Maryland has had a pretty good season for its first as a B1G member. Can they continue their success for a surprising eight-win season? We welcome Alex Kirshner of Testudo Times to talk about the Ralph Friedgen, leaving the ACC, and more. For the opponent's version of the Q&A, click here.
Q: I remember the initial reaction to the Big Ten invitation was lukewarm for some Maryland fans. Now that we're on the cusp of finishing the inaugural regular season, have fans completely forgotten about the ACC days?
Alex Kirshner: I don't know about "forgotten," but people have moved on. The Big Ten has been a good fit for both the university and athletic department so far, and I think wins over some traditional conference powers (albeit down ones this year) like Penn State, Michigan and Iowa have helped with fan perception.
Q: With Stefon Diggs out until at least the bowl game, who should Rutgers fans look out for on offense?
Alex: Maryland's next-best wideout, Deon Long, is uber-talented but hasn't produced at all this year, in large part because C.J. Brown has struggled at quarterback. If one plays well, the other stands a good chance of doing the same. Keep an eye out for receiver/running back Jacquille Veii, who's one of the fastest guys on the team and has made some splash plays out of the backfield and lined up wide.
Q: QB C.J. Brown is the leading rusher for the Terps with 462 yards on the ground. Is that due to the scheme on offense, or has Maryland struggled in the run game?
Alex: Maryland's struggled in the run game immensely overall, and that's the biggest factor. This isn't much more than an average offensive line even on its best days, which has hurt every ball-carrier on the roster. Schematically, though, the Terps have run a good bit of zone-read and read-option plays this year, which obviously contribute to high quarterback rushing totals.
Q: How are fans reacting to the return of Ralph Friedgen? Are they bitter or grateful for everything he has done at Maryland?
Alex: I don't think there's much ill will toward Friedgen. I wasn't in College Park when he was, but he's regarded mostly as a perfectly fine football coach who gave the school his best. This isn't a significant individual vs. school battle, in my opinion, but it should be neat for Friedgen and some of his old Maryland players (now seniors) to go up against each other.
Q: Consequently, are fans excited at all about a potential rivalry with Rutgers?
Alex: I don't mean this in any sort of condescending, big-timing way, but not really. Maryland and Rutgers are both new to the conference and don't have a significant competitive history. It would surely be a ton of fun if the schools' geographic proximity led to a rivalry over time, but these things take nurturing.
Alex: This is risky, but I think Maryland manages a win on its own field. I think a nine-point spread is ridiculous, and Rutgers will beat that margin, but the Terps are a more complete team playing at home. I'll take Maryland, 24-20.