On Saturday, Maryland football wrapped up their third straight season with at least seven wins after a 42-24 victory over Rutgers. 

The victory concluded a season that helped clarify the current state of the program: the floor has been raised, but not the ceiling. 

A 7-5 season is certainly nothing to sneeze at given some of the prior dreadful seasons for Maryland football, but it’s also very clear that the Terrapins missed multiple opportunities to make this season a meaningful improvement from 2021’s 7-6 and 2022’s 8-5 seasons.  

The biggest missed opportunity of this season came against Michigan, where Maryland once again found themselves narrowly missing out on a chance to upset one of the Big Ten’s best programs in a 31-24 loss.  

Maryland putting a scare into Michigan seemed virtually impossible based on their results from 2015 to 2021, making this year’s game a clear sign of progress. However, failing to actually finish off the victory shows they still haven’t unlocked the ceiling as a program capable of getting an upset when it is within reach. 

 

During the game, Maryland had three different drives trailing 29-24, where a touchdown would’ve given them a fourth-quarter lead over the Wolverines. Those drives ended with a punt, an interception and a safety.  

It’s certainly possible that depending on when Maryland scored, Michigan would’ve been able to put together a drive of their own to send the game to overtime or win it in regulation. However, Maryland’s offense simply never gave the defense a chance to see if they could put together one final stop to clinch the upset.  

Maryland also failed to finish off Michigan in perhaps the most perfect circumstances they’ll ever get for an upset.  

Michigan had just come off an emotional win at Penn State following head coach Jim Harbaugh’s suspension for Michigan stealing signs and was seemingly looking ahead to the following week’s rivalry game against then-unbeaten Ohio State. It was the perfect trap game for Maryland, but they couldn’t get it done.  

Pulling off upsets is always difficult and no one should be expecting Maryland to regularly beat Michigan or any other top-ten opponent they face. However, it’s still reasonable to think they should be able to pull off these kinds of wins occasionally. 

Purdue, another basketball school in the Big Ten, beat #2 Ohio State in 2018 and knocked off both #2 Iowa and #5 Michigan State during their 2021 season. Maryland doesn’t need to be Michigan or Ohio State, but they should at least be able to finish off an upset here and there if a program like Purdue can do it. 

The frustration with Maryland raising its floor but not its ceiling can also be found in two games they lost as double-digit favorites: Illinois at home and Northwestern on the road. 

In both of those losses, Maryland had a chance to score a late touchdown and failed to do so. The Illinois game saw them get a game-tying field goal with 1:31 left, but the failure to score a TD meant Illinois was able to win the game with a field goal as time expired. Meanwhile, their game against Northwestern ended with Taulia Tagovailoa throwing an interception down by six points with the ball at Northwestern’s 31. 

The timing of the losses further compounded the frustration: if Maryland won either of those games, it would’ve given them their sixth win to clinch bowl eligibility. 

When they finally got their sixth against Nebraska in Lincoln, the victory felt like a sense of relief more than a celebration. It was the first time the Terrapins had clinched three straight years of bowl eligibility since 2006-2008, but it felt impossible to ignore the feeling that they could’ve taken care of this weeks ago. 

If Maryland beat Northwestern and Illinois, it would’ve given them a nine-win regular season for the first time since 2003. Even if Maryland just went .500 in those games, it would’ve still been their first year with a winning record in conference play since joining the Big Ten and their first eight-win regular season since 2010. Instead, they went 0-2 and found themselves with the same exact 7-5 record as last year’s regular season. 

It’s never easy to actually win all of your winnable games, but this season felt like the perfect opportunity for Maryland to do just that. 

Coming incredibly close to upsetting Michigan and putting together three straight bowl-eligible seasons are both meaningful signs of progress for a program that saw its first two years under Mike Locksley include a 3-9 season and the bizarre nature of playing sports in 2020.  

However, until Maryland can earn a signature upset or win more than seven regular season games, they will remain a program where it’s hard to believe they’ll ever be anything greater than mediocre.  

Rose Katz
Rose Katz

BSL Analyst

Rose Katz is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s journalism school, where she worked for The Diamondback as the online managing editor and a sports blogger. As a student, she spent almost all of her time on campus in The Diamondback’s newsroom or at Xfinity Center, Ludwig Field and Maryland Stadium. Rose gained intern experience with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).

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