- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2011

At first glance, Maryland’s football program has set up a guessing game.

Will C.J. Brown start at quarterback Saturday against Boston College? Will it be Danny O’Brien? Will both play? Will weather play a role in the decision as game time approaches?

In reality, there is much more concrete than unknown about the Terrapins (2-5, 1-3 ACC) and their final game of October. Their fleeting ACC title hopes mathematically fizzled last week, and what remains is the consolation prize of playing somewhere — anywhere — in the postseason.

It was once a given for a team coming off a 9-4 season. Now, Maryland needs wins in four of its final five games to make it happen.

“You can still get bowl eligible and go to a bowl game,” wide receiver Quintin McCree said. “[Going] 7-5, that’s not really where we wanted to be before the season, but it’s a goal we have to achieve just to be bowl eligible and not be home in December.”

The Terps harbor both the hope and the belief it can happen. It’s also emphatically clear Maryland is nearly out of time if it hopes to salvage its season.

Only two of the final five games is at home. Only one - against Boston College (1-6, 0-4) — is against a team with a losing record.

Plenty has plagued Maryland, which has dropped its past five games against major-college competition. It has a couple of one-possession losses, and it started five freshmen in consecutive games largely because of injuries.

But the Terps also have stumbled badly on special teams and have been outscored 123-71 in the first half of their seven games.

The offense has managed a combined six touchdowns before the break this season. On the other side of the ball, Maryland ranks 109th nationally in total defense and 110th against the run.

Still, time remains to sort things out. Just not much.

“We have to have a short memory, we really do,” defensive tackle Joe Vellano said. “Everybody’s got to stop looking around, and everybody’s got to make plays themselves and look in the mirror.”

What remains to be seen is which quarterback, if not both, will be asked to handle things this week.

O’Brien started the first five games, then was benched in favor of Brown early in an Oct. 8 loss at Georgia Tech. Brown made two starts, then gave way to O’Brien in the second half Saturday in a loss to Florida State after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit.

Much like two weeks ago, there are no hints at who might start for the Terps. The value of such secrecy is debatable, especially against a team clearly struggling to figure out its own problems as it teeters on the brink of a losing season.

“They play you a little bit different with them, and it’s a little bit of a concern,” Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said. “With where we’re at, what we’ve got to do is take care of ourselves first.”

That’s sound advice for Maryland as well. The Terps played without six opening-week starters a week ago, and it’s uncertain if any of them will be back to face the Eagles.

In any case, Maryland cannot become bowl eligible overnight, meaning Saturday is only one step toward making something out of a lackluster season to date.

“It starts with 1-0; you can’t win four without winning one ,” O’Brien said. “We can go 4-1 or 5-0. We know we can. We’ve been in these games. It’s just a matter of not coming out sluggish and finishing strong. I feel like we’re up there, but until we do it, it’s all words. But I feel like it’s very possible.”

Notes: Linebacker Kenny Tate is expected to undergo season-ending surgery Friday. Maryland has not disclosed Tate’s injury, though his right leg was heavily wrapped during warmups before the Terps’ Oct. 8 game and he wore a right knee brace before the team’s Oct. 15 game.

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