretch of four straight games against teams at .500 or worse while the Scarlet Knights are coming off an important victory at Illinois.
The Boilermakers lean on a defense that has forced 15 turnovers, including nine fumble recoveries (tied for second in the country), and has allowed just 20 total points in two road games – none in the second half. Rutgers rushed for 274 yards and rolled to a 35-24 victory over the Illini to snap a 16-game Big Ten losing streak last week.
ABOUT PURDUE (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten)
Coach Jeff Brohm told reporters he will keep using two quarterbacks even though sophomore Elijah Sindelar (52.9 completion percentage) has gotten most of the snaps of late while junior David Blough (68.9) did not attempt a pass last week. Sophomore running back Tario Fuller (foot) is expected to miss his fourth straight game after rushing for 261 yards in the first three contests. Senior linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley had 12 of his team-high 46 tackles against Wisconsin and sophomore linebacker Markus Bailey boasts 41 (career-high 10 solo tackles last week) to go along with three sacks.
ABOUT RUTGERS (2-4, 1-2 Big Ten)
Junior Giovanni Rescigno replaced senior Kyle Bolin (three TD passes, six interceptions) at quarterback last week and threw for 89 yards while running for 41, but suffered an apparent knee injury and is considered day-to-day. Senior Gus Edwards rushed for a season-high 91 yards with two scores and freshman Raheem Blackshear gained 87 yards on just six carries, including a touchdown, against Illinois. Whoever is under center will be looking for top targets senior wide receiver Janarion Grant (15 catches, 162 yards, one TD) and junior tight end Jerome Washington (16, 141, one).
Maryland Terrapins vs Wisconsin Badgers
Top 10 teams seem to fall every weekend, but No. 5 Wisconsin just keeps rolling along on its way to the Big Ten championship game. The Badgers will try to stay undefeated and knock off another conference opponent when they host Maryland on Saturday (Noon ET on FOX).
Wisconsin, which does not have to face fellow top-10 teams Ohio State or Penn State in the regular season and gets No. 19 Michigan at home on Nov. 18, overcame three turnovers and leaned on the defense while fighting off Purdue 17-9 last week. The Terrapins have allowed 99 combined points in back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Northwestern and are surrendering an average of 36.5 points – 115th out of 130 FBS teams.
ABOUT MARYLAND (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten)
Terrapins running back Ty Johnson rushed for at least 124 yards in three of the first four games but was limited to 57 yards on 12 carries at Ohio State and slumped to a season-low 20 yards on 10 carries against Northwestern. The offensive star for Maryland is junior wide receiver D.J. Moore, who caught 12 passes for 210 yards and a pair of scores against the Wildcats to bring his total on the season to seven TDs.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
The Maryland defense is surrendering an average of 174.3 yards on the ground and this week has to go up against Badgers freshman star Jonathan Taylor, who is on the verge of a 1,000-yard season. Taylor upped his total to 986 yards with 219 on 30 carries last week – his third 200-plus game of the season – and scored at least one touchdown in each of the first six contests.
Indiana Hoosiers vs Michigan State Spartans
No. 19 Michigan State returns home Saturday looking to build on a pair of big road wins when it faces an Indiana squad still looking for its first victory in Big Ten play (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC). The Spartans have won three straight, including triumphs at Michigan and Minnesota the last two weeks, while the Hoosiers are coming off a tough overtime loss to the Wolverines and face their fourth straight nationally ranked conference foe.
Michigan State’s running game got a big boost last week with the re-emergence of junior LJ Scott, who recorded career highs in carries (25) and rushing yards (194) after sitting out the previous game with an undisclosed injury. The Spartans also are powered by one of the top defenses in the country, ranking in the nation’s top 10 in total defense (fifth, 263.8 yards per game) and rushing defense (eighth, 93.3). Indiana’s offense has been solid, with redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey (815 passing yards, seven touchdowns) set for his third career start under center. Coach Tom Allen has been pleased with the play of the team’s defense, which has held its last two opponents (Charleston Southern and Michigan) under 100 yards passing.
