No coach will ever so much as acknowledge a game in October when we've barely gotten out of the month of August. And they shouldn't because they've got games to win in the interim. That's where our jobs as prognosticators come into play.
But if Thursday night reinforced anything for Maryland, it's that the Terrapins ought to have Oct. 3 against Michigan circled on their calendars.
The path to six wins for head coach Randy Edsall's team has been talked about (we did that here yesterday) and Michigan's performance Thursday night in a loss to Utah should remind Maryland that that game against the Wolverines could go a long way toward determining whether or not this team is bowl eligible in 2015.
Let's lay out some groundwork first.
Here are the assumptions: Maryland needs to take care of business in its first three games against Richmond, Bowling Green, and South Florida. They will be favored or close to it in the final two games of the season against Indiana at home and Rutgers on the road. So let's say they have five wins.
Where does the sixth come from? At West Virginia? At Iowa? The most likely scenario would be either at home against Michigan or at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore against Penn State.
Thursday reminded many, as Pat Forde wrote in a terrific column over at Yahoo!, that coaching changes don't fundamentally change programs overnight. Personnel rollover and talent infusion take time. In many ways, Michigan is still similar to the vulnerable team the Terrapins beat in Ann Arbor last season.
Jake Rudock, who threw three interceptions in his first start for the Wolverines on Thursday, is the same quarterback Maryland beat at home last season when he was with Iowa.
For a team like Maryland that is fighting for its footing in the middle of a tough Big Ten East, it is about taking care of games you should win, then identifying winnable games that will push you over the top.
Better take advantage in 2015, too, because it won't be long under Harbaugh before the Wolverines aren't a swing game anymore.