For only the second time, Maryland and Notre Dame will meet in football.
The first meeting, if you’ll indulge a segue, carried a bit more excitement.
Back in 2002, the Terrapins were coming off an ACC title. Notre Dame was in its first season under Tyrone Willingham. And the teams were meeting in the Kickoff Classic, so it was an all-eyes-on-this sort of game that was eventually won by the Irish, 22-0, in Scott McBrien’s first start for Maryland.
This … well, Notre Dame entered the season with BCS hopes and fizzled with consecutive losses (greatly aided by turnovers and a crazy fourth quarter by Michigan’s Denard Robinson) to start the season. Maryland has lost seven of its last eight and has yet to defeat a team with its starting quarterback available.
Still, a game against Notre Dame carries some panache, a national television audience and a chance to make an impression.
So what is there to watch for? Here’s five possibilities.
1. Danny O’Brien will start at quarterback. So far, so good with the quarterback guessing games. The pick was C.J. Brown to get the call against Clemson and Boston College and O’Brien against Virginia. All were correct. Considering O’Brien played the bulk of last week’s game, the guess (and, as always in Randy Edsall Land, it’s a guess) is he gets the start against Notre Dame.
One other good reason: The Irish have generally played well against the run when they haven’t faced a service academy this season.
2. O’Brien will throw at least one touchdown. The Irish have yielded at least one passing touchdown in all nine of their games this season. Maryland, meanwhile, has tossed at least one touchdown in all but one of its games this season.
3. D.J. Adams will receive at least one carry. Truly a guess, and probably an irrational one as well. Adams has one carry in the last five games and didn’t even appear in last week’s loss to Virginia. Edsall hinted there might be a role for the redshirt sophomore, who remains tied for the team lead in rushing touchdowns despite his lack of use.
4. Notre Dame’s George Atkinson III will have a kickoff return of at least 50 yards. Maryland has surrendered four returns of 50 yards this season, and gave up a 48-yarder to Virginia’s Khalek Shepherd last week. Atkinson ranks 12th nationally in kickoff return average. He could have a big day, depending on how many return chances he receives.
5. Notre Dame will win. The Fighting Irish have won six of seven since their 0-2 start, and Maryland hasn’t defeated a major-college team since Labor Day. It’s tough to see the Terps pulling the upset, especially after losing by double-digits at home to Boston College and Virginia the last two weeks.