I want to write an analytical article about this game, but I can’t. Working in baseball has changed my sports viewing habits from sampling everything to gorging on one sport (fortunately, my favorite one). I haven’t had a free Saturday to watch college football since the season started, so it’d be pretty disingenuous of me to try and break down games that I haven’t seen.
What I do know is how important this game is to Terrapin football. Ask anybody who went to school in College Park, and they’ll tell you that just like most of the ACC, Maryland is a basketball school. It’s been a while since the basketball team has been to the mountaintop, but it’s been a comparative eon since the Terps were among the nation’s elite (the 1953 national championship sign in the stadium almost seems like a practical joke that was never removed).
And it just doesn’t make sense. Maryland is Under Armour, “crab cakes and football”. The Ravens play less than an hour up the road in front of one of the most raucous and passionate fan bases in the entire NFL. The DMV area is one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country. There’s no logical reason why football hasn’t hit its stride in more than a decade.
Occasionally, the team will gain traction and string a few wins together. But when the Top 25 votes start to aggregate, and the spotlight shines on the Terps, they usually produce their worst performances. West Virginia seemed to take particular delight in demolishing the Terps on national television, almost as much as Florida State did.
Since eking out a win in 2006 on a Jeremy Navarre blocked field goal, the Terps have played the Noles six times. They’ve lost all six, by a combined score of 202-91. My least favorite was in November 2008. In front of bar none the best football crowd I’ve seen at Byrd, Christian Ponder (CHRISTIAN F***ING PONDER!) lead an unranked FSU team to a 37-3 drubbing of #25 Maryland that wasn’t even as close as the score indicates.
All of that history is making it tough to believe that this weekend will turn out any different. But even a cynical pessimist like me can see that this team is more talented than any Terps team I’ve ever rooted for. You can debate the talent level of West Virginia, but there’s no doubt that a demon was very publically exorcised in M&T Bank two weeks ago.
The offense, which always seemed to have talent in the backfield (Hollenbach, Lattimore, Ball) or on the edges (Smith, Heyward-Bey) at opposite times, finally looks to have the cupboard stocked all at once. Even after losing a tremendous pair of cornerbacks, the defense has looked stout enough to pose some problems for Jimbo Fisher and his wunderkind QB Jameis Winston.
And if – IF – Maryland were to win this game, oh what a win it would be. The first win over FSU since ’06. The first ever win at Doak Walker Stadium. The first win over a top 10 team since…(I couldn’t even find the last time MD beat a top 10 team). This game could finally add substance to the style Under Armour has so amply supplied.
So get irrationally excited for high noon on Saturday. I’ve got that same feeling I had before the West Virginia games, and before that Ponder pounding in 2008. The rare feeling that only college football can bring; a euphoric cocktail of school pride and just the right amount of beer. Here’s hoping it finally goes down smooth this time.