Coming off a 3-9 season, a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl is an obvious step forward for the Maryland Terrapins.
Sure, they didn’t beat a single winning team this season. And, sure, after a 4-0 start, they went 2-8 and grew colder than a December day in Detroit. But after a quick glance at Big Ten “rival” Rutgers (2-10) -- who actually won more games than Maryland last season -- there’s no denying coach DJ Durkin has this team on the right track.
Now the only question is whether Durkin can guide the Terps to a win over Boston College in what would be their first postseason win since 2010. Maryland will play the Eagles at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 26 at Detroit’s Ford Field.
“I’m very pleased with the amount of buy-in we had from our seniors and our team, and this is a great reward for them,” Durkin said. “They deserve it because they’ve been put through a lot.”
Here’s an early look at the game:
Most intriguing matchup: Maryland running backs vs. Boston College's run defense. The Terps’ top four backs all average more than 6 yards a carry, with Ty Johnson leading the way with 95 carries for 845 yards (8.9 YPC). Even if Lorenzo Harrison doesn’t return from suspension, there’s still plenty of game-breaking ability among this stable. That’s what should make this matchup so fun to watch; Boston College is ranked No. 7 nationally in run defense. That puts the Eagles on par with Michigan and Ohio State. It’s strength on strength in Motown.
Maryland player who could have a big game: linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. While the Terps boast a handful of intriguing athletes on offense, defense is a strength for the Eagles. Offense? Not so much. Boston College has one of the nation’s worst offenses -- only Rutgers is statistically worse -- and the Eagles’ run-first philosophy should give Carter a chance at some big numbers. Against Minnesota, which runs about as often as B.C., Carter had 11 tackles and a pass breakup.
Key to victory: Can quarterback Perry Hills get this offense going? This team just wasn’t the same without Hills, who missed two games with injury and left four others early. When Hills was on the sideline in five of those games -- Nebraska, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State -- Maryland never managed to score multiple touchdowns. But when he was on the field? It was a little different for the Terps. In fact, Hills even completed a Big Ten-best 66 percent of his passes. Said Durkin, “For us, it probably all starts with our quarterback, Perry Hills.”