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Previewing Maryland's 2018 football schedule

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Previewing Maryland's 2018 football schedule

Maryland football had a disappointing 2017 campaign after two starting quarterbacks went down with season-ending knee injuries in the first nine quarters of the season.

Playing in the Big Ten's East division is always a difficult task. As such, the Terps played one of the hardest schedules in the country last season.

Out-of-conference games at Texas and against undefeated Peach Bowl champions UCF and crossover games in the Big Ten West against Cotton Bowl champion Wisconsin and No. 17 Northwestern only made things tougher.

But the Terps' 2018 schedule should provide a little more relief on that front. Bowling Green and Temple replace Towson and UCF, while Maryland's Big Ten West opponents are Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.

Here's Maryland football's 2018 schedule in its entirety:

Week 1, September 1, noon: Texas Longhorns

Week 2, September 8, 6:00 p.m.: at Bowling Green Falcons

Week 3, September 15, noon: Temple Owls

Week 4, September 22, TBD: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Week 5, BYE

Week 6, October 6, noon: at Michigan Wolverines

Week 7, October 13, noon: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Homecoming)

Week 8, October 20, noon: at Iowa Hawkeyes

Week 9, October 27, TBD: Illinois Fighting Illini

Week 10, November 3, TBD: Michigan State Spartans

Week 11, November 10, TBD: at Indiana Hoosiers

Week 12, November 17, TBD: Ohio State Bukeyes

Week 13, November 24, TBD: at Penn State

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Maryland overcomes sloppy start, rally past Rhode Island

Maryland overcomes sloppy start, rally past Rhode Island

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Jalen Smith had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Anthony Cowan Jr. scored all 14 of his points in the second half and turnover-prone No. 7 Maryland overcame a sloppy start and a double-digit deficit, beating Rhode Island 73-55 on Saturday night.

Eric Ayala added 13 points and Aaron Wiggins (13 points, 13 rebounds) posted his first career double-double for the Terrapins, who trailed 24-12 with eight minutes left in the first half, but ultimately breezed to a 2-0 start with a dominant second half.

Jeff Dowtin led the Rams (1-1) with 14 points.

Maryland committed 14 of its 17 turnovers in the first half, allowing Rhode Island to lead for more than 18 minutes. But Wiggins' 3-pointer less than a minute before the break secured the Terps a 35-32 lead.

While the Rams briefly tied it early in the second half, Maryland controlled the final 20 minutes. Cowan scored nine points in a row for the Terps during one stretch, and his layup with 10:52 to go gave Maryland its first double-digit lead at 53-42. Rhode Island never got any closer.

Maryland improved to 4-1 all-time against the Rams, claiming the teams' first meeting since 2015.

BIG PICTURE

Rhode Island: The Rams were picked fourth in the Atlantic 10, and their first-half showing at Maryland suggests they could be a handful for anyone in their conference. The same is true of their ambitious nonconference schedule, which includes Alabama, Louisiana State, Providence and West Virginia.

Maryland: Turnovers have haunted the Terps in recent years, and the return of that problem after committing only eight in Tuesday's season opener against Holy Cross is a concern. Expect that to be a focus in the coming week as Maryland goes seven days between games.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

With a pair of victories in the season's first week, Maryland is unlikely to drop when the next poll is released Monday.

UP NEXT

Rhode Island: The Rams face their second consecutive power conference opponent Friday when they host Alabama.

Maryland: The Terps' season-opening five-game homestand continues Nov. 16 against Oakland.

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Maryland at Minnesota: Can the Terps end Minnesota’s undefeated season?

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Maryland at Minnesota: Can the Terps end Minnesota’s undefeated season?

Maryland (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) will look to snap a two-game losing streak on Saturday against a Minnesota team (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) that has yet to lose a game this season and is currently ranked 17th in the nation. The game is set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Here are five things to know for Saturday’s game.

Jackson and McFarland are expected to return

Quarterback Josh Jackson and running back Anthony McFarland Jr. have both been dealing with high-ankle sprains, but both are expected to return Saturday.

Jackson has not played since suffering the injury against Rutgers on Oct. 5. He provides more of passing threat than backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, who is much better on the ground than through the air.

McFarland suffered his injury in the game against Temple but played through it until he was forced to miss last game against Indiana. McFarland was clearly limited by the injury. After rushing for 132 yards against the Owls, he managed just 115 yards on 20 carries in his next three games.

Maryland’s pass defense is awful

There’s no real way to sugarcoat this. The Terps have really struggled to defend the pass this season and have the worst pass defense in the Big Ten. Maryland is giving up up 287.4 yards per game through the air. Not only is that the most in the conference, but it also ranks 118th nationally. Only six Power 5 conference teams are averaging more.

A thin secondary plus an emphasis on pressuring the quarterback often leaves the defense vulnerable against the pass. You could accept that if the defense was at least getting good pressure on the quarterback, but it’s not. In the last five games, the Terps have managed six sacks, and three of those six came against Rutgers.

The good news is that the Golden Gophers may not have the weapons to exploit Maryland’s defense. Quarterback Tanner Morgan is leading a middle-of-the-pack pass offense that is averaging 231.9 yards per game, good for 8th in the Big Ten. Receiver Tyler Johnson is always a threat to score, however, with 26 career touchdown receptions, the second-most in school history.

The key for both offenses will be running the ball

Even with Jackson back neither offense is all that formidable through the air. This game is going to be decided largely on what each offense can do on the ground. That is one aspect in which the Terps could have an edge.

Maryland is averaging 207.1 yards per game on the ground over Minnesota’s 187.9. The Golden Gophers could also be without linebacker Kamal Martin who is the team’s leading tackler. He is considered a game-time decision.

While the Terps have been better running the football on the season, Minnesota is really starting to hit its stride. In the past three games, the Gophers have managed 332 rushing yards against Illinois, 322 rushing yards against Nebraska and 198 rushing yards against Rutgers. Those are three big games against three conference opponents (yes, Rutgers still counts).

Maryland beat an undefeated Minnesota last year

Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 record last season before the Terps handed the Gophers their first loss.

Winning seven straight is an accomplishment, to be sure. Maryland is a team that routinely loses games it is not supposed to, so you have to applaud the Gophers for their hot start. Having said that, we still don’ really know how good this Minnesota team without any big wins on their resume. The AP voters are skeptical as well, evidenced by the fact that a 7-0 Power 5 team is still ranked outside of the top 15. 

The Gophers’ best win is a 34-7 blowout over Nebraska, but Minnesota also has a seven-point win over Sout Dakota State and three-point wins over Fresno State and Georgia Southern.

There does not appear to be any aspect of the game in which Minnesota is statistically dominant. This is just a team that is average to pretty good in multiple aspects and has taken advantage of a soft schedule. This will be a tough game for Maryland, but it is not quite as difficult as their 7-0 record would make you believe.

Minnesota may be looking past the Terps

Minnesota’s schedule has been soft up to this point, but it is about to get a whole lot harder. The next game on the schedule after Maryland is Penn State followed by a trip to Iowa. Minnesota then goes to Northwestern and will finish the season hosting Wisconsin in the battle for Paul Bunyon’s Ax.

The Gophers will get a bye week before hosting Penn State, but it would not be surprising if the minds of the players are not squarely focused on a 3-4 Maryland team this week.

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