I already picked Maryland to defeat Delaware today 28-17. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
But here are 10 longer-term predictions (a couple which have been mentioned here before) as the season starts.
1. Multiple quarterbacks will start multiple games. Both Jordan Steffy and Chris Turner will have their turn to be the starter. It wouldn’t be surprising if Maryland trotted out Josh Portis for the first snap or series at least once.
Just accept it. Everyone will get their turn on this team to play QB.
2. Da’Rel Scott will rush for 1,000 yards. The offensive line is built to run. Scott probably has three or four 50-yard scampers in him. Maryland will probably play 13 games. The No. 2 running back still has the sort of weaknesses you’d expect a freshman to have after less than a month of camp.
That leaves Scott, who will squeak over the 1,000-yard mark either late in the regular season or in the Terps’ bowl game.
3. The greatest worry spot will be defensive line. The second one more defensive lineman goes down to injury, Maryland is going to have to worry a little bit. The Terps made it through camp with the loss of one guy likely to play (Travis Ivey) and one guy likely to redshirt (Carl Russell), and both should return in the second half of this month.
But the likes of Jeremy Navarre, Mack Frost, Bemi Otulaja … they need to be on the field. Maryland is in trouble if they are sidelined.
4. A Maryland linebacker will rank in the top three in the ACC in tackles. The leading candidate is Alex Wujciak, but Dave Philistin might wind up playing enough to pull it off himself. Either way, a tackling machine will emerge for the Terps.
5. The Terps will struggle in their showcase road games. Two games that just don’t look good for Maryland are at Clemson and at Virginia Tech. Even though the Tigers are the more talented of the two teams, Maryland will stay closer in Death Valley than they do in a Thursday night affair in Blacksburg – which is a well-tested kryptonite for opponents not named Matt Ryan.
6. At season’s end, Maryland will not have more than two players on the all-ACC first team. This is going to remain a fairly anonymous bunch, even if the Terps do roll up eight or nine wins. The pieces are there for a push toward a conference title, but chances are Maryland will do it quietly rather than with much pizzazz.
7. Darrius Heyward-Bey will come close to securing Maryland’s second 1,000-yard receiving season. Only Marcus Badgett (1992) has pulled this one off, but Heyward-Bey has a chance if he can roll up some numbers early. In a system reliant on short patterns, yards after catch will be crucial for the junior.
8. Dan Gronkowski will match his career receptions total (11) by the end of September. Gronkowski is a big target and Joey Haynos graduated. With Steffy at quarterback to begin the season, expect Gronkowski to become a reliable target.
9. Maryland’s TD passes and interceptions will both increase. If new offensive coordinator James Franklin is serious about being aggressive, those numbers will almost have to go up. The Terps threw only nine TDs (against 11 picks) last year. Expect the TDs somewhere around 20, the picks a bit lower than that.
10. Maryland will either go 8-4 or 7-5 and land in the Music City Bowl. The Sept. 13 meeting with California is the swing game. Win that, and Maryland could be bowl eligible by mid-October. Lose the one marquee nonconference game on the schedule and it might seem like more of the same only three weeks into the season.
– Patrick Stevens