Project 2014: The Schedule
The Big Ten has revamped their Conference into East and West Divisions. Maryland will be in the East with Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers. The West will be comprised of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
The Conference slate for Maryland’s first year (2014) as a member of the Big Ten has been announced:
Home Games: Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers
Away Games: Indiana, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan
The Terps’ non-conference schedule with small team previews is as follows:
Game One: vs. James Madison Dukes
2013 Record: 6-6 (3-5 Colonial Athletic Conference)
2014 will see Everett Withers enter his first season as the head coach of the James Madison Dukes. He was the head coach at North Carolina in 2011, promoted after the recruiting scandal involving Butch Davis. He led the team to a 7-6 (3-5 ACC) record that season, but the team opted to go in the direction of Larry Fedora in 2012. That was Withers’ only previous experience as a head coach at the collegiate level. He has also served as an assistant coach in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans. Most recently, he served as the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2012 to 2013.
The James Madison offense will be a fast-paced spread attack, similar to many of the ones run at the FCS level. The team did lose quarterback Michael Birdsong this season, as he has opted to transfer out of the program. Withers’ specialty comes on the defensive side of the ball, so expect them to build a good defense in Harrisonburg, VA. Brandon Staley will be the team’s defensive coordinator this season. Maryland is the only FBS school that the Dukes will play in 2014.
Game Two: at South Florida Bulls
2013 Record: 2-10 (2-6 American Athletic Conference)
Willie Taggart enters his second season at the helm in South Florida following a disappointing 2-10 record a season ago. The team ranked near the bottom of the FBS in most major categories, and their new pro-style offense failed to get off the ground. Taggart is a very young head coach at just 37 years of age, but had been the head coach at Western Kentucky for 2 years before the team hired Bobby Petrino. He also served as the running backs coach at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh from 2007-2009.
The team will have a new offensive coordinator this season, as Paul Wulff was hired to replace Walt Wells. Wulff will be running a very similar offense to Wells, as Taggart prefers to use a pro-style attack. Wulff spent the last two seasons as a senior offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers, and was the head coach at Washington State for the four years prior to that. The Bulls will have a very competitive quarterback competition this off-season, as multiple players were used last season.
Game Three: vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
2013 Record: 4-8 (2-7 Big 12)
Dana Holgorsen enters his fourth season as the head coach of West Virginia, and he is searching for answers after a brutal 4-8 record last season. The team ranked, as usual, near the bottom of the pack in defense, but were simply average offensively. The “Air Raid” attack that Holgorsen has used in each of his years in Morgantown was flat. The defense had shown signs of life early in the season under defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, but ended up disappointing yet again.
The team has hired a new defensive coordinator this season, as Tony Gibson was promoted from his position as the safety coach. They will continue to run a 3-4 defense, a rare occurrence in college football today. Despite a bad season last year, Dana Holgorsen will likely be the head coach in Morgantown for awhile. Before the 2012 season, he was given a six-year contract extension. The quarterback position will be unclear once again for the Mountaineers, who are likely looking at a two-man race between Clint Trickett and Paul Millard. Ford Childress, who started against Maryland last season, has transferred to a junior college in Texas.
Game Four: at Syracuse Orange
2013 Record: 7-6 (4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference)
Scott Shafer’s first season at the helm of the Orange went pretty well last season. The team won 7 games in their first season in the ACC en route to a Texas Bowl victory over Minnesota. Shafer was promoted to head coach last season after spending the previous four seasons as Doug Marrone’s defensive coordinator. He turned around the Orange’s defense, and produced Chandler Jones, who in 2012 was taken in the 1st round of the NFL draft.
The Orange run a pro-style offense, which last season specialized in running the football. Terrel Hunt took over at quarterback for the team’s Week Three game against Wagner, and impressed a lot of people with his poise. He led the team to a 7-4 record in games that saw him receive the majority of the snaps, and also became the team’s 2nd-leading rusher. Hunt enters 2014 as the team’s clear-cut starter at quarterback.