ABOUT INDIANA (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten)
The feeling around the Hoosiers these days is one of confidence – despite the overtime loss to Michigan – because of the presence of Ramsey in the lineup. Indiana was down 10 points with less than four minutes to play against the Wolverines’ vaunted defense, but Ramsey was able to lead them to overtime and nearly a victory, even with a knee brace he had to put on in the second quarter after being injured. While senior Richard Lagow provides experience, as he led Indiana to a win over Michigan State last season, many around the program believe Ramsey provides the intangibles that can guide a good team to greatness.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten)
Even though Indiana has played very good pass defense the last two weeks, quarterback Brian Lewerke likely will be happy to see the Hoosiers because it will mean playing in some better weather. Lewerke hasn’t been able to get into a groove over the last two weeks, throwing for a total of 214 yards, and Michigan State has kept the ball on the ground because of rainy conditions in both Ann Arbor and Minneapolis. But Lewerke has a plethora of receivers from which to choose and is itching to throw the ball more, and the Spartans’ coaches likely will try to open it up to keep Indiana from stacking the line against the run.
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Illinois Illini
Minnesota and Illinois boast two of the youngest rosters in FBS, but while the former has given its fan base reason for hope by playing its Big Ten rivals close so far, the latter has not. The Golden Gophers attempt to end a three-game losing streak and give first-year coach P.J. Fleck his first conference win Saturday when they host the Fighting Illini (3:30 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network) in a battle of the only two winless teams during West Division action.
Fleck led his charges through an undefeated run in non-conference action before losing late to Maryland in the conference opener and giving up two touchdowns in the final 1:17 en route to a 14-point setback at Purdue two weeks ago. Minnesota continued to show its resolve in last week’s 30-27 defeat at No. 19 Michigan State, as the Gophers scored two late touchdowns to threaten the Spartans after trailing by as many as 17 midway through the fourth quarter. The same has not been true for Illinois, which is coming off a 35-24 home loss to a Rutgers team that had dropped its previous 16 straight Big Ten contests. The Illini have dropped six straight conference tilts by an average of 26 points and are 2-10 in Big Ten play overall under second-year head coach Lovie Smith.
ABOUT ILLINOIS (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten)
Ricky Smalling continues to be one of the few bright spots for the worst scoring offense in the conference (18.8 points), as he leads the league in yards per catch (19.4) while becoming the sixth player in program history to have a 100-yard receiving game as a true freshman last week after posting 111 yards. Sophomore quarterback Jeff George, Jr. threw for a career-high 308 passing yards against Rutgers and has the offense averaging 420 yards in his first two starts, but he has thrown at least two interceptions in all three games in which he has played. Smith announced leading rusher Mike Epstein will likely miss the rest of the season with a foot injury after the true freshman did not suit up last weekend.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten)
Sophomore receiver Tyler Johnson almost singlehandedly brought the Gophers back versus the Spartans, doubling his season total for receiving touchdowns with three fourth-quarter scores, allowing him to finish with a career-high eight catches for 106 yards. Fleck pulled struggling senior quarterback Conor Rhoda in the middle of the second quarter and replaced him with sophomore Demry Croft, who connected with Johnson on all three TD throws – the first of his career – and compiled 194 total yards. Although the duo was held to 51 rushing yards on 17 carries against Michigan State, junior running backs Rodney Smith (73.7) and Shannon Brooks (64.4) comprise one of the most productive running back tandems in the conference, ranking eighth and 14th in the Big Ten, respectively.
Michigan Wolverines vs Penn State Nittany Lions
No. 2 Penn State begins the most difficult portion of its schedule Saturday night when it hosts a Michigan team looking to prove it belongs among the Big Ten elites (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC). The 15th-ranked Wolverines are enduring a sluggish stretch that includes a home loss to Michigan State and an overtime win against East Division doormat Indiana, and they hope to hang around against a dominant Nittany Lions crew that’s coming off a bye week.
Penn State is coming off back-to-back routs of Indiana and Northwestern, but faces a daunting three-week run that also includes visits to No. 6 Ohio State and No. 19 Michigan State. The Nittany Lions have won 14 straight regular-season games since a 49-10 loss at Ann Arbor a year ago in which the Wolverines posted a 515-191 advantage in total yards – including 326-70 on the ground
ABOUT MICHIGAN (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten)
The Wolverines rank 11th in the Big Ten in passing offense and senior John O’Korn has struggled since taking over the starting job from the injured Wilton Speight. O’Korn has zero touchdowns, three interceptions and a completion percentage of 47.3 over the last two weeks. Michigan’s top three rushers – Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon and Chris Evans – combined for 211 yards and four TDs in last year’s rout of Penn State.
ABOUT PENN STATE (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
Stars like running back Saquon Barkley (Big Ten-leading 1,302 all-purpose yards) and quarterback Trace McSorley (Big Ten-leading 266.2 passing yards per game) get most of the headlines, but the Nittany Lions’ defense is gaining more credit with every week and tops the country with an average of nine points allowed. Linebacker Jason Cabinda leads the way with 40 tackles and defensive end Shaka Toney has three of the team’s 17 sacks and two of its nine forced fumbles.
