Editor’s Note: This article about Maryland was written before ESPN’s report on mistreatment of players in the wake of the death of Jordan McNair, as well as members of the athletic staff, including head coach DJ Durkin, being placed on administrative leave.
On name recognition alone, you might consider an Oct. 27 game at Maryland to be one of the possible wins on the 2018 schedule.
Surely you saw Maryland’s pathetic offense sputtering to futility against some of the Big Ten East foes late last season — but, things might not be what they seem in College Park.
Before absolute injury carnage hit the Turtles last season, they did go to Texas and dismantle what amounted to a pretty good defense. Maryland lost two pretty good quarterbacks early in the year in Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, and its best defensive player in Jesse Aniebonam. The squad was left was wounded — and defenseless — once it got into the Buckeye or Nittany Lion teeth.
Well, all those guys return, and they’re good. Maryland also returns every player that started a game along the offensive line, and Ty Johnson in the backfield to find the holes. Johnson should turn in one of the better statistical seasons in the league, as he’s averaged over 7.5 yards per carry, and should be in the best offense during his career.
DJ Durkin (and Under Armour) has pointed his own arrow way up in recruiting, turning in back-to-back top-30 classes, and unleashing some accomplished transfers in 2018. With what returns on the line and in the backfield, Illinois is going to have to improve a ton at stopping the run, or they won’t have a chance in this one.
On the intangible side of picking this game, Maryland is at home, and although it’s not exactly an overly intimidating environment, Illinois will be traveling for its second consecutive week, after just getting presumably pounded at Wisconsin. If you haven’t played football before, those Wisconsin bruises, both physical and mental, won’t have healed by the time Illinois boards the plane for our nations capital.
So, you can likely chalk down the first-ever matchup between Illinois and Maryland to the latter.