Game Five: at Indiana Hoosiers
2013 Record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten Conference)
Maryland’s first conference game as a member of the Big Ten Conference will come in Bloomington, Indiana against the Hoosiers. Kevin Wilson enters his fourth season as the head coach, and offensive coordinator Kevin Johns enters his fourth year with the team. The Hoosiers have no problem putting points on the board with their Air Raid offense, but their problems come on the defensive side of the ball. The team fired co-defensive coordinator Kevin Mallory after three seasons with the team, and will go into 2014 with William Inge and Brian Knorr serving as co-defensive coordinators.
Mallory ran a 4-3 defense with the team last season, but Knorr will be mixing in some 3-4 schemes after having success with that system at Wake Forest. The Hoosiers have a question mark at the quarterback position this season, and the job will likely be given to either Nate Sudfeld or Tre Roberson. Roberson has been hit with a large number of injuries over the past few seasons, but is a very talented dual-threat option for Kevin Wilson. Sudfeld is less mobile, but has a great arm. Both have had success in Kevin Johns’ Air Raid system, but addressing this question is a priority for the team this season.
Game Six: vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
2013 Record: 12-2 (8-0 Big Ten Conference)
Maryland’s first home conference game as a member of the Big Ten Conference will be a big one, as they will play host to one of the best college football teams in the country. Urban Meyer has brought massive success to Columbus, Ohio with his spread-option offense. Led by quarterback Braxton Miller, the offense finished with the fifth best rushing offense in the country last season. The Buckeyes are also very proud of their defense, and co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Chris Ash want to bring pressure early and often out of many different sets.
Ohio State is one of the teams who may benefit greatly from the addition of the new playoff in college football. They certainly have the skill on both sides of the ball to contend for both a conference championship and a national championship. The Buckeyes will be without Carlos Hyde in the backfield, but should have no problem replacing him with plenty of talented backs in the fold. They’ll likely want to work on improving their passing game, as they ranked 88th in the country in that category last season.
Game Seven: vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
2013 Record: 8-5 (5-3 Big Ten Conference)
Kirk Ferentz enters his sixteenth season at the helm of the Iowa Hawkeyes, an amazingly long tenure in today’s college football world. They capped off their 2013 season with a loss to the LSU Tigers in the Outback Bowl. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis enters his third season with the team after debuting a no-huddle offense last year. While the offense executed without a huddle, they never strayed from their pro-style identity. Iowa is still a team that wants to play a very physical brand of football, and they always seem to have a running back who looks and plays more like a linebacker.
The real highlight of the Hawkeyes has long been their dominating defense. They ranked in the Top 10 nationally in points given up last season. Phil Parker is the team’s defensive coordinator, a position he has held since 2012. But he has been with the team for a whopping 14 seasons, serving as the defensive back coach from 1999-2011. He’ll run a 4-3 defense that should be very tough again in 2014.
Game Eight: at Wisconsin
2013 Record: 9-4 (6-2 Big Ten Conference)
Another team with a physical identity on both sides of the ball, the Wisconsin Badgers are coming off of a 2013 season that ended with a loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. Gary Andersen enters his second season as the head coach in Madison, Wisconsin after taking over for Bret Bielema after the 2012 season. The team’s schemes didn’t change much at all from Bielema to Anderson, as the team still runs a pro-style offense and a 3-4 defense.
The Badgers finished the 2013 season with the eighth best rushing offense in the country. Melvin Gordon returns as the team’s starting running back, coming off of an amazing 2013 campaign that saw him run for over 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns. He will be counted on again in the Badger backfield, as Wisconsin fans aren’t exactly confident in Joel Stave’s abilities at quarterback. Stave will presumably return as the team’s starter under center, and he passed for almost 2,500 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. He is a bit too inconsistent for the tastes of Wisconsin’s fans and coaches though, as he added 13 interceptions to his resume in 2013. Finding a balance between the run and the pass will be key for Wisconsin this season.
Game Nine: at Penn State
2013 Record: 7-5 (4-4 Big Ten Conference)
Possibly the game many Maryland fans are most looking forward to this season is the one in Happy Valley against Penn State. As if the geographic proximity wasn’t enough, the Nittany Lions hired former Maryland offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting James Franklin as their new head coach. Franklin has already added fuel to the budding rivalry’s fire, stating that he considered the state of Maryland to be “in-state” as far as recruiting goes. He has already grabbed some very highly-touted Maryland recruits, and has Penn State fans extremely excited about the future of their program.