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NCAA Football 2017 Season
Big Ten East Preview
The Big Ten East had a top-heavy 2016 season, as three teams finished inside of the top 10. Ohio State earned a CFB Playoff spot. Penn State fell just short of reaching the top four after defeating Wisconsin in the conference title game. Michigan rounds out the top three in the East. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.
Jim Harbaugh is demanding enough as a coach to push a team to more wins than its talent and/or experience level typically produce. He’s proven this on numerous occasions. But he’ll be kicking himself for not getting more out of a supremely talented 2016 group.
Now, he’ll have to circle the wagons and live with growing pains — especially on offense — throughout 2017 as he’ll have one of the youngest squads Michigan’s had in some time. This team does get Ohio State at home, but a road trip to an improved Penn State squad won’t be easy. Neither will a season-opening game against Florida in Texas.
If Michigan can speed up its development process this offseason, it has the talent to grab double-digit wins. If not, it’s young enough to be staring an 8–4 year in the face.
Penn St. Nittany Lions
Penn State appears to have the potential, particularly on offense, to approach or maybe even surpass last year’s stunning 11–3 finish. RB Saquon Barkley and QB Trace McSorley are the headliners, but the supporting cast, especially the offensive line, has made major strides, and those players are now versed in the intricacies of coordinator Joe Moorhead’s offensive system.
On defense, the losses are more significant, but there. Luckily, the Lions have an abundance of young talent. So while they may not have re-established themselves as perennial powers, they’re trending up.
Ohio St. Buckeyes
Last year’s Buckeyes deserve credit for growing up quickly, finding playmakers on each side of the ball and advancing all the way to the College Football Playoff. However, a bad taste remains from the goose egg Clemson fed the Buckeyes and the fact that Urban Meyer’s men didn’t get to play for the Big Ten championship. Therefore, there is emotional fuel for 2017. What remains to be seen is if the line can hold up, the receiving corps can develop and new defensive heroes can emerge.
Michigan St. Spartans
It’s doubtful that Michigan State will be able to rise up from last year’s disastrous 3–9 season to replicate something similar to the Spartans’ 2015 trek to the College Football Playoff or their top-five finishes of 2013 and ’14. A landing somewhere between those two extremes is more likely, as head coach Mark Dantonio tries to work past off-field problems and rekindle the discipline and toughness that helped him put Michigan State in the national picture.
The beginning of a new bowl streak is likely in 2017, as the rebuilding process takes shape with a number of intriguing young playmakers on the roster. However, Michigan State doesn’t have the proven depth or senior leadership of the championship-level teams Dantonio fielded earlier this decade.
The offense made Indiana competitive in nearly every game the last two seasons. With a new scheme, unproven running backs and several holes on the offensive line, the Hoosiers need quarterback Richard Lagow to stop throwing interceptions while developing a solid running back. But the defense is formidable, faster and confident. Indiana should be able to hold its spot ahead of Maryland and Rutgers in the rugged Big Ten East.
If the Terps could ever match head coach DJ Durkin’s enthusiasm level with experience and talent on the field, Maryland might contend in the Big Ten’s scary East Division. Despite a largely uplifting debut (double the wins from 2015 and a bowl appearance) for Durkin in College Park, the still young and inexperienced Terrapins aren’t quite there yet. They still have depth issues, they’re unproven at key spots, and they’re just not as talented as division rivals like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. Durkin won’t let them want for want-to, though, and with more of his players around, Maryland should be worth watching.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Improvement is the goal after a historically bad season — maybe doubling the win total from two to four. Having Washington on the schedule along with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Nebraska is daunting, but getting Purdue and Illinois as crossover conference games helps. The addition of defensive coordinator Jerry Kill should have a significant impact as well. No bowl is in the offing, but neither is being shut out a combined 224–0 by Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State, as was the case last season.
Quick Lane Bowl Preview
Maryland Terrapins vs Boston College Eagles
Former ACC Atlantic foes Boston College and Maryland meet for the first time since 2013 for the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit(Enter Contest). Both teams experienced a three-game improvement in the win column after disappointing 3-9 campaigns last fall. New coach D.J. Durkin was a big reason why Maryland finished 6-6, and the bowl appearance is the first building block in helping the program take a step forward in the rugged Big Ten East. After struggling mightily with turnovers (-18 margin), the Terrapins improved that total to minus-five in 2016. The ground game is the strength of Maryland’s offense, with sophomore Ty Johnson (845 yards) leading the way. Boston College ranks last in the ACC in scoring (19.1 ppg), but coach Steve Addazio’s team is strong on defense once again. The Eagles allow only 5.1 yards per play and 24.6 points per contest. End Harold Landry (15 sacks) is an underrated star for the Eagles.
