Last year saw Maryland football grab a win over Penn State for the first time since 1961. It was a boring, poorly-played and generally un-watchable football game. This year will be much better though! Penn State's offensive line has impr-wait, no. Well, at least Maryland's offense has gotten bet-no, sorry. Wait a minute, why are you even going to watch this game?
For Penn State fans, the answer is simple: to see the Nittany Lions re-establish themselves as the dominant member of this head-to-head. For Maryland fans, the answer probably lies somewhere between "to try and sneak another victory over a team that isn't that great" and "to see if Mike Locksley can turn any part of this team around". Needless to say, it will be a thrilling affair.
This Saturday will be Locksley's first game as interim head coach for Maryland. He's not a typical interim head coach, thanks to his stint as the man in charge for New Mexico (despite how poorly it went), so Penn State fans shouldn't be expecting a team that is without direction after losing their leader. In fact, Dave Tucker, one of the managing editors of Testudo Times, thinks that this game will look pretty much the same as it would have with Edsall in charge. Huge thanks to Dave for lending his insights on this, and many other things, in today's opponent Q&A.
Black Shoe Diaries: Obviously the big news surrounding Maryland right now is the decision to rid themselves of Randy Edsall mid-season. What is the general feeling among Maryland fans about this? Are they happy with the timing? Will Edsall's tenure leave anything behind, or do you think they'll just wipe clean everything he implemented?
Testudo Times: I think Maryland fans are mostly happy it's finally over. Randy was never fully embraced by the fans because he was replacing Ralph Friedgen, who many felt shouldn't have been fired, and because of the way he handled himself when he first arrived in College Park.
Edsall showed some promise, especially over the past two seasons and with the way Maryland played in their first season in the Big Ten. They were 30 minutes away from being 8-4 last year, until they completely collapsed in the 2nd half against Rutgers. That was kind of the beginning of the end for Edsall. When the team lost to Bowling Green at home and was blown out by West Virginia and Michigan, he was done.
There are some things Edsall did do during his time at Maryland that will have a lasting impact. The football's graduation rate most definitely improved, the Maryland Pride movement started under his watch, and securing Maryland's new indoor facility all happened during his tenure.
Edsall also brought Mike Locksley back to College Park after his horrid time as head coach of New Mexico. Locksley has really helped Maryland become a serious contender for the region's top local recruits and is one of the best recruiters in college football.
BSD: With Mike Locksley now as the acting head coach, are you expecting to see anything different out of the Terps on Saturday than you've seen all season? Will this look like the same team just under a new name, or have there been any indications of Locksley trying to change things to match his style during the bye week?
TT: There have definitely been some changes but I don't think you're going to see anything that's extremely different. I think the biggest difference will be the full time commitment to quarterback Perry Hills, who began the season as the starter and reclaimed the job in Maryland's last game against Ohio State. Hills has the ability to run the ball very well and limit turnovers. You'll probably see a greater commitment to the run game, which is what Maryland needs to do if they want to have any kind of success the rest of the season.
BSD: Penn State's offensive line has been, ahem, disappointing this season. Will Maryland's defensive line be able to take advantage of that, and get pressure in Hack's face on Saturday?
TT: Maryland is averaging 3.33 sacks per game, led by junior Yannick Ngakoue's 6.5. Their adjusted sack rate on defense ranks 29th nationally and is tied for 14th in the nation in total sacks with 20.Getting to the quarterback and bringing him down is one of the things Maryland's defense has done rather well in their first season transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme. I honestly think it's one of the ways Maryland can stay in the game against Penn State on Saturday.
BSD: What are your, or the typical Maryland fan's aspirations for the rest of this season? It's a rough ending to the year with Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State, Indiana and Rutgers to end the year. Considering the fact that Indiana will probably have a full-strength Sudfeld and Howard by then, and Rutgers has Carroo, is a bowl game even a realistic option at this point? Do you think the Terps will find another win or two on the schedule?
TT: There are maybe two more games where Maryland has a realistic shot of winning, three if you count Saturday against Penn State. Football Study Hall has the Terps as an underdog in all of their remaining games. Their best shot to win is against Indiana and Rutgers.It would be a miracle if Maryland got to a bowl game, especially with the killer schedule that remains. I'd honestly be surprised if they got to four wins at this point.
BSD: Since you asked me, what are your thoughts on the idea of a Maryland-Penn State rivalry? Do you think there's a legitimate rivalry building, or is it more just "hey, we don't really want to be associated with Rutgers and we don't like you, so let's be rivals" kind of thing?
TT: I think a rivalry is brewing. You have a lot of the ingredients necessary for one. Both Maryland and Penn State lack a Ohio State-Michigan/Alabama-Auburn type rivalry. The closest for Maryland is West Virginia. Both schools didn't originate in the Big Ten and develop historic rivalries over the past century. You also have the geography component and James Franklin being Maryland's former coach-in-waiting, I kind of think you can compare it to the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. It began with Pittsburgh completely dominating the series, but grew over time as the Ravens got better and is now one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL. Maryland has to continue to be competitive and win games against Penn State for that to happen, but if it does, I think it could become a nice rivalry between the schools.
BSD: Give me your predictions for this weekend. Who wins and why? Bonus question, how do you feel about the game being in Baltimore instead of College Park?
TT: Penn State wins the game because their pass defense is good and Maryland will become too one-dimensional on offense.
I love having the game in Baltimore, honestly. M&T Bank Stadium is >>>>>> Byrd Stadium. It gives Maryland additional exposure in Baltimore and is a great place to enjoy a football game, even if there will likely be a lot of Penn State fans around.
Thanks again to Dave for taking time out of his day to answer these questions. Make sure you're staying up to date with what you need to know about Maryland via our SB Nation sister site, Testudo Times. And make sure you check out my guest article over there, and Alex Kirshner's guest article over here.