COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland’s 48-27 blowout loss to Bowling Green is a defeat that the program could not afford this early in the 2015 season, especially to a smaller-conference opponent.
Here are the three biggest reasons why this loss will sting for head coach Randy Edsall and the Terrapins.
One year to the next has to be about progress for a football program. Under Edsall, injuries derailed the 2011 season. An unprecedented rash of injuries forced the team to play a linebacker at quarterback in 2012. Maryland lost its two star receivers to broken legs in the same game in 2013, but managed to make a bowl.
They were two bad finishes (vs. West Virginia and vs. Rutgers) away from being a nine-win football team heading into a bowl game last season. Yes, nine wins. Still, a bowl.
But Saturday’s loss to Bowling Green, from the standpoint of look and feel, seems like progress will be difficult to make in 2015. With the schedule the way it is (more on that below), there was a clear window of opportunity in the Big Ten.
Now, that window becomes tighter. A must-win game ends up in the loss column and a loss to a MAC team doesn’t inspire confidence that certain other key games will be wins down the line (also more on that below).
Maryland’s 2016 recruiting class is the foundation for its future, which includes its quarterback of the future, Dwayne Haskins -- a player who would probably be in serious consideration to start if he were eligible right now.
But the promise of a recruiting classes alone can only go so far.
2) The road to six wins
There is an upper tier of the Big Ten comprised of teams with which Maryland simply cannot compete at this point in time. Think Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
That is well established, but it also does not mean that there is not a middle tier within which Maryland could have -- hypothetically, on paper, before the season began -- carved out six or seven wins.
Penn State has had two lackluster performances to begin the year. Michigan is largely the same team it was last year when the Terrapins beat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. There were five games (Richmond, Bowling Green, USF, Indiana, and Rutgers) that would probably see Maryland favored. There is a path to a bowl there.
But Saturday’s loss diverts ⅙ of that path -- now making Penn State and Michigan both must-have games. It’s not that easy though because….
3) There are now questions going forward
Aside from just the fact that a winnable game is now a loss, there are questions now about Maryland’s ability to win games that they would need to win to climb to six victories.
What will the Terrapins do at quarterback after the offense stalled under Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe threw two interceptions in three pass attempts on Saturday? Was the 692-yard offensive explosion by the Falcons an anomaly or a sign of serious trouble for the defense?
Those are things that need to be answered sooner rather than later, being that a South Florida team that hung with Florida State on Saturday is coming to College Park next week.