ABOUT MARYLAND (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten)
Perhaps a full month off between games will help senior quarterback Perry Hills recover from persistent shoulder issues that caused him to miss two games and leave four others early this season. Hills completed 66 percent of his passes and had 10 TDs against three interceptions when in there. He helped the Terrapins to a 5-1 record in games he was able to start and finish.
ABOUT BOSTON COLLEGE (6-6, 2-6 ACC)
Junior defensive end Harold Landry leads the way for Addazio’s defense and is up for many postseason honors after tying for the FBS lead with 15 sacks and ranking third with 20.5 tackles for loss. The nation’s 127th-ranked offense did just enough in the two-game winning streak to end the regular season, as senior quarterback Patrick Towles threw for 257 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. He is one of four players with at least 200 rushing yards but the Eagles average just 3.4 yards per attempt, 117th in the country. Boston College owns an 8-3 all-time series record advantage versus the Maryland.
Maryland Terrapins 2016-17 Preview
Melo Trimble could have departed College Park for good and left the Maryland Terrapins without a returning starter for the first time since freshman eligibility was restored in 1972-73. Instead, the point guard opted at the last minute to remain with the Terrapins for his junior season and provide a boost to a program coming off its first Sweet 16 trip since 2003. It’ll take more than just Trimble, though, for Maryland to earn its third straight NCAA Tournament trip (Play College Basketball)
The Terps relied primarily on Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone in the post last year, and both turned pro with eligibility remaining. Their backups must now fill considerably larger roles, though both have multiple years in coach Mark Turgeon’s system. Senior Damonte Dodd owns 45 career starts and ranks 16th in school history with 90 blocks. Junior Michal Cekovsky shot 53.6 percent from the field over the last two seasons.
Sophomore Ivan Bender, a capable defender, also figures to contribute after dealing with NCAA eligibility issues and an ACL recovery the last two years. Turgeon also landed graduate transfer L.G. Gill, who averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds at Duquesne last season.
Trimble is the centerpiece of Maryland’s offense. But Turgeon is excited about his entire backcourt, which could be as deep as the guard rotation the Terps deployed two seasons ago. Freshman Anthony Cowan is more of a pass-first point guard than Trimble, and Turgeon will get both players on the floor simultaneously at times. That allows Trimble to move off the ball more frequently than in his first two seasons. Maryland is also hopeful to get sophomore wing Dion Wiley back to full strength after he missed last season with a torn right meniscus.
Jared Nickens never established a rhythm as Trimble, Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon handled most of Maryland’s perimeter minutes last year. Layman and Sulaimon have graduated, and the Terps need more from Nickens, who shot just 26.1 percent from 3-point range in league play last year. Junior guard Jaylen Brantley, Trimble’s backup a year ago, also returns. Freshman Kevin Huerter is an exceptional shooter with a good feel for the game, while Turgeon sees newcomer Justin Jackson as a point forward type with the potential to develop an interior game.
Maryland waded into the graduate transfer pool and added Duquesne forward L.G. Gill. Anthony Cowan should earn time immediately. Wing Kevin Huerter played on the USA Basketball U-18 National Team this summer, and Canadian small forward Justin Jackson was a welcome spring signee. The Terps signed the athletic Micah Thomas and Joshua Tomaic to bolster their frontcourt.
Few saw Maryland’s breakout 28–7 season coming two years ago. In the spotlight from the start last season, the Terps went 27–9 and showed minimal improvement from November to March. There aren’t the same expectations now, but the hopes are that the Maryland Terrapins will be settling in as a consistent top-25 program once again.
With March Madness fast approaching, College Basketball’s Top 25 is under the spotlight. Villanova is the clear collegiate powerhouse, with the rest of the class jockeying for position behind them.
Fanpicks has a daily fantasy version of “bracketology” coming for the much anticipated event, so make sure you know all there is to know. Here’s a look at the entire Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
Kansas – the only other school to receive first place votes – comes in second, followed by Oklahoma, Iowa and North Carolina.
Maryland, Virginia, Xavier, Michigan State and West Virginia round out the top 10. In fact, all top 10 schools held a position in the top 10 in last week’s polls as well. Something to remember when putting together your March Madness Brackets.