2017 was a bit of a lost season for the Maryland Terrapins.
With two quarterbacks lost to season-ending knee injuries before conference play got started, the wind was out of Maryland's sails almost immediately.
2018 has the feel of something different.
DJ Moore, Maryland's best player in years, was the No. 24 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and one of the Terps' best defenders of the last decade, Jermaine Carter, is headed to the Carolina Panthers with him. The Terps also lost a handful of rotational pieces on defense, but make up for it in what they have gained.
For the second straight season, Maryland signed a top-30 recruiting class in 2018, and a handful of young players are talented enough to step in and play before long.
With quarterbacks Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome and defensive end Jesse Aniebonam returning from injury, each feels like a new addition to the team. Former top recruit Byron Cowart has made his way from Auburn to College Park and will be immediately eligible to try and jumpstart his college career. Additionally, former four-star recruit Anthony McFarland is ready to burst onto the scene after a redshirt season.
COACHING STAFF CHANGES
Five offseason coaching additions have added a new level of seasoning and experienced Xs and Os guys to the fold. The most notable replacement comes at offensive coordinator, where Matt Canada will be taking over. He's been regarded as one of the best offensive minds in college football and will transform the look of the Terps' offense. Other coaching changes were made in the running backs, offensive line, tight ends and safeties rooms.
Maryland's 2018 schedule is not nearly as daunting as last year's, which was one of the most difficult in the nation. Instead of a road game against Texas and home games against Towson and eventually undefeated UCF, the Terps play Texas at home, get Bowling Green on the road and play Temple at home.
The Big Ten East presents its annual gauntlet of opponents, including Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. The Terps get a bit of a break with their three crossover opponents from the Big Ten West. Maryland plays Minnesota and Illinois at home and hits the road to play Iowa. Avoiding Wisconsin is a huge plus.
The biggest question heading into 2018 is who the Week 1 starting quarterback will be. Head coach DJ Durkin has said that both Hill and Pigrome are ahead of schedule in their recoveries, but the position is once again up for grabs heading into the season. Hill is the favorite and the unquestioned future of the program as the local superstar who stayed home.
PREVIEWING THE OFFENSE
Whichever quarterback ends up starting will be running a totally revamped offense. Canada's system will look significantly different than what Terps fans have seen in recent years. Maryland's backfield is one of the deepest in the nation. Senior Ty Johnson is on the Maxwell and Doak Walker Award watch lists — for the best player and best running back, respectively. Behind him, there are five viable options who could carry the ball.
PREVIEWING THE DEFENSE
There's a lot of turnover on defense heading into the season. More than half of last year's starters will be replaced. For a defense that finished at or near the bottom of the Big Ten in almost every statistical category, that may not be a bad thing. Cowart and Aniebonam could team to form a power duo of defensive ends. Terps fans should prepare for another year of highlight plays form Antoine Brooks and Darnell Savage.
The influx of young talent combined with the transformation of the coaching staff and more favorable schedule should result in an uptick in wins for the Terps.
Texas Longhorns — Maryland won last year in Texas in Tom Herman's debut. Texas has improved since then, but so has Maryland. This game is a toss-up, with the edge to the Longhorns.
Bowling Green Falcons — Bowling Green won the first half of this home-and-home in 2015 in College Park, but the teams have gone in opposite directions since then. Maryland wins easily.
Temple Owls — Temple has been a slightly above average football program for the past few years, but are still transitioning after hiring a new head coach in 2016. Maryland should be favored at home.
Minnesota Golden Gophers — Maryland won in Minnesota last year with a third-string quarterback. Playing at home with a real starter should be an easier task.
Michigan Wolverines — Maryland gets a bye week to prepare before heading to Ann Arbor, which should make this game closer than some previous contests between the two, but Michigan still wins.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights — A holding call negated a game-tying touchdown pass from Maryland's fourth-string, walk-on quarterback last year. The Terps win easily at home on Homecoming this year.
Iowa Hawkeyes — Going to Iowa is never easy. The Hawkeyes have a tendency to play to the level of their competition, up or down. This is still a game that favors Iowa, though.
Illinois Fighting Illini — Remarkably, this is the first meeting between these two teams since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014. Illinois is one of the few teams that has been worse than Maryland in that time. Terps win easily at home.
Michigan State — The Spartans are always a tough test, and though they lost to Maryland, things should be different this time around. The Terps will have a shot, but Michigan State should win.
Indiana Hoosiers — Maryland won this game in a shootout at home last year, and some of the most exciting games the Terps have played in the Big Ten have been against Indiana. It seems inevitable this will be a close game, but the Terps should win.
Ohio State — The Buckeyes are perennially one of the best teams in college football and have never lost to the Terps. That streak should continue this year, even though Maryland is at home.
Penn State — Thanksgiving weekend sets up a final-week matchup in Happy Valley. Though not a "rivalry," there is plenty of tension between the two programs. Penn State will have to reload without Saquon Barkley or offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, but should still win at home.