Why are Randy Edsall and Stefon Diggs smiling? Because the five-star phenom, the divisive head coach and a stellar defense have willed Maryland into first place in the ACC’s Atlantic division.
After grinding out wins against Wake Forest and UVA, the Terps are now undefeated in conference play and control their destiny in the race to play in the ACC Championship game.
Given that they still have to travel to Clemson and play a very tough Florida State team, the odds of the Terps actually winding up atop the division are not incredibly high, but they are much better than anyone would’ve predicted in August. The Terps have doubled their win total from last season and still have a legitimate shot to win three or four of their final six. Yes, the math checks out: the Terps could be back in a bowl game at the end of the ultimate rebuilding season.
In hindsight, the 10-point loss to West Virginia is almost looking like a win given how the Mountaineers have dropped 70 on ranked Baylor and 48 on ranked Texas. Of course, to quote the coach, “there are no moral victories.” Maryland should have beaten UConn and could very well be 5-1 heading into a pivotal game against N.C. State. Still, there’s plenty to smile about in College Park, starting with perhaps the most improved unit in college football: Maryland’s defense.
The Terps defense was one of the statistically worst units in the NCAA last season, allowing opponents to score 34.3 points per game and 5.85 yards per play. Demoralized and injury-ridden, the porous Terps ‘D’ saw more of the backs of opponents jerseys than the fronts. This season has been the culmination of the unit’s experience and new coordinator in Brian Stewart simply turning over a new leaf and getting the defense back it its signature Maryland performance. The team currently surrendering two touchdowns less per game and and a yard and a half per play.
Meanwhile, Diggs has only played in six college football games and is already one of the most electrifying players in college football. The freshman appears to have been worth the all the hype, accounting for four touchdowns, leading the team in receptions and yards, and putting together a season’s worth of highlights in half as much time. Diggs took the opening kickoff of UVA’s homecoming game to the house for 100 yards, which ended up being the difference in Maryland’s 27-20 win on Saturday. The 2013 commits and 2014 recruits are already buzzing on Twitter about how ridiculous Diggs is with the football.
As for Edsall, there appears to be a method to his madness finally surfacing. He knew he wasn’t the best guy in the living rooms of the DMV, so he brought in Mike Locksley to close his deals. He knew his defense could be so much better than last season, and that all his offense had to do was not lose games. Check, check, and check. Two wins away from a potential bowl berth, Edsall may have hushed any “hot seat” talk for the moment with a rebuild that is way, way, ahead of schedule.