Franklin will bring a physical brand of football to Happy Valley, and he will continue to run his pro-style offense. After a stellar true freshman campaign last season, Christian Hackenburg will return to run the Nittany Lion offensive attack. He passed for nearly 3,000 yards in 2013, adding 20 touchdowns through the air and 4 on the ground. The team will likely do away with the no-huddle attack they had run the past few seasons, as Franklin prefers a slower offense. Despite still not being eligible for the postseason, Penn State fans are exited for the future of the program.
Game Eleven: vs. Michigan State
2013 Record: 13-1 (8-0 Big Ten Conference)
The Terps’ annual “Blackout” game will come in primetime against Michigan State, in what will likely be their first primetime game as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Mark Dantonio enters his eighth season at the helm of the Michigan State football team, fresh off of a Rose Bowl win over the Stanford Cardinal. Like many of the Big Ten teams, the Spartans are a squad built on a strong defense and a good running game. Their defense gave up the third least number of points in the country last season, and they will look to repeat that this year. Dantonio prides himself into making underrated recruits into national stars, a process that has worked out very well for him during his time in East Lansing.
Connor Cook returns to lead the offense at quarterback after passing for over 2,700 yards last season. He boasted a stellar 22:6 touchdown to interception ratio, and added one rushing touchdown. He got better as the season went along, and gained more control of the offense. His best game came in the team’s Rose Bowl win when he passed for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jeremy Langford also returns as the team’s starting running back, following a season that saw him rush for over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Game Twelve: at Michigan Wolverines
2013 Record: 7-6 (3-5 Big Ten Conference)
Maryland won’t have to wait too long to make their first trip to the Big House, as they head to Ann Arbor in their first season in the Big Ten Conference. Michigan is coming off of a disappointing season in 2013, and fans are ready for Brady Hoke to lead the Wolverines back to prominence in 2014. The team enters this season with a new offensive coordinator, as former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has made the move north to Ann Arbor. Former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison returns for his fourth season as the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator.
The team will continue to run a pro-style offense, but it could look a bit different under Nussmeier. He ran a one-back offense with Alabama, one that relies on a large number of tight ends instead of a fullback. Devin Gardner returns for his final season as the Wolverines’ quarterback, and will be looking for more consistency after a fairly shaky 2013 season. He passed for nearly 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, but also threw 11 interceptions. He did add 11 touchdowns on the ground, as his dual-threat abilities add a unique twist to the team’s pro-style offense. He needs to prove that he can be a true drop-back quarterback in order to have a successful 2014 season.
Game Thirteen: vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2013 Record: 6-7 (3-5 American Athletic Conference)
While most Maryland fans didn’t see this matchup as particularly interesting when the Big Ten Conference schedule was first announced, it is now one that they have circled on their calendar after Rutgers’ off-season coaching addition. Former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen enters his first season as the offensive coordinator of the Scarlet Knights, adding fuel to this potential rivalry. Most Terps fans were unhappy with how Friedgen was dismissed from the University, especially after he led the team to a Top 25 finish in his final season.
Friedgen will bring his pro-style offense to Piscataway, New Jersey. Gary Nova started at quarterback for Rutgers last season, but wasn’t exactly what fans wanted to see from their offensive leader. He threw for over 2,100 yards and 18 touchdowns, but also threw 14 interceptions. He will need to find more consistency in order to keep his job as the team’s starting quarterback. Speaking of keeping his job, Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is entering a make-or-break season at the helm of the football program. He was promoted to head coach after Greg Schiano left for the NFL in 2012, but his future with the program is a bit uncertain as, while he is under contract until 2016, his contract is only worth $4.75 million. He will need to have success early in the Big Ten to prove that he deserves a new contract.
Project 2014 is a series of articles focusing on the Maryland Terrapins football team’s move to the Big Ten Conference. You can find links to other articles below: