2014 Season Preview: Rutgers, Maryland, and the New-Look Big Ten

By Nicholas Jervey on August 22, 2014 at 10:45a
Rutgers is an annual opponent now. Deal with it.
17 Comments
Eleven Warriors' 2014 Ohio State Football Season Preview

Say this for the Big Ten: it doesn't care if you make fun of its numerical prowess.

Ever since it added Penn State to the conference in 1989, the Big Ten has had more schools than the name suggests. It was compounded with the addition of Nebraska in 2010, and taken to new heights with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2012.

A 14-team Big Ten brought about the end of the Leaders and Legends Divisions and ushered in the Big Ten East and West. In the East, Ohio State will contend with the two newest members of the conference on a yearly basis; in fact, Maryland and Rutgers are the first two Big Ten teams the Buckeyes will face this year.

Like it or not, Maryland and Rutgers are #B1G. So, what should we know about the new neighbors we're giving the stinkeye?

One on the Decline...

On Nov. 20, 2012, Rutgers was on top of the world. The Big Ten had just extended an invitation, enabling them to escape the crumbling Big East. The Scarlet Knights were 9-1 in head coach Kyle Flood's first season, No. 9 in the country and headed for a BCS bid. It's been all downhill since then.

Rutgers dropped the final three games of 2012 to finish unranked. The Scarlet Knights spent a year in the Charmin-soft American Athletic Conference, where they were expected to contend for a championship; instead, they went 6-7 and finished on a 2-6 slump. The result: over a dozen of Rutgers' best recruits defected before signing day, and its highly-touted recruiting class fell to pieces.

That goes without mentioning the $48 million budget deficit or multitude of scandals that made Rutgers' athletic department the laughingstock of the college sports world. The Scarlet Knights are facing down a stacked Big Ten East, and Flood is on the hot seat if his team flops.

...And One on the Rebound

A few years ago, Maryland was in even worse shape than Rutgers is now. In 2010, Maryland's athletic director fired long-time coach Ralph Friedgen. It was understandable, since Friedgen's teams wavered between 5-7 and 8-5 for nearly a decade, but firing him after a lucky 9-4 year caused a media firestorm. Firing Friedgen put Maryland's already-strained athletic department on the hook for a large buyout and cost them coach-in-waiting James Franklin, who is now coaching rival school Penn State.

Plan C for Maryland was hiring Randy Edsall from UConn. It started off dismally: against complaints of massive attrition and a toxic atmosphere, the Terps finished 2-10 in 2011. It was only marginally better in 2012, as Maryland went 4-8 while suffering rotten injury luck. The best thing the Terrapins did all season was recruit five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was an all-conference performer from day one. That led to Maryland's resurgent 2013 season, wherein they improved to 7-6 despite season-ending injuries to Diggs and Deon Long, their other top receiver.

From rocky beginnings, Randy Edsall has made the Terps better each of the last two years. Can he do it again in 2014?

Offense

I hate to use the B-word to describe anybody, but Rutgers' starting QB Gary Nova deserves it. Here goes: Gary Nova is a no-good Bellisari.

Remember Steve Bellisari? OSU quarterback, inaccurate throwing, horrendous decision-making, and just enough play-making ability to cling to the starting QB job from 1999-2001? Nova is all of those things, except he is entering his fourth year as a starter. Just look at his highlight video.

In spite of Nova, Rutgers should make some headway running the ball. The Scarlet Knights were pretty bad at running the ball, but they return all five offensive line starters, including seniors Betim Bujari, Kaleb Johnson and Keith Lumpkin. Junior running back Paul James had some dynamic games in 2013, and Justin Goodwin could be a solid contributor too. Rutgers' receiving corps isn't impressive, but they do have senior tight end Tyler Krone as a solid target. If new offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen (it's a small world, huh?) can get Nova's head straightened out, Rutgers could have a respectable offense this year.

Maryland's offensive talent is the inverse of Rutgers. The Terrapins have the strongest wide receiver trio in the Big Ten behind Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Levern Jacobs, and starting quarterback CJ Brown is an adept dual-threat QB, beating Virginia Tech with his feet last year.

Maryland is less secure in the offensive line and the backfield; the Terrapins will be starting true freshmen Damian Prince and Derwin Gray. They're both talented (Prince was a five-star offensive tackle) but if they can't win the starting jobs, Maryland has no depth to replace them. They return largely-inffective leading rusher Brandon Ross, but they will find their greatest success in pass-heavy games.

Defense

Rutgers' defense could have passed for Ohio State's in 2013. The front seven were great against the run, allowing the fourth-fewest yards per game in the country, but the secondary was atrocious, finishing 122nd in passing yards allowed per game. While the line loses leading tackler Marcus Thompson, it retains defensive tackle and team MVP Darius Hamilton. Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder are the other two defensive standouts. Nobody in the secondary is in for a special year, but SS Lorenzo Waters did lead the secondary in tackles, pass breakups and forced fumbles. With better turnover luck, the passing defense could improve to bad – mediocre, even!

Maryland had a decent top-50 defense in 2013 and looks to improve this year. Their strength is also the front seven, which has SDE Andre Monroe, DT Darius Kilgo, and LB Matt Robinson. Unlike Rutgers, Maryland didn't have any glaring weaknesses in the secondary; of which SS Sean Davis and CB William Likely are the best returning players. The Terps' greatest weakness is their lack of depth, which is probably going to bite them at some point.

