Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly said that after Oct. 1, the University of Maryland football team will have seven games remaining, all against Atlantic Coast Conference teams. Maryland also plays Notre Dame, which is not a member of the ACC. This version has been corrected.
So now Randy Edsall wants Maryland fans to believe he was brought in to rebuild Maryland’s football program.
“This is a process we are in,” he said after the Terrapins’ humiliating 38-7 loss to Temple on Saturday. “It was not going to get changed overnight no matter how much I want it to.”
Maryland was 9-4 last season under Ralph Friedgen. Like most college teams it lost some key players and returned some key players. As has become evident since his firing last fall, Friedgen had let the program slip in at least one critical area — academics — and there’s no doubt his laissez-faire approach was a lot different from Edsall’s “thou shalt not wear your cap turned backward” regime.
There’s no point arguing about whether one way is right and other way is wrong. Edsall had success on the field at Connecticut, Friedgen had success on the field at Maryland for most of his 10 years. And, as any college president worth his bow tie will tell you, coaches aren’t judged by their players’ fashion sense or even their players’ grades. They are judged by wins and losses.
Saturday was not a good day for Edsall on any level and, while he was candid in admitting that his team wasn’t ready to play (no kidding) it was a cop-out for him to fall back on the “this is a process” cliche. Al Golden, who took over at Temple in 2006 when the Owls had been kicked out of the Big East and had gone 38-151 under three coaches in 17 seasons, had a real process to go through.
Edsall needs to spend less time making announcements about uniforms and more time getting them ready to play in those uniforms.
That said, there’s plenty of time for the Terrapins to get their act together. Next week’s opponent is Towson, a Football Championship Subdivision team, and after Saturday’s embarrassment, Maryland should be more than ready to play the Tigers next Saturday afternoon. If that proves not to be the case, Edsall might want to put in a call to Friedgen for some advice.
After Towson, Maryland will have seven games remaining — almost all against ACC foes, except Notre Dame. That shouldn’t exactly be daunting as was proven again Saturday. Pittsburgh officially made itself an ACC football school by blowing an eminently winnable game at home against Notre Dame.
Meanwhile, Miami’s win over Ohio State looked a lot less impressive after the Hurricanes lost to Kansas State and Virginia lost at home to Southern Mississippi. Of course, Syracuse did beat Toledo — in overtime. The Orange has been installed as the favorites to win the ACC title in 2013 if the Big East allows them to move by then. And Virginia Tech finished off its remarkably underwhelming nonconference schedule by winning at Marshall.
The Hokies’ first test — and perhaps their last test before the ACC championship game — could be this Saturday when they play Clemson at home. The Tigers have two semi-impressive wins, both of them at home and both against teams that may prove to be highly overrated before the season is over.
They beat Auburn a week ago and, if you watched LSU-West Virginia on Saturday night you have to believe that LSU’s Tigers are about four touchdowns better than Auburn’s Tigers — and perhaps better than an ACC/Big East all-star team right now. Clemson also beat Florida State, which managed to have a letdown after losing a big game (to Oklahoma) the previous week. The notion that the Seminoles were “back” after 10 seasons of mediocrity has gone the same way as the excitement over Maryland’s uniforms.
Still, it is entirely possible that Clemson is the ACC’s second-best team. Georgia Tech is still unbeaten but hanging on to beat North Carolina at home hardly qualifies it to match up anytime soon with LSU. Or Alabama, Boise State or, for that matter South Carolina — although there’s a good chance quarterback Stephen Garcia may finally drive the Ol’ Ball Coach over the edge. Did anyone else see Steve Spurrier’s reaction to one of Garcia’s three first-half interceptions against Vanderbilt? Worth the price of admission.
If Virginia Tech wins next Saturday, the only serious roadblock between the Hokies and a 12-0 regular season is probably the Thursday night game at Georgia Tech on Nov. 10.
Of course the only thing that may be more meaningless than winning the ACC title might be winning the Big East title. The league’s signature victory this season was South Florida’s opening Saturday win over Notre Dame. Sadly, beating the Irish last had serious meaning in 1993. Nonetheless, Cincinnati did give the ACC yet another black eye when it demolished North Carolina State, 44-14, on Thursday.
But no one in the ACC — perhaps no one across the country — had a worse weekend than Maryland. The negative statistics on Temple coming into the game were almost mind-boggling: no victories ever against Maryland, no victories ever against a team that was part of the ACC. The last time Maryland played Temple the final score was 38-7. In that game, under Friedgen, Maryland had the 38. Of course the Terrapins probably didn’t look nearly as good on or off the field back then. They just played a lot better.
Perhaps Edsall is a secret fan of the old Fernando Lamas parody portrayed years ago on “Saturday Night Live” by Billy Crystal. The key to life, according to Lamas/Crystal, was to remember that “it is better to look good than to feel good.”
Edsall’s team certainly lived down to that credo on Saturday with a slight twist: “It is better to look good than to play good.”
For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.