The last few weeks of summer following Labor Day mean that the kids are back to school, the Major League Baseball season is winding down, and the leaves are just starting to change colors. Another thing occurring this time is something known as September Maryland. This isn't a late summer getaway to Deep Creek Lake, or an Eastern Shore crab feed on the first day of Autumn. Rather, it's the four weeks or so to start the college football season (or five, if things kick off in late August) that Maryland Terrapins football looks pretty darned good.
Through minutes of exhaustive research, I've determined that September Maryland can be traced back at least as far as 2011 (when one Randy Douglas Edsall started working his 'dream job' in College Park). In the eleven non-COVID seasons starting in 2011, the Maryland Terrapins have accumulated a record of 31-13 before the calendar hits October (not counting 2023). Extrapolated out for an entire season, that's roughly an 8- 4 clip. Looks pretty darned good, doesn't it?
Digging into those 31 September wins, one discovers that 8 of them were versus teams from the Football Championship Subdivision; with 2018 and 2022 being the only seasons where Maryland didn't play an FCS team. (Note that an additional FCS victory - Towson in 2011 - occurred in October.) That gives September Maryland a 23-13 record against FBS teams; again, not too shabby.
Drilling down on the 23- 13 September FBS record, Maryland went a more-than-respectable 11-6 versus Power 5 competition. In four of the eleven seasons being discussed, Maryland went undefeated against Power 5 opponents in September: 2013 (1-0), 2017 (2-0), 2018 (2-0), and 2021 (2-0). Even more impressively, Maryland was 5-2 in September conference games (1-0 in the ACC, 4-2 in the Big Ten).
Once October arrives, Maryland football looks a wee bit different. Over the 11 non-COVID seasons being discussed, the Terps have gone an underwhelming 25-67 once October arrives: 6-18 while in the ACC and 19-49 while in the Big Ten. Even more noticeable is that 8 of Maryland's post-September wins (roughly 1/3) have occurred in the last 2 seasons. Four times - 2011, 2015, 2017, and 2019 - Maryland only managed one non-September win a season.
So this begs the question. Why does Maryland look so good in September and look so not-very-good once the calendar hits October? Here's a few reasons as to why this happens:
- Quarterbacks are generally healthy in September. Or, to put it another way, AMQBHG hadn't happened yet. Of the eleven seasons being discussed, the quarterback who started game #1 started the season finale six times. And (as stated in the linked article) the same quarterback started every season's games twice.
- The level of competition gets considerably better once October rolls around. Taking a look at those 5 September in-conference wins, those came against the following opposition: 2011 Miami (finished 6-6), 2014 Indiana (finished 4-8), 2017 Minnesota (finished 5-7), 2018 Minnesota (finished 7-6), and 2021 Illinois (finished 5-7). Not exactly a Murderer's Row of opponents.
- Depth, or lack thereof, starts impacting the games. Aside from quarterbacks (see above), Maryland always seemed to have plenty of skilled position talent over these eleven seasons. The same can't be said for the offensive and defensive lines. This may explain (among other things) why Maryland gave up 43 sacks in 2022, and allowed 1,411 yards rushing in 4 games versus Wisconsin (an average of 352.75 yards per game!).
- The early season smack-in-the-teeth. At the risk of causing Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome to fellow Maryland fans, allow me to take this ugly trip down Memory Lane... Temple 38 - Maryland 7 (September 24, 2011), Florida State 63 - Maryland 0 (October 5, 2013), Ohio State 52 - Maryland 24 (October 4, 2014), West Virginia 45 - Maryland 6 (September 26, 2015), Ohio State 62 - Maryland 17 (October 7, 2017), Penn State 59 - Maryland 0 (September 27, 2019), and Iowa 51 - Maryland 14 (October 1, 2021). Beat-downs like those tend to make the positive vibes begin to dissolve.