After an uneven four-game start to the season, a stretch capped by Saturday’s 28-3 win over Towson, Maryland (2-2) will have a clear opportunity to define its season in its next three games, all against teams currently ranked in the top 25.
Next week’s road game against No. 21 Georgia Tech (5-0), followed by a home date with No. 13 Clemson (5-0) and then a visit to No. 23 Florida State (2-2) will stand as a significant challenge for Maryland in general and Coach Randy Edsall in particular.
Edsall, who successfully took Connecticut from the division I-AA ranks (as it was called then) to a BCS bowl game, has a 1-17 record against nationally ranked teams and had a 6-18 record in Big East road games.
As for Maryland, last season it had more than a month — a whole offseason, really — to prepare for Navy’s triple-option offense that it faced in the season opener. Now these Terrapins, with a young, injury-depleted defense, have 17.5 hours of practice time to prepare for a Georgia Tech offense that has scored at least 45 points in all but one game this season.
“Everyone in the nation knows that the triple option is one of the hardest offenses to stop,” Maryland linebacker Kenny Tate said. “Everyone knows what they are going to do; it’s just a matter of execution. This will be a hard week to prepare for it, but I know we are capable.”
Then comes a Clemson team that has been consistently inconsistent almost every recent season except this one. The Tigers caught everyone’s eye by beating a defensively challenged Auburn team followed by an injury-riddled Florida State — both wins at home. But now they have earned considerable more respect by trouncing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
The third game of the gantlet is a road trip to Florida State, which promises to be healthier when the Terrapins visit Tallahassee. Maryland nearly beat the Seminoles there two seasons ago; the challenge of winning there this season figures to be more significant.
Regardless of how the past four games have played out, in three weeks Maryland can find itself nationally ranked and lay claim to being one of the ACC’s best teams. Or the Terrapins can find themselves at 2-5, scrambling to become bowl eligible by season’s end.
“We know what’s ahead of us,” quarterback Danny O’Brien said.