Since this is as good a place as any to put special teams: Rutgers' Janarion Grant was a sensational kick and punt returner as a freshman, and Maryland's Brad Craddock is one of the Big Ten's best kickers. If Diggs returns kicks for Maryland, he should excel too.

2014 Outlook

Ohio State begins conference play with both of the newbies, travelling to College Park on Oct. 4 and hosting Rutgers on Oct. 18. Maryland ought to have a good offense and an okay defense, which should put them anywhere from 3rd-5th in the Big Ten East. If the Terps surpass expectations, they'll be an 8-9 win team and the Buckeyes will need to be on upset alert.

Rutgers has a killer Big Ten schedule, possibly the toughest in the conference, and no leadership at quarterback to counteract it. Given the team's talent level, 4-8 is a reasonable baseline for this season. Finish below that, and Kyle Flood is likely fired; make a bowl and he's safe for another few years. They're the consensus last-place team in the Big Ten East, and in all likelihood the easiest conference win the Buckeyes will get all year.

17 Comments

Comments

Buckeye Knight's picture

Love me some BIG...NOOBS.

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

The Maryland game is going to be good.

I like our defensive line there...and I think the secondary has a huge opportunity to shine there as well.

Hi Rutgers. We have your seat here somewhere.

I am not the Last Dragon, therefore I do not possess the power of the Glow.

+3 HS
Bucksfan's picture

I really am not looking forward to Indiana pt. 1, Indiana pt. 2, and Indiana pt. 3 every year.  It's going to be like watching the Star Wars prequels for 25% of the season.

+2 HS
703Buckeye's picture

Indiana pt.3? You're being very complimentary of Rutgers.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

+1 HS
robobuck's picture

Its like having 7 game non conference schedule where you play Miami of ohio 7 times in a row

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

Groveport Heisman's picture

I think the game at Maryland is a really dangerous one. Anytime you have a bunch of young guys on offense playing in their first conference road game you are suspect to turn overs. Before Maryland started racking up injuries last year faster then Georgia and Florida they looked like a top ten team. That beat  down they put on West Virginia  had me grinning from ear to ear. If our pass defense isn't  significantly improved the turtles are going to air it out all day long. And  I think Maryland returns something like a ridiculous 20 starters from last years team that was off to a screaming start. My guess is by the time this game rolls around the line will be a TD or less and that makes it a game of TO's.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+1 HS
FunZone's picture
Don't worry about Rutgers guys (not that you were). This ball was probably 200 feet outside of their practice area the other day when I was walking by. #bausermansighting
 

I asked Braxton how his knee was before halftime at Berkeley and he said, "What up, man."

+6 HS
IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

That's still too close to be Bauserman.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+1 HS
HilltopHustle's picture

Still intrigued by the rumors that these two were partially considered to appease—or cool off—Penn State. The ACC certainly put feelers out to Happy Valley around the time they sought ND, and Louisville was likely a Plan B option.

Catfish Biff's picture

Damn. I was penciling Sept 18th as an open date for other shenanigans. Our defense will be entertaining to watch teeing off against that Rutgers QB.

..Til' we wobble in our shoes!

+1 HS
Jpfbuck's picture

sorry i am just not buying the MD hype

they won 7 games last year, the teams they beat went 1-11, 3-9, 4-8, 2-10, 3-9, 8-5 and a 8-4 1AA team, ignoring Old Dominion (who gave up 80 points to UNC btw), the other teams they beat were a combined 21-52

the teams they lost to, (FSU, Wake, Clemson Syr, BC and Marshall) were a combined 53-26

i know they had injuries that hurt their cause, but perhaps they their wins and losses can be better explained by the caliber of opponent and not injuries

the only team over .500 they beat was Va Tech who had 5 losses and who they beat in OT by 3 after blowing a 14 point 3rd qtr lead

sorry until they beat someone with a pulse, not buying getting on that Terrapin band wagon,,,and no beating USF, WVU and Syracuse before they play us doesnt count

+1 HS
spacemonkey57's picture

I am required by law to whine about how much I hate Maryland and Rutgers joining the conference in every post about Maryland and Rutgers.

-1 HS
Nicholas Jervey's picture

I know that feeling, man. Consider this my restrained version of whining.

Ceci n'est pas une signature.

Buckeyeneer's picture

I just keep hoping that Under Armor can help lift Maryland. With all the news about UA and Kevin Durant I get excited, hoping that they grow their market share in the apparel and athletic shoe business and take a page out of Nike's playbook and make Maryland a sexy choice. Kind of like "Oregon East." Sadly though, Oregon also needed a dynamic coach in addition to a large pile of Nike money to join the new football elite.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

+1 HS
CinncyBuckFan06's picture

The decision to add them still has me scratching my head!

Pa_snoborder's picture

At least The Ohio State U doesn't have to pay them millions of dollars to come in and get owned hard. 

"No one puts baby in a corner!" - P.Swayze.

Vinsaniti's picture

Maryland will become a decent B1G school but Rutgers....Who cares about Rutgers?