The Washington Times - September 4, 2008, 07:05PM

Maryland hasn’t exactly played all that great in trips to non-BCS teams under Ralph Friedgen.

It lost to Michael Turner-led Northern Illinois in 2003. Then beat Eastern Michigan a few weeks later. Then didn’t look particularly good against a bad Florida International team last season.

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Now comes Middle Tennessee, a road date that probably isn’t the sexiest thing to land on Maryland’s schedule in the last few years – and prompted a question about the nonconference schedule.

“You’re never going to please the fans,” Friedgen said. “They’re the least of my consideration. Obviously, I want Ws. This is a game I worry about quite a bit. It’s going to be a different environment. Kids are going to go in there. It’s hard, even though you talk about every day. Maybe you talk about it too much, I don’t know.

“I hope we’re ready to play when we go up there. They will be fired up. They will be like this is their Rose Bowl. When we watched them on tape, when they played Virginia [last year] and they played Louisville [in 2006]. They play better against those teams than the teams in their own conference.”

It hasn’t been the greatest week of practice, with Friedgen expressing frustration with workouts on both Tuesday and Thursday.

Then there’s that trap element. Friedgen alluded to the past, then made one of those comments that makes you wonder why on earth his mind would let him say a specific set of words in a row.

“We’ve been to Northern Illinois and we’ve been to Eastern Michigan and we had to pull that one out,” Friedgen said. “Last year, I think we scored 14 points against FIU and went to sleep the rest of the game. Personally, I’d rather play somebody pretty good myself. Not that they’re not good. I would like to play a bigger team, I guess. I don’t know. It is what it is.”

This was about the point my jaw dropped. Look, I know Middle Tennessee is short-handed, and it probably isn’t the best team the Blue Raiders have produced in the last few years. They did go to the Motor City Bowl in 2006, so that group was – how to put this – pretty good. And maybe this one really isn’t.

Most Some reporters are past the point of trying to get coaches and athletes to badmouth an opponent most would perceive to be weaker. There’s alternate ways to illustrate the point, such as size differential, depth contrasts, etc., and it’s an amateurish trick to even try to fool  someone into a snarky on-the-record comment.

This was no trap – just a benign question about nonconference scheduling with an answer that went careening down a rarely used track.

It’s been a long time since I heard someone say they’d “rather play someone pretty good.” Or, giving Ralph the greatest benefit of the doubt imaginable, playing someone perceived by most to be “pretty good.”

For a guy who’s coached for 40 years, that was quite the rookie mistake, even if he quickly backtracked (and I’ve made it a point to transcribe this stretch in its entirety) and wrapped up his comments.

“To me, if you have the right mentality and you want to achieve the success we have to have, we have to go out and play really hard,” Friedgen said. “Regardless of who we play, we have to take the same approach. That’s what good teams do.”

That part’s hard to argue with. But heaven only knows exactly how he meandered to his closing comments.

Patrick Stevens