There’s a big game at Byrd Stadium, or so they say, anyway.
One of the pitfalls in football is the week-long hype. Those who know me are well aware how weary I grow from the “every-game-is-a-big-game” mentality.
No, Maryland-Eastern Michigan is not a big game, though even that sort of matchup can generate big money.
But if you can avoid the “big-game fatigue,” it’s possible to actually appreciate when an important contest arrives on the schedule. And that is the case this week.
I won’t place tomorrow’s game among the five most meaningful at Byrd Stadium since Ralph Friedgen arrived in 2001 until it’s over and in the books. But it will probably find a place there tomorrow night.
But here’s five games of repute to recall as kickoff inches closer and closer:
1. Clemson, Nov. 10, 2001: The Terps easily handled the Tigers 37-20, clinching at least a share of the ACC title after Florida State stumbled earlier in the day against N.C. State. Sure, Maryland needed to beat the Wolfpack in Raleigh the next week to win the league outright, but a portion of a conference title was a big deal indeed.
2. Wake Forest, Nov. 25, 2006: A trip to Jacksonville for the ACC title game was on the line, a winner-take-all affair the Demon Deacons secured by running in, on, over, around and through the Terps for a 38-24 victory. It’s a night that still gnaws at Friedgen and plenty of holdovers.
3. North Carolina, Sept. 1, 2001: Neither team was ranked, the stadium wasn’t anywhere close to full and expectations were tepid, especially after Carolina’s Fast Willie Parker scored a touchdown early in the first quarter. But it was also Friedgen’s first impression, and a 23-7 victory over a comparable opponent was a vital step (on the way to a 7-0 start) that probably isn’t appreciated as much now as it was then.
4. Boston College, Nov. 10, 2007: A prime-time game that basically salvaged Maryland’s season. The injury-riddled Terps were facing a top-10 team coming off its first loss, then methodically picked apart a stout defense to emerge with a 42-35 victory. Maryland split its final two games and went to the Emerald Bowl, which was vastly better than going 5-7 and staying home for the holidays.
5. N.C. State, Nov. 9, 2002: When all else fails, go with the only game between ranked opponents at Byrd since early in the 1985 season. Down two scores in the middle of the third quarter, the Terps scored the last 17 points to emerge with a 24-21 victory and deal Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers the third of four straight losses to Maryland.
Honorable mention: Florida State, 2002 (L, 37-10); Florida State, 2004 (W, 20-17); California, 2008 (W, 35-27).