Come Saturday, the Maryland Terrapins will be playing a Big Ten football game. For months that seemed like it wouldn't be a reality, but here we are.
Though the 2020 campaign will be conference-only and played amid a pandemic, it's business as usual between the lines for the Terps. After a 3-9 season last year, head coach Mike Locksley and company are looking to take the next step in the program's trajectory back to contention.
While recruiting classes in recent years point to a positive trend, Maryland still has plenty of questions. Departures and opt-outs paired with no named starter at quarterback, yet, leaves the Terps with numerous variables. The pieces are there, but it's unknown how they'll perform.
Before the season kicks off, here's a look at everything you need to know about Maryland's 2020 Football season.
Key Returning Players
Marcus Minor (RG) and Johnny Jordan (C): Lumped together on the offensive line, the Terps will need Minor and Jordan to provide solid run and pass protection against some dangerous Big Ten fronts. Jordan, a senior, had opted out of the season in August before rejoining the team in September. That was big for Maryland's group up front.
Austin Fontaine (G): Fontaine is another expected starter who initially opted out of the season, only to rejoin Maryland right before the campaign gets underway. It's a huge addition to the offensive line.
Jeshaun Jones (WR): Jones burst onto the scene as a freshman, recording a passing, receiving and rushing touchdown in his first career game. He continued to show flashes of his speed and athleticism in 2018, but was unable to take another step in 2019 due to a torn ACL. Now in 2020, he'll become an important piece for the offense as it works with a new passer under center.
Dontay Demus Jr. (WR): The junior led the Terps in all receiving categories in 2019, and if the passing game is going to become more consistent in 2020, he'll be a major part. At 6'3" he has the ability to work all parts of the field.
Nick Cross (S): Cross was a big slip for Maryland's recruiting class prior to his arrival in 2019, and the initial depth chart now has him as the starting safety for his sophomore season. With speed and agility that allowed him to dominate as a running back as well, he could become an imposing figure toward the back of the defense.
Taulia Tagovailoa (QB): The name with the biggest hype for Maryland in 2020, the transfer from Alabama has quite a reputation despite not having any real game experience in college. While it's unclear if he'll be the starter from Day 1 over Lance LeGendre, Tagovailoa could easily become the "guy" for the Terps sooner than later. When he does, the expectation is he'll bring Maryland something it hasn't had at quarterback in years: consistency.
Rakim Jarrett (WR): A huge get for Locksley, the freshman wideout could follow the likes of Torrey Smith, Stefon Diggs and D.J. Moore in terms of star Maryland wideouts. Don't expect that in Year 1, but as he gets more comfortable playing at the college level, the sky is the limit.
2020 Season Opt-Outs
Josh Jackson (QB): Jackson's 2019 season torpedoed after a strong start, but he would have most likely been the starter in 2020. The Terps will be without their most experienced option at quarterback.
Jalen Alexander (DL)
Vincent Flythe (DB)
TJ Kautai (LB)
Maryland 2020 Schedule
- Oct. 24: Maryland at Northwestern
- Oct. 30: Maryland vs. Minnesota
- Nov. 7: Maryland at Penn State
- Nov. 14: Maryland vs. Ohio State
- Nov. 21: Maryland vs. Michigan State
- Nov. 28: Maryland at Indiana
- Dec. 5: Maryland at Michigan
- Dec. 12: Maryland vs. Rutgers
- Dec. 19: TBA
How Maryland Stacks Up Against Big Ten
For Maryland, 2020 will not be an easy season. The program appears to be trending in the right direction, but it probably isn't ready to compete with the top teams in the conference just yet. Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Minnesota may once again be ugly games to watch, while the rest of the schedule provides the Terps with chances to win.
That puts the team right around four wins, which would be an uptick by one from last season. If quarterback play and the defense were to perform at a level higher than in years past, there's a chance that Maryland could have some fun playing spoiler. Yet for now, the Terps are still toward the bottom class of the Big Ten.