Let’s get this out of the way up front: Maryland is an 18.5 point underdog going into this weekend’s game at Texas. Obviously Vegas doesn’t think they’re pulling off a win this weekend. But can Maryland pull the upset and defy the odds against Texas?
We’ve heard this before: Texas is back. Surely Texas was back last year when they beat then #10 Notre Dame in double OT, right? Fueled by a win over #12 Baylor to end the 2015 season, the collective sports media decried last year that Texas was back when they defeated #10 Notre Dame last year to open the season, only to see them finish 5-7 and their head coach fired to end the second straight 5-7 season for the Longhorns.
Enter Tom Herman. We all know his credentials: The offensive coordinator that led the powerhouse Ohio State offense, first time head coach who immediately revived the Houston football program, and now new head coach of the Texas Longhorns. Herman inherits a roster that is talented on paper but has had problems producing the past few years. Whether they have locker room problems, are crippling under the enormous pressure of playing at a University that has the highest standards for its football team, or were led by a coach that was trying to do his best Brady Hoke imitation of squandering talent, they weren’t winning.
This leads me to the question of Can Maryland win? Sure, on paper IT’S TEXAS, IN AUSTIN. Texas is a storied football program and no one would think Maryland would beat them. Then again, Texas lost to Kansas last year! Kansas! Surely if Kansas can pull the upset, Maryland can too right?
Why Can Maryland Win?
Maryland can win this game by coming out and making a statement on offense. For all of the struggles Maryland had last season throwing the ball, they were fantastic running it. Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison are threats to take it to the house on every play and in Johnson’s case he has gotten better every single year. Maryland’s line excels running the ball and Walt Bell’s fast paced system may be enough to wear down Texas in the second half.
Maryland has a dynamic freshman RB who can also split out wide in Anthony McFarland, who can absolutely turn on the burners in the open field. Expect Walt Bell to try to get the ball in his hands and be creative with his new weapon, splitting him out wide in the slot or motioning him out of the backfield a few times to catch Texas with its guard down. DJ Moore along with Taivon Jacobs and Jacquille Veii will start at WR for Maryland. Jacobs came to Maryland as a burner but has had nagging injuries throughout his career holding him back.
On defense, Maryland beefed up on the defensive line in the recruiting cycle last year but none are clear cut Year 1 contributors. Nevertheless, the defensive line under new position coach Jimmy Brumbaugh has received great praise from head coach D.J. Durkin throughout the summer so there is hope that the improvement against the run and continued excellence in getting to the quarterback can help get the Terp’s defense off the field.
Why Is It Still A Long Shot?
Texas is Texas and even though they’ve had two down years they still recruit in the Top 25 on an annual basis. The talent is there but the production hasn’t been the last two years. Tom Herman maximizes the talent he has everywhere he goes and has inherited a boatload of it at Texas. Maryland, until proven otherwise, has trouble stopping the run and we know that Herman is going to come out and run the damn ball. Hell, who wouldn’t against a team that ranked in the bottom 5 against the run last year? If Texas can sustain some long drives early on, it’s going to be a long day for the Maryland defense and the offense won’t be on the field enough to counter it.
I want Maryland to win, and I think there is a not zero chance that they pull the upset, but at the end of the day Herman isn’t going to lose his debut in Texas. Texas 34, Maryland 23. Maryland with a 20-30% chance to pull the upset.