Unbeaten Terps enter grueling stretch, first up: No. 5 Iowa
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By NOAH TRISTER
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) It's the type of game Maryland has been striving for as the Terrapins have rebuilt their program under coach Michael Locksley.
A top-five opponent in town - for a nationally televised night game between two undefeated teams.
"To have all the eyes that we possibly can have following the University of Maryland, not just the football program, I think you can't pay for these marketing dollars," Locksley said Tuesday. "Hopefully people are able to take notice that we're building a football brand, but we've got an academic brand and we've got great people and we've got a great location that should continue to be showcased."
Maryland's home game Friday night against No. 5 Iowa should indeed be a big event for the school as a whole. The Terrapins have come up short against tough competition before under Locksley, but this time there's reason to think the Terps are more ready to compete.
Maryland is 4-0 for the first time since 2016, and a victory over the Hawkeyes would give the Terrapins their first 5-0 start since 2001. Maryland's most recent win over a top-five team was against Florida State in 2004.
"If we do things the right way up through the game and we play to our standard, then it's another win that earns another opportunity to have another big game the following week," Locksley said.
The following week, the Terps play at Ohio State.
Maryland is unbeaten entering this exciting stretch because it beat West Virginiaand Illinois in close games. A victory this week would give the Terps their first 2-0 record in Big Ten play since joining the league before the 2014 season. Locksley made light of Maryland's relatively short history in the conference when discussing the challenge of preparing during a short week. The Illinois game two weeks ago was also on a Friday night.
"I guess we're still the new kids on the block with having to play two Friday night games in back-to-back weeks almost," said Locksley, who is in his third season as Maryland's coach. "At some point, we can get full membership to where we may not have to do this, and make my life a little easier."
But playing on Friday has its benefits. The Maryland-Iowa game will be on Fox Sports 1 on a night when the college football schedule is less crowded.
"Super excited, being that again it is a Friday night game," receiver Brian Cobbs said. "We haven't had this opportunity since like high school, if you really think back to it. We're very excited. We know Terp Nation is going to come out and kind of just enhance the excitement level."
The reason Maryland looks like a threat to pull off an upset this week is because of Cobbs, his fellow receivers, and the Maryland passing game in general. Taulia Tagovailoa leads the Big Ten with 1,340 yards passing this season. He has also completed 75.5% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and one interception.
The Terps have room for improvement, though. Last weekend, they allowed 458 yards of offense in a win over Kent State. Penalties and turnovers were also concerns in that game.
Locksley has stressed the need for Maryland to play to a certain standard and not worry too much about who the opponent is. He also said the Terrapins should remain focused on the process, working hard during the week so that they can enjoy the games.
"Fun is the game day. Fun is when we get to go play," he said. "Game day is where it's time to encourage our players, build them up, support them. If I've got to act like a maniac on game day, that means I didn't do it enough Monday through Friday."
Although the preparation might be difficult and the game will be challenging, punter Anthony Pecorella summed up the mood of the Maryland program right now.
"We're definitely excited. It's going to be a great environment," Pecorella said. "Excited to put all our product on film for the whole country to see."
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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Updated September 28, 2021