Another week, another "must win" scenario for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Deacs stand at 3-3 (1-2, ACC) midway through the season with games against Florida State and Miami in the not-too-distant future, so Saturday's Homecoming battle with the Terps is crucial if they want to get bowl-eligible.
We posed some questions to Alex Kirshner of Testudo Times about the turnaround in College Park, and his analysis of the 2013 Terrapins thus far. He graciously obliged, and we thank Alex and TT for being a part of our game week coverage.
BSD: Maryland has come from the depths of 2-10 and 4-8 seasons to the brink of bowl eligibility by November. What gives? Has Terrapin Nation finally bought into what Randy Edsall is selling? What's the difference this season?
TT: Talent and health. Edsall didn't inherit the most talented roster in the world from Ralph Friedgen, and it didn't help that scores of players defected via transfer in the time after his arrival. But Edsall's recruited pretty well and given his program a nice infusion of talent, and we're starting to see the benefits this year. Interestingly enough, quarterback C.J. Brown was recruited by the previous staff, and his emergence after missing 2012 with a torn ACL has been critical.
Obviously, the Terps had a comedy of injuries at QB last year that led them to start a redshirt freshman linebacker for a third of the season, so some improvement was inevitable just based on having, you know, a quarterback at quarterback.
BSD: Has the success thus far injected life into old Byrd Stadium? If so, is there a chance to sustain that home field advantage as they move to the Big Ten next season?
TT: These Terps still haven't come close to filling Byrd's ugly metal bleachers, but the crowds have been decent in terms of volume and atmosphere. Ideally, if they can get a win this weekend and greet Clemson for homecoming week with a 6-1 record, the place will heat up a little. Based on the prestige and first-time novelty of some of the teams they'll see in the Big Ten, it's fair to expect at least a slight enthusiasm bounce over the next few years, I am hoping.
BSD: C.J. Brown is 12th in the nation this week in passing efficiency (166.0 rating). Should we expect him to play and how much will his injury affect him? Also, are Terrapin fans comfortable with Caleb Rowe in a worst-case scenario?
TT: Brown's been cleared for full practice all week, so he should play. As I mentioned earlier, Terrapins fans saw the worst case-scenario last year, when every eligible QB on the roster was knocked out for the season with injury. So comparatively, Rowe would be a delight. He has his flaws (his ball security looks poor, in particular), but his arm is strong and he seems to think the game well.
BSD: What should Wake fans expect from the Maryland offense this season? We all know about the talented Stefon Diggs, but who else is a difference-maker for this team?
TT: The offense is pretty good. The unit has looked somewhere between "fine" and "excellent" in every game except the debacle in Tallahassee, and with a healthy Brown and exceptional talent at receiver, that makes some sense. The offensive line hasn't been bad, and running back Brandon Ross has been a pleasant surprise for me. Also look out for No. 2 receiver Deon Long, a JuCo transfer who's been a dangerous target so far. There aren't many holes in this offense, though their numbers will come back to earth as their exhibitions against cupcakes Florida International and Old Dominion fall farther into the rear-view mirror.
BSD: No matter what happens on Saturday, Maryland's schedule sets up well for bowl eligibility- perhaps big bowls if the stars align. Was it imperative for Edsall to have a big season before next year's transition?
TT: I'm not intimately familiar with the athletic department's thinking, but it couldn't possibly have been OK for Maryland to completely whiff on bowl eligibility for a third-straight year. Edsall might not have been in total danger of losing his job, but College Park is happy the team hasn't gone down that path.
BSD: Looking ahead for a moment, Wake Fans are generally frightened of what Famous Jameis and the Seminoles may do to the Deacs. Please tell our readers that your defense just had a bad day, and we'll do the same regarding Clemson.
TT: Wouldn't that be nice? Sadly, I have a feeling we'll just be trading places in getting blown out by different marquee ACC teams. Winston is outstanding, and he genuinely humiliated a quality Maryland defense.