MNWildcat wrote in his introduction to the 2021 Big Ten Football Performance Review, “Maryland made a bowl! We’re still not sure how.”
For the benefit of most OTE readers, who exhibit the attention span of a fruit fly by not bothering to read the article and just go right to the comments with their hot takes, I will respond to MNW’s snarky little shade while providing a season recap in 5 short sentences.
I’ll tell you how Maryland “somehow made a bowl”:
By being the king of the dipshits.
They beat the teams that never sniffed the top-25. Per Jeff Sagarin’s advanced metrics, Maryland’s only losses were to top-25 teams.
The problem? Maryland played 6 top-25 teams: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Iowa. The only real toss-up game was West Virginia, and Maryland pulled away in the 4th quarter.
I mean, how can a reasonable Maryland fan really be that pissed about a 6-6 record regular season record and obliterating a roster-depleted VirginiaTech team in the Pinstripe Bowl, 54-10, to finish the season with a 7-6 record? It was their first winning record since 2014.
My professional career has now reached the 30-year mark. Yet I literally have zero managerial experience. Nevertheless, if I imagined myself having to manage other humans (yuck!) and I had to give a performance review for the 2021 Maryland football program, it would be summarized thusly:
Definitely did enough to not be fired. However, Maryland football is not exactly shooting up the corporate ladder.
Bottom Line: We’ll stick with Maryland football. Terps football is definitely not CEO material, but it has shown some potential to be a productive member of our corporate team (the Big Ten).
Now let’s get to the details.
Predictions in Review
First how did I do? how did our dear OTE “writers” do in predicting MD’s success this season?
I predicted 7-5. I correctly predicted MD would come out hot in September, as they seem to always do with a 4-0 record.
Then things got ugly. However, they still had Indiana and Rutgers on their schedule, so they eked out bowl eligibility. I thought they could find another win among IA, MN, or MSU. But, all were better than expected and clearly better than MD.
OTE “writers,” on average predicted 5-7 and a last place finish in the B1G East. A special shot-out to MNW, Kind of..., and Stew who all predicted a 3-9 record for MD. Suck it, you dopes.
Maryland actually finished 5th, which, it turns out, is so Terps.
Believe it or not, Maryland has never finished 7th in the B1G East, though technically they have finished in last place twice (2015 and 2017), but Rutgers and Indiana were kind enough to join the fun and share the title of suckiest team in the B1G East. Ironically, MD finished 3rd in the B1G East in their first year joining the Big Ten in 2014. Never finished higher than 4th since the glory of the 2014 inaugural Big Ten season. Average MD’s eight years in the B1G, and you have them averaging exactly 5th place year in, year out.
Let’s break down how:
Positional Performance Reviews
Maryland finished ranked 39th in total offense as per FootballOutsiders FEI Ratings, which was good for 6th best in the Big Ten. Taulia Tagovailoa finished ranked 34th as per ESPN’s QBR with a score of 70.4. For context, 75 gets you a top-25 rating—CJ Stroud finished #1 with a 91.6 QBR Rating and #2 fell to a rating of 87.6. Taulia finished with an impressive 3,860 passing yards. He threw for 26 TDs and 11 INTs. However, he totally shit the bed under the Friday Night Lights against Iowa with 5 of those 11 INTS coming in this single game. Taulia’s most important and interesting statistic is he didn’t throw a single INT when Maryland was leading.
I like where Maryland is at on offense. Taulia is returning and the Terps will roll out an impressive receiving core: Rakim Jarrett, Dontay Demus, Jr., (returning from a season-ending injury suffered during the Iowas debacle), and Jeshaun Jones (returning from season-ending injury suffered agaisnt OSU), plus welcoming Jacob Copeland from the transfer portal after he led the Florida Gators with 642 receiving yards. Also, Locksley landed 4-star receiver Shalaek Knotts.
The RB room also looks good with Roman Hemby as the projected starter and 4-star freshmen RB Ramon Brown looking to get some playing time. Maryland, per usual, has plenty of talent at the skill positions.
I like the coaching staff on this side of the ball. Dan Enos has done a nice job as OC/QB coach. And Brian Braswell has done a very respectable and underrated job of turning marginal P5 O-linemen into competent starters with reasonable depth. MD still has to recruit better along the O-line, but they are doing very well with what they’ve got.
As per FootballOutsiders FEI Ratings, the Terps finished a comically bad 104th out of a total of 130, good for 14th (LAST) in the Big Ten. They were even bested by Northwestern, who came in at 103. The next shittiest defense was Indiana at #73. In other words nobody in the Big Ten was even close to being as shitty as Maryland and Northwestern. There were actually 8 Big Ten teams to finish top-30 in defense. Wow. No wonder punting is a thing in the Big Ten.
Despite Maryland’s comic ineptitude and apparent disinterest in covering receivers and tackling the guy on the other team with the ball, there is a small glimmer of hope. the Terps outscored their final two opponents 94-26. Yes, these two teams were anemic on offense - Rutgers and an already mediocre Va Tech offense further depleted by transfers due to a coaching change. However, this same Maryland team gave up 35 points to Indiana a few weeks before Maryland beat Rutgers 40-16.
Rutgers (#119) and Indiana (#112) are to offense what MD is to defense (#104). Why did MD give up 35 points to a dreadful Indiana offesne while only giving up 16 to an equally dreadful Rutgers offense? LB coach Brian Williams called the defense against Rutgers (and Va Tech) whereas DC Brian Stewart called all the games beforehand.
Bottom Line: Maryland’s defense was drastically better when Brian Williams was calling the plays. I expect Brian Williams to be promoted and will be calling he plays in 2022. Hopefully, with this change, the Terps improve to being average to mediocre on defense.
Maryland was actually worse in ST than on defense, coming in at #120 out of 130. Even funnier, they had lots of company in the Big Ten with two teams ranked even worse than MD - Indiana (#118), NW (#124) and UNL- (#129).
Apparently Zooker is going anywhere. Maryland will continue to compete with Nebraska and Northwestern for comical ineptitude on ST.
2022 Crystal Ball:
Maryland plays Buffalo Bulls, at Charlotte, and SMU for the OOC part of the schedule. The Terps always seem to start hot. So, I feel good about going 3-0.
Maryland also plays Indiana, Northwestern, and Rutgers. I feel good about 3 more W’s with these opponents. MNW has convinced me MD should beat NW. Indiana hired Walt Bell as OC, so I feel good about a MD W. And Rutgers still needs a QB.
Maryland’s other six oppoents are Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
Three guaranteed losses are Michigan, OSU, and Wisconsin. Too much talent gap with UM and OSU. Wisconsin’s strength is Maryland’s weakness - O-line and D-line. The Terps just aren’t winning these games.
I am hoping MD can eke out a win against Purdue and Michigan State at home or at Penn State. PSU lost a fine DC, so hopefully their defense takes a step back. Or hopefully Purdue and/or MSU take a step back so Maryland has a chance at a win.
Ultimately, I think Maryland is still on the upswing. I am looking at a 7-5 record going 4-5 in conference. 6-6 or 8-4 are also possible. But I think 6-6 is more likely than 8-4.
For context, Boilerup89 declared Purdue’s season an unqualified success by going 9-4.
This is exactly where I hope Maryland can get to. Ironically, UNL fired Bo Pelini for doing exactly what Purdue and MD would openly celebrate...Bo never won less than 9 games during his 7-year tenure as head coach at UNL.
Maryland can only dream of that kind of success.
How does Maryland finish in 2022?
This poll is closed
3-9 or worse
6-6: still king of the dipshits
7-5: another step forward
8-4: unprecedented heights?
9-3 or better: MNW put this here to appear "fair and